Broken tree branch | What to do with wood ashes
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Issue: September 23, 2000

Broken tree branch

Question:

Wind split the trunk of one of my landscape trees where two branches met. This happened a few days ago. I tied it back together with rope. Is there anything else I should do?

Answer:

The best solution is to prune out the broken branch if that is possible. Trying to graft the branch back into the tree as you are doing will probably fail. Even if it succeeds, the tree will always be weak at this point and subject to breakage in the future. Besides, the rope will girdle and injure the tree.

Another option is replacement of the tree. In the long run, this may be the best solution, but in the short term you will go from a large tree to a small tree. Patience will help.

It is possible to bolt the branch or to cable it to repair the damage. It would be wise to hire a professional arborist for this, and it is also a temporary solution. If you choose this approach, look for an arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture. Certification will ensure that the arborist is trained and has passed tests on these topics. Yes, there are uncertified arborists who can also do a good job; certification just helps you find the qualified arborists.

What to do with wood ashes

Question:

I read where you said not to use wood ashes in the garden. Okay, what should I do with them?

Answer:

Wood ashes are not recommended for addition to Southwestern soils. Our alkaline soils contain too many salts; the ashes will add more salt to the soil. This will make problematic soils even worse.

If you live in town and have a lot of wood ashes, you will probably need to dispose of them in a landfill. However, some landfills have restrictions about disposing of wood ashes out of concern that live embers in the ashes could cause a fire in garbage transport vehicles. If landfill disposal is allowed, be certain that the ashes are cold and that there is no fire. Collecting ashes into a garbage bag or bin could create a fire hazard for your home if you do not make sure that all embers are dead.

If you have a gravel driveway, some of the ashes may be disposed in the driveway. While it probably won't kill weeds, it may make the driveway less desirable for the weeds. If there are landscape trees and shrubs near the driveway, their roots may be under the driveway and there is a chance of nutrient deficiencies developing in the landscape plant, so be careful.

A small quantity of wood ashes may be used to manage soft bodied insects on garden plants. If sprinkled lightly on the infested plants, the ashes can cause desiccation of the pests. Wear eye protection and gloves as you do this. If wind blows the ashes into your eyes, it can be quite painful. The ashes will not kill all insects but will help with some. Remember, if you apply too much of the ash here, it can have a negative effect on the soil.

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Send your gardening questions to Yard and Garden, ATTN: Dr. Curtis Smith NMSU Cooperative Extension Service 9301 Indian School Road, NE, Suite 112 Albuquerque, NM 87112

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.

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