As we leave summer and head into autumn, the weather often becomes more unpredictable with forecasts often including storm force winds and heavy rain.
This can result in structural damage and flooding and gardens can suffer so what follows is some basic advice, gathered from a variety of sources including councils and professional contractors, about how to deal with some of this damage.
How to deal with damaged trees
Often storm damage will affect weak points on the tree and is likely to leave large and unsightly wounds. Whilst the tree may remain structurally safe for some years following the damage, decay may develop as a result of the wound and the tree may become unsafe, ultimately requiring its removal.
Tree owners and managers are advised to seek the guidance of a reputable tree specialist who will assess the stability of the tree and recommend any remedial works. Protected trees may require the consent of your local Council for any non-urgent tree works and the contractor will usually deal with these matters.
Evergreens are much more vulnerable in strong winds than deciduous plants so check them over for damage and remove any broken branches. Leylandii are common casualties in storms because these tall leafy trees catch the wind. If you have tall conifers, consider taking the tops out once the weather improves.
Check all trees and shrubs for exposed roots and damaged branches. A snip now may save more devastation. If the tree has a tree tie make sure that it isn’t chafing the trunk and if roots are exposed, cover them.
What to do with fallen branches in your garden
Do not be tempted to use a chainsaw to fell or cut up tree damage unless you are qualified to do so and have the appropriate protective clothing. Every year approximately 20 people are killed and 500 seriously injured using chainsaws - these are almost always amateurs in their gardens. Even cutting up fallen small branches with a chainsaw is dangerous.
But what do you do with these fallen branches? Instead of hauling them off to your local amenity tip or landfill site, consider adding the nutrients back into your garden. A chipper or shredder is an ideal way of reducing these branches into mulch which can then be deposited around trees, shrubs and garden borders or added to your compost pile.
In fact, if your garden has a lot of shrubbery and trees that frequently require trimming, then a chipper might be a worthwhile purchase. For smaller gardens that require only minimal trimming you can hire a chipper.
The size of chipper you’ll need depends on the diameter of your thickest branches. Generally, the larger the machine, the larger diameter branches it can handle.
Once you’ve got the chipper and you’re ready to get started, keep one thing at the front of your mind at all times: safety. Although chippers are very useful, extreme caution is needed when operating the machine.
The following precautions should always be followed when operating a chipper:
- Always read the operator’s manual and follow the instructions carefully.
- Wear snug-fitting clothes with long trousers and boots. Ear protection, safety goggles, a hard hat and short-cuffed gloves are also required. These can often be hired with the machine, but if you are purchasing your own chipper then don’t forget to buy these extras at the same time.
- Make sure the machine is on level ground.
- Before starting the chipper, make sure all safety guards are securely in place.
- Insert branches in the chipper base-end first (the end cut from the body of the tree or shrub), and release it when grabbed by the chipper.
- Never reach into the chute for any reason.
To make your chipping job go smoothly, it’s worth planning ahead. Have all your branches and cuttings ready, it’ll save you plenty of time (and money if you’re hiring). If you are using a chipper without a discharge chute or collection bag then place a tarpaulin or ground sheet where the chippings will be discharged, this will make it easier to move the finished product to its final destination.
Chipping your branches and shrubbery can be a lot of work. However, the time and money you invest will have its benefits as your lush, vibrant garden says “thank you” with healthy new growth thanks to the nutrients from the compost and mulch. What better reward could you ask for?
Dealing with protected trees
If a tree that is protected by TPO or in a Conservation Area and suffers storm damage, you should arrange to carry out whatever work is necessary to make it safe. The work must be the minimum required to make it safe and any additional work will require a prior application/notice to your local Council. You must inform your Council at the first opportunity, regarding the works that have been carried out to the protected tree.
If a protected tree has been blown down in the storm or has been damaged in such a way that in the interests of safety it should be felled, then you may be required to replace it during the next planting season.
It is important to remember that it is your responsibility to prove that any work you have carried out on a protected tree was essential to make the tree safe. Therefore, it is good practice to make a good photographic record of storm damage to protected trees and to contact your Council prior to felling or removing them.