Hurricane Irma passed through Georgia with strong sustained winds. For our peach trees this meant trouble, especially for younger trees (1-3 years-old). Trees could have been fully uprooted, but in general, you can see them leaning or touching the ground. Younger trees can be salvaged, but this needs to be done in the following days after the storm. Small trees will tend to lean to one side, so be sure to check if roots are exposed on the opposite side, and if they are, make sure to keep them from drying.
First, proceed to create your own anchors. This will save you money. (You can find anchor kits in home improvement stores, but this will be expensive if you have several trees). Use old irrigation pipes and cut them into 6 inch pieces. You will need at least 2 or 3 of those pieces for use around the wire or rope used, so the wire or rope doesn’t cut into the wood. In addition, you will need anchors, stakes, or another type of support to secure the wires or ropes in the ground. Now that you have your supplies, it is time to put up the tree.
Place the tree upright. Do not use too much force or pull the tree in a twisting way. Keep the direction natural to how it feels the tree was originally growing. Use a steady pull until you have the tree in an upright position, or you don’t feel too much resistance while pulling. Once the tree is in the position that you want, use the wires or ropes to hold the tree from the main trunk or scaffolds. Make sure that the pipes cover the wires and ropes to avoid them cutting into the wood. Set anchors for each strand. The direction of the anchors have to be set to avoid wind moving the tree from any direction. Once you have set the anchors and the ropes are securely attached to the plant, cover roots or any opening in the ground with soil or hay to avoid root drying. The final step is to prune the tree to reduce the canopy. This pruning can be done to the level that you would do to set your tree in the winter for the upcoming year. Leave enough foliage in place to avoid sun scalding.
Once the trees are up and the roots are covered, please consider the recommendations to apply a fungicide (Please see previous blog post by Dr. Phil Brannen).
For older trees that are uprooted or leaning, this becomes more difficult. The procedure will be the same as above for younger trees, but with a few additional considerations . Please avoid trying to pull the older tree to a very upright position. Do not pull the tree with a lot of strength, as the only roots that are probably still intact are the roots in the direction that the tree is leaning. If you put too much force to put the tree in an upright position, those roots more likely will suffer damage and the tree will die. You will probably need to use a tractor. Make sure that the person who is driving the tractor is careful at just pulling the right amount. Consider using small tractors to avoid excessive force. You will have to consider having a tree that is not completely upright in the end. Probably, you will be using more anchors and ropes. Consider using a thicker wire or rope for this. Your pruning decision will be to prune as previously mentioned with the smaller trees, but also it may be good to also remove a scaffold in the direction in which the tree was leaning to avoid additional stress on the roots that are still alive. This way, the weight of the tree will be in the direction opposite to how it was leaning.
There are also some extension publications available if you want to check additional information: