Shade and ornamental trees can become damaged by windstorms, lightning or by the weight of ice and snow accumulation during severe winter weather. Because of their umbrella-shaped canopy, Japanese maples are particularly susceptible to winter damage. This branching structure allows heavy deposits of ice and snow to accumulate; if the build-up increases and isn't cleared away in time, the weakest branch will eventually split in two. Fortunately, these fractures usually occur close to the boot or near a major supporting limb, and with the right approach, you can often repair the damage.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Mini ratchet webbing strap
- 7/64-inch drill bit
- Cordless drill/driver
- 3/8-inch stainless steel bolt, nut and washers
- Grafting wax
- Heavy bolt-cutter or hacksaw
Have a helper lift the damage branch as far as possible to close the gap between the two split halves.
Thread a mini ratchet webbing strap around the damaged limb, 6 inches above the split. Pass the end around the adjacent supporting branch. Position the ratchet mechanism between the split halves so that the handle is accessible.
Insert the end of the webbing strap through the slot in the axle and take up the slack by pulling it as tight as possible. Raise and lower the ratchet handle once or twice to wind the webbing strap around the axle. Once you feel resistance, continue moving the handle up and down to pull the two halves together until the spit has closed completely.
Insert a long, 7/64-inch drill bit into a cordless drill/driver. Drill a hole through the centre of the supporting branch and the damaged limb at a right angle to the split. Position the hole as close to the top of the split as possible.
Thread a washer onto a 3/8-inch stainless steel bolt and insert the bolt through the hole. Use a bolt that's long enough to span the width of the joint with an inch to spare. Place a second washer over the protruding end and thread a nut onto the bolt until it is finger-tight.
Hold the head of the bolt steady with an adjustable wrench and use a second wrench to tighten the nut until it cannot move any further.
Cover the split with a layer of grafting wax if the bark is damaged and some bare wood is visible. Cut off the exposed thread on the end of the bolt close to the nut with a heavy bolt cutter or hacksaw.
Leave the mini ratchet strap in place for no longer than one growing season while the two halves of the split grow together and become covered with a layer of new wood. Leave the stainless steel bolt; it will eventually be covered completely by new growth as the tree matures.
Tips and warnings
- On smaller repairs you can use a heavy cable tie instead of a mini ratchet strap to hold the two damaged halves together; don't forget to remove the cable tie after nine months to a year.
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