Straightening a Damaged or Bent Tree

TheGardenLady received this question C.J.Putnam:

During this drought, I noticed my deodor cedar had developed a lean that I don’t believe it had previously.  It was always crowded by a very large pine nearby which was removed a few years ago, but it seems to have developed a wrinkled section of trunk and the lean is more pronounced from the wrinkled part up.  I suspect this is from the wind.  I had not been watering it because there is an aquifer running beneath the property and I assumed it was getting water there but the aquifer may have been drained during the drought.  It is about 40 years old and very, very, tall.  I had an arborist look at it and he suggested trimming it to control windsail, but the lean worries me so much, I’m wondering if I should just go ahead and remove it.  It is a beautiful tree, the most beautiful tree on the property, but it looks dangerous leaning the way it does.

This Garden Lady loves her trees. And Cedrus deodara being one of the most magnificent of trees, TheGardenLady planted one in her back yard. Because of this love, I will suggest doing whatever one can to save a tree. One can always cut a tree down – that’s a ” no brainer.”  First, if you can afford it,  I would get a second opinion.  Be sure that the tree service is certified. I do not recommend any service, but I can tell you that I have used Bartlett Tree Experts.

Deodar cedars can live for 1000 years but since they come from the Himalayas, they do need a similar environment. You have had your tree for a while, so apparently it has been fairly happy where it is planted – esp. since you got rid of the pine tree so that it can grow unimpeded.

But your description of the wrinkled section of the trunk concerns me. Usually Deodar cedars have few pest problems. But I would ask the arborist if the tree might have some insect or fungal problem. Or the wrinkling might be from drought. Could some of the root system have risen above ground and is drying out to cause this wrinkling? Deodar cedars usually are drought tolerant, but they do need to be provided with moderate amounts of water in dry weather. I would put a slowly trickling hose and, over the course of several hours, move it around the drip line — the imaginary circular soil line directly below a tree’s canopy perimeter — once a month between July and September. Alternatively, you could put a temporary drip irrigation line over the tree’s drip line — so named because that’s where water drips off a tree when it rains — and leave it on for 12 hours, two or three times during the summer.  Also, you should mulch the tree in hot weather to hold in the moisture.  Mulch two to three inches thick  helps soil retain moisture. The Deodar cedars respond well to fertilizer too, but don’t overfertilize. Deborah Brown of University of Minnesota Extension suggests applying a balanced, slow-release fertilizer such as 10-8-6 in early spring, before new growth expands. Ask your arborist what fertilizer is recommended.

TheGardenLady fears that with climate change we may be losing more trees from the heavier rains, the longer droughts or the stronger winds we seem to be having. So arborists will have to learn how to save trees in this newer climate. A certified arborist should know the most recent research on tree care to advise you on the best treatment.

I would ask the arborist if he could stake your tree. Since you are already considering removing the tree, why wouldn’t you try to save the tree first by having someone stake the tree?  Though arborists prefer that a tree not be staked, because of the circumstances of your tree, it is worth a try. I would ask the arborist if he could stake your tree and if you can afford the cost of the staking; try doing that first before removing this specimen.  I just had this done to my 40 year old Norway spruce.  A horticulturist told me that sometimes it takes up to ten years before you can see that your evergreen tree has died.  I feel that if I can have that tree looking alive for that length of time, it was worth it to have the tree staked. Huge trees are prohibitively expensive to replace.

First cut out any dead, dying, diseased or broken branches.  You can also do as your arborist suggested and trim the tree to control windsail. But since you fear that it is leaning too much and may fall, staking the tree would reduce your fears. . Here are some videos showing how staking can be done. If the staking kills the tree, you are out of some money. But if staking works, you will have saved a beautiful, big, beloved tree. And perhaps by the time the trees shows real symptoms of death, scientists will know more about saving trees that are leaning.

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