Heavy Rains are hard on trees

tree pictured with standing water around trunk from too much rain

The recent excessive amount of rain we have received this summer in the Metro-Atlanta area may be causing significant damage to the trees on your property. June rainfall totals have surpassed previous records in many areas and the trend looks to be continuing into the balance of the summer for 2017

With the ground completely saturated by this excessive amount of flooding, it is important to determine what, if any, damage is being done to your trees and what should be done to combat any of the effects on your trees. Typically, heavy rains during the tree’s growing season, such as spring and summer months, can do more damage than during the dormant winter months. The longer the amount of time a tree exposed to constant rain or flooding, the greater the possibly is for injury and potential death of the tree.

There isn’t much that can be done while the flooding and excessive rain is taking place; however, once the ground waters recede you can begin to survey possible damage to your trees and plants. Saturated soil can have long-lasting effects on soil compaction and oxygen depletion, both of which can significantly impact your trees’ health. When soils are completely saturated, crucial oxygen is prevented from reaching the root system. While some trees are more tolerant of highly saturated soil conditions than others, the longer the lack of aeration continues will tend to increase the possibility of root death. Extended lack of aeration to the roots can result in root die-back, with the above ground symptoms showing up as leaf chlorosis, subsequent defoliation, droopy foliage with crown and branch die-back.

Saturated root systems also tend to be much more susceptible to attack by root-rot organisms leading to the possible death of the tree. In general, established healthy trees will be more tolerant to excessive rain and flooding than very old trees, stressed trees, or young trees and seedlings.

Once you’ve had the opportunity to inspect the trees on your property, another area to be concerned with is the deposition of excess soil and rocks over tree roots.

Excess soil over 3 inches can impede oxygen getting to the tree roots, especially on smaller plants. You should remove any excess sentiment once flood waters recede as soon as possible. By contrast, tree roots may become exposed during flooding and soil erosion. These roots should be covered with new soil to prevent drying out and damage of the exposed roots.

Where you do find damage to your trees, don’t be too anxious to immediately cut back limbs. Branches that have lost leaves or look damaged may not be dead.

There still may be buds remaining on the branch that will re-emerge before the growing season ends. Live stems and buds will have some green tissue visible and should be retained.

In areas that have experienced excessive rain and flooding, the full effect on your trees may not be apparent for some time.

Very little is known about the full effects of long term excessive rains during the growing season and in fact, the full impact may not be apparent for a year or longer. A great deal will also depend on any future stresses the weather may continue to place upon your trees, as well. Continue to observe your trees as time goes on to determine if symptoms of damage are progressing that could ultimately result in the death of the tree. On the other hand, those symptoms may not continue to be seen indicating that the tree has hopefully recovered and is back to good health.

Once damage has occurred in the root system of your tree, there is little that can be done to reverse the situation.

However, you may want to consider root feeding and soil decompaction for your tree as a means of possibly stabilizing the damage and giving the tree a chance to recover. This is not to be confused with tree fertilization which could exacerbate the situation.

Professional arborists use air tools to re-establish oxygen to the pores of the soil and to de-compact the soil around the tree’s roots. These tools are used for tree and shrub root feeding, soil management and root collar inspection. Air tools highly effective in the aeration of soil in the root zone without damaging the tree’s roots. This allows the reconstruction of "macro-pore space" and the soil to be de-compacted. Once completed, organic compost, nutrients, and mycorrhizae are then innoculated into the root zone to complete the process.

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