Can You Save Cracked But Still Attached Tree Limbs?
Sometimes you don’t need a tree survey to show you what is already evident in front of you: a tree branch is hanging broken after a storm perhaps, or some other accident you have had on your property. What you need to know in such case is that the cracked limb will remain alive, as long as it is still attached to the tree itself.
The regeneration process that occurs is pretty much the same as when a new branch is grafted. After just following a few simple steps, you can maybe assist the tree to such an extent that it will restore the crack damage and return the limb to its former glory. Here is what you need to do:
Assess the damage – there are many reasons for cracking tree limbs: strong winds, heavy snow, lightning strike or even plenty of fruit. If you wish for them to have the best chance of recovery, you have to act quickly. Another important factor is assessing the damage. Obviously, if the amount of wood that is still attached is big, you have a pretty good chance of seeing that area of the tree whole again. If there is only a thin strip of the bark that is hanging, then you may not be able to repair the area. Carefully consider whether you can do much about the branch because it will live off of the nutrients and water supplied from the area where it is still attached. It may well be a better solution to cut it off so that a new branch can grow there.
Grafting a smaller branch – you can use grafting tape as wrapping around a smaller crack. As long as the contact with the cambium and inner part of the bark area still strong, the wood will fuse together. It may take a few months, but that damage is repairable. If the branch is too big, the grafting tape may not be able to support the weight. What you can do in that case is a splint with two lightweight pieces of wood. Place the break between them and hold everything together with twine. You can stabilise the branch further by tying it to another stronger branch or placing a forked crutch under it.
Larger limbs require surgery – you can usually graft a large limb by using bolts and cables to help it fuse to the tree. However, if the branch is too big, you will have to call an arborist to remove it. Otherwise, you can also screw an eye hook to the trunk and support the broken limb with cables. Securing it with more than one cable can prevent unwanted movement in the wind.
Further care – as the branch fuses itself back, you may notice nutrients and water originating from the main trunk. To prevent this, you should cut back a small portion of the limb, so that the tree doesn’t concentrate too much energy on healing the area. Provide an adequate amount of water and fertiliser to the tree, to stimulate growth and regeneration.