We have had three windy and heavy snow storms this March leading to tree damage around the island and potentially in your own backyard. Cracked or broken branches can’t heal themselves like bones so the best practice is to remove them. Trying to retain them with cables or such will almost always fail over time. Damaged and dead branches should be pruned back as soon as possible to prevent disease from entering the plant.  Deadwood can also be removed at any point during the year, as it can harbor and attract insects and fungal diseases. 

Remove the damaged branches by cutting them off back to a healthy branch. Make the cut roughly a half inch past the intersection of the two branches. There should be a slight swelling at this intersection, leave the swelling on the tree, that is where the tree will callous and seal off the wound.

Evergreens that have lost their leader or top most branch will normally regrow. If they form multiple leaders the strongest central one should be chosen and the others cut back. Cut them back at least a foot below the main one and they should not grow past the new central branch.

Most deciduous shrubs, those that loose their leaves, can be pruned very hard in the  early spring and will regrow. They may not flower the first year but will do so in subsequent years. This hard pruning can apply to any overgrown deciduous shrub. Good candidates are forsythia , lilac, viburnum and privet.

Early Spring is a great time to prune most plant material.  Since the plants are dormant, pruning won’t affect their ability to generate energy, like it would if there were leaves present.  It also makes it much easier to see the structure of the plant and remove any unhealthy branches.  Caution must be taken to avoid removing flower buds for the upcoming growing season. 

Tools:  Always use shape pruners, loppers, and saws.  It is recommended that tools be sterilized between pruning jobs to prevent passing fungal disease from one plant to another, or from one location to another property even.

Here is a good link for pruning damaged trees.