Recent windstorms during the past couple of weeks were rough on trees in the local Clay and Owen County area. Also for future reference, one should leave trees alone that have ice accumulations on them as trying to shake or break ice will most likely cause more damage than simply letting it melt off the tree or shrub. Hard to believe, but in six weeks we should see leaves popping from these trees that just so recently seemed frozen in place.
There are many misperceptions about trees and their care. Tree growth and healing is very different from people. People and other animals are able to heal by replacing or regenerating injured tissue. A laceration on your finger quickly heals, so that several weeks later, the injured area is hardly noticeable. Trees are unable to replace injured tissues. Instead, they form boundaries around it which seal the area from the rest of the tree. The wood within the area which has been sealed off can no longer supply the rest of the tree with stored food. Additional injuries seal off more wood, which further reduces the supply of available food. The tree can slowly starve in this manner from repeated injuries. Therefore by the time you see the tree is dying and you call myself or someone else out to see what is wrong with your tree, it may be virtually impossible to determine or the summation of many events.
Horizontal oriented branches are better attached to trees than upright branches.
Upright branches are poorly attached to trunks. Horizontally oriented branches are usually well secured to trunks. A branch growing in an upright manner parallel to the trunk becomes a second trunk. The tree is said to have a double leader. Double leaders are dangerous because they can easily split from the tree during a storm.
Never allow trees to grow with multiple upright leaders. These trees may look handsome when young but will become hazardous as they grow older. Always prune so that leaders or branches are spaced 18-36 inches apart along the main trunk and be sure they form an angle of more than 40° with the trunk.
Topping a tree creates a dangerous tree. Topping is cutting branches or stems to random lengths. Trees should never be topped. Topping creates hazardous trees because the wood inside the cut branch begins to decay. The sprouts which grow in response to topping are not well secured to the topped branch and they can easily split from the tree as they grow larger. To avoid this, always prune a branch back to a living branch crotch. It has been standard practice to prune a branch flush with the trunk. Extensive research has shown that this practice injures the trunk and is extremely detrimental to tree health. Flush cuts make a tree more susceptible to frost cracks, heat injury, root problems, cankers and sprouting. To avoid this, always cut to the outside of the branch collar which is located at the base of every branch. This collar is easily seen as a swelling where the branch meets the trunk.
When pruning in this manner it may appear as though a stub is left on the trunk; however, when properly done, this technique removes the entire branch and does not injure the trunk.
Established trees do not need to be fertilized in order to maintain health.
Established trees growing in a maintained landscape receive enough fertilizer for moderate growth because their root system grows into fertilized shrub beds and turf areas. In most instances, additional fertilizer is not necessary to maintain healthy trees even at planting. Some trees with micronutrient deficiencies respond to applications of minor elements. Tree fertilizer does not need to be injected into the soil. Tree roots grow among turf or shrub roots and grow 3-4 times the distance from the trunk to the drip line. Most roots are located within the top 12 inches of soil. Fertilizer broadcast over the surface reaches tree, shrub and turf roots in adequate amounts. Fertilizing in the fall generally does not stimulate growth in the fall. Many trees and shrubs will not respond to an application of fertilizer until the following year. For more information go online at edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MG089 for the wonderful publication "Dispelling Misperceptions about Trees" by the University of Florida Extension.
You can contact the local Purdue Extension Office by calling 829-5020 Ext. 14 in Owen County or 448-9041 in Clay County for more information or publication copies regarding this week's column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events. Please call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs. While most publications are free, some do have a fee. All times listed are Eastern Time.
Feb. 19 Blood Drive, Extension Office, Spencer, 3-6 p.m.
Feb. 19 Clay SWCD Annual Meeting, Fairgrounds, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 20-21 Women in Ag Conference, Columbus, Ind.,
Feb. 23 The Sensual Garden, Greencastle, 8 a.m.
Feb. 26 Starting Bee Keeping, Session two of four, Spencer, 6:30 p.m.
March 4 Regional Dairy Meeting, Rockville, 9 a.m.
March 13 Ag Day Dinner, Brazil, 6:30 p.m.
March 18 Energy Grant Assistance Workshop, Rockville, 11 a.m.
April 2 Starting a Community Kitchen, Indianapolis, 8 a.m.
April 8 Bi-State Forestry Workshop, Beef House, 6:30 p.m.
April 12 Sheep Shearing School, Greencastle, 9 a.m.
April 24 Starting a Specialty Food Business, Indianapolis, 8 a.m.
June 7 Chicago Botanical Garden Bus Tour, Terre Haute 4:30 a.m.