Snow Aftermath: Trees, Sand and Salt

(Conservation Currents, Northern Virginia Soil & Water Conservation District, Spring 2010)

Woody Plant Recovery

It was a brutal winter for our woody friends. Record snow left our trees and shrubs bent, broken, twisted and uprooted. Here are a few of the best tips for woody plant recovery:

  • When dealing with large trees or problems that require climbing, hire a certified arborist. Tree work is dangerous, and improperly restored trees can also be hazardous.
  • When pruning, always protect the branch collar, the “shoulder” or bulge formed at the base of a branch. Plant defenses essential to recovery are concentrated there.
  • Broken branches generally should be pruned. A clean wound is easier for the plant to heal.
  • When branches split at a fork, there is usually a large wound. For small splits near the branch tip, prune below the split. Larger splits can be bolted back together.
  • Broken trunks: Fortunately, most landscape evergreens, including magnolias and hollies (but not pines), can take heavy pruning. Make a reduction cut at a large branch.
  • Fallen, uprooted trees can be stood up again and staked with cotton cloth guys until roots reestablish.
  • Do not dress wounds! Trees and shrubs have evolved defenses to deal with wounds.

For more information, download “How to Prune Trees” from the US Forest Service website. For questions or a copy of a 2-page handout on woody plant recovery, contact Jim McGlone of the Virginia Department of Forestry at (703) 324-1489, TTY 711.

Sand and Salt

The sand and salt we use to keep our roads safe in snowy and icy conditions can also be very dangerous for stream ecosystems. Sand can cover stream habitat, and rapid changes in salinity can be fatal to microorganisms. Residents are encouraged to sweep up and store sand, salt, and debris from storm drains to use again in the future. If you are organizing a community-wide volunteer sweeping event or if you have questions or concerns, contact the Northern Virginia Soil & Water Conservation District at (703) 324-1460, TTY 711 or through email.

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