Like the human body, plants have the miraculous ability to heal themselves. If a tree limb breaks in a storm or for some other reason, then it will remain alive so long as it remains attached to the tree. The spontaneous regeneration of cracked wood is comparable to what happens when a new branch is grafted onto a tree. With just a little help it may even be possible to restore the cracked limb to its former stature and elegance. In the meantime take special care that pets and people don’t travel beneath the broken limb, which might fall.
Assessing the Damage
Limbs can crack in heavy winds during storms, either under the weight of fruit or ice, when struck by lightning, or for various other reasons. They should be repaired immediately for the very best chance of success. Success can also be correlated to the amount of wood that is still attached — in case a thin strip of bark is all that is hanging, chances of success are low. If the exposed tissue dries out, it may not be possible to fuse the wood back together. However, the division will continue to stay through the nutrients and water supplied from the place where it is attached. In this instance, it may be best to cut it off at the branch collar and allow the tree to grow a new branch in its position.
Grafting Smaller Branches
A small branch using a crack can be wrapped using grafting tape or electrical tape to hold it together. As long as there is good contact between the cambium, or inner bark layer, either of the 2 pieces, the wood should fuse after a few months of development. For slightly larger branches that won’t support their own weight with only permeable tape, a splint can be made by sandwiching the break between two lightweight pieces of wood, held together with twine. Supporting the division from below using a forked crutch or tying it up to a larger branch above will help stabilize it further. All the permeable materials ought to be removed in a year so the repaired division can continue to grow without restriction.
Surgery for Larger Limbs
A larger limb may be grafted employing a combination of cables and bolts to hold it together while it fuses to the tree. If a large limb is too large and unwieldy to manage, a professional arborist ought to be hired to do the work. An eye hook may be twisted to the back or an upper branch to encourage the broken limb using a cable. It might be necessary to fasten it using a cable in a few places to stop it from moving around in the wind. If the broken limb was originally positioned at a narrow angle to the back, it may be twisted to the back or bolted with a long threaded rod.
Caring for the Limb
Until the division fuses itself back to place, the region of the break bottlenecks nutrients and water flowing from the main trunk. For this reason, it is helpful to cut back a part of the limb in order that the tree may focus more energy on healing the cracked place. Make sure the tree has adequate water in this time period. If the break occurs throughout the period of active development from spring through early fall, apply a complete, balance fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, to help stimulate development and regeneration of the cells that are damaged. Utilize a cup of fertilizer for each inch of trunk diameter measured at chest height.