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Ask Angie: Don't give up on leaning trees

Angieslist.comDecember 29, 2012 

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Angie Hicks

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Dear Angie: We were hit by Superstorm Sandy. Now, a few of our spruce trees, each 15 to 20 feet tall, are leaning. Two are leaning at about a 75-degree angle, and the smallest of the three is at about a 45-degree angle. Is there any way these trees can be straightened or uprighted, or should we resign ourselves to losing them? — Joe M., Perrineville, N.J.

Answer: Don't give up on your trees yet. I recommend you find a local, certified arborist to examine your trees. An arborist's goal is always to save trees rather than remove them, and arborists generally are eager to share their knowledge about how to keep trees healthy. If there's no hope for your trees, they'll tell you that, too.

The good news is that I recently spoke to an arborist who sent me some pictures of spruces that were uprooted completely. He was able to use a come-along cable puller and multiple ground anchors to secure the trees. He said he expects them all to survive.

Get at least three estimates before you decide how to proceed. Many tree services have arborists on staff, so they can offer advice for saving trees and their safe removal. You'll be asked about a number of things as your experts evaluate the situation.

To save your trees, their root balls will need to be intact. If they are, and the trees are able to be cabled or tethered, it's possible your trees can be straightened.

This isn't a do-it-yourself job, though. It probably will involve specific tools and techniques. Please get some expert advice.

If the trees are straightened, they will require extensive time to recover and become stable again, so it's important that the job be done safely and properly and that the trees are inspected regularly.

If you are able to upright the trees, tree professionals I spoke to recommend you apply a tree growth regulator, which will help promote a healthy root system. You'll also want to cover the root ball with extra mulch this winter to help keep the exposed roots warm.

Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angieslist.com to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at askangie@angieslist.com.

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