How to cut back trees safely – four steps to repair wind-damaged trees

Storm Eunice: Car crushed by fallen tree in Plymouth

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Fallen trees and flying branches have become a regular sighting today as Storm Eunice blasts entire regions of the UK. Severe damage to homes and gardens is expected to continue into Saturday, leaving homeowners faced with the risk of extreme damage for at least another 24 hours. Cutting back wind-damaged growth will be crucial in the aftermath of the storm, and reveals how.

How to cut back a wind-damaged tree

The job of repairing trees that survive severe weather conditions is crucial to stimulate regrowth from the roots to the branches.

But before diving in with shears or secateurs, you should carefully examine the damage in order to safely remove weak growth.

Whether you’re dealing with an established oak or a young cherry tree, it’s essential that you get the post-storm prune just right.

Remove loose branches

The only pruning that should be done directly after a storm is removing loose, spindly branches.

Plenty of lighter branches are likely to have either fallen, or become slightly detached from the thicker bark of the tree, and can be easily removed.

If the tree is stable enough to work with, put on your gardening gloves and gently pull away hanging branches.

For more stubborn growth, use secateurs to clip the drooping branch at the base of the main stem.

Look for damaged branches

Once you have targeted the most obviously damaged branches, look further into the tree to seek out cracked or damaged growth.

This is likely to occur on thicker chunks of bark so you will need secateurs and a firm grip to help you repair these branches.

Signs of damage include a bent or crushed appearance.

If the branch looks like it is out of place or skewed in some way, take the branch out to prevent any future hazards.

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Remove detached branches

Branches or large slabs of bark which have peeled away from the main trunk should be removed next.

Larger, lower branches are less of a hazard as they are often lighter and fall from a shorter height.

It is crucial to remove detached growth as they are structurally weak and become increasingly dangerous if they are left to hold extra weight as the tree grows.

Branches that have split from the very base of the trunk should be removed along with loose bark – though you should avoid touching living sections which are still clearly attached.

Make pruning cuts

Pruning cuts should be made so that only branch wood is removed and the supporting stem is left untouched.

Smaller wind damage wounds can be handled more effectively with a few simple pruning cuts to relieve the pressure on the weakened trunk.

The Nebraska Forest Service recommends looking for the branch bark ridge to locate the proper place to make the cut.

This is usually located on the upper surface of the union branch and looks like a v-shaped joint between the stem and the branch.

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