How to Grow: Salvaging Trees After A Storm

Listen to this podcast on how to care for and assess trees and broken branches after a storm to determine which trees to save and which to cut down.


The storm earlier this week caused significant damage to many trees in Vermont. The combination of 60 mile an hour winds and rain uprooted large trees and in the process damaged nearby trees as well.

While you can’t do much to save a large uprooted tree, you can salvage trees with broken branches. The first step is to assess the damage. If you have lots of damage, especially on large trees, it’s best to call an arborist to give you an estimate for the work. For small to medium sized trees, if only a few branches were snapped and many healthy branches remain, the tree can be saved with some pruning. However, if the top of the tree was snapped and many side branches broken, it might be better to use that tree for future firewood.

On salvageable trees, carefully remove any nearby limbs leaning on your tree making sure branches don’t fall on you. Cut back the snapped side branches to the branch collar. The branch collar is an area of wrinkled bark a few inches away from the trunk where the cells reproduce quickly to heal over the wound. Don’t bother using tree paints to help seal the cut.

Clean up any torn bark. Cut the loose bark with a sharp knife to where it’s still attached to the trunk. Make clean cuts so insects won’t hide under the bark. Don’t worry about pruning to shape the tree or balance the branches at this point. And certainly don’t ever top your tree. Your role is to help the tree survive the winter. Next year you can reassess what cuts to make to create a better tree structure.

Excerpted form the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio.