How to Support an Old Black Willow Tree How to Support an Old Black Willow Tree

What You'll Need

The roots of a black willow are shallow and spread over a very wide area. This spread gives the willow a very stable base and excellent support. If the tree is looking in need of support you need to discover the reason.

Step 1 – Check the Soil

Check the area around the shade tree for moisture. Look for an area where the roots seem to be loose. This will indicate that the roots are damaged or dead.

Step 2 – Estimate the Danger

If all is well and the roots do not seem to be damaged in any way, try to work out just how much support you think the tree will need. If the black willow simply needs support because it has grown very large and moves too much in high winds, it can be propped up.

Step 3 – Preventive Pruning

To ease the strain on the tree it will be a good idea to thin out the fresh growth and some of the older internal branches. This will retain the weeping willow shape of the tree while reducing the wind resistance.

Step 4 – Create Props

To be most effective the props need to be as long as possible so that they are as close to 90º to the trunk of the tree as is possible. An ideal prop is an Acrow prop because it can be adjusted while in place. Local metal works should be able to make suitable y-shaped props. Old beams make good props and can be shaped to fit the trunk of the tree. Ideally you should use three props equally spaced for maximum support.

Step 5 – Dig Footings and Build Prop Foundations

Present the props to the tree in the position they will be used and mark where the end of the prop hits the ground. Make this point the centre of the base line of a two foot square. Dig a two foot square hole about 18 inches deep and fill this hole with concrete.  Try to damage as few roots as possible while doing this.

Step 6 – Fit the Props

Once the concrete has dried, after at least 24 hours, fit the props against the tree and against the concrete foundations. Apply concrete around the base of the prop to hold it in place.

Step 7 – If the props are fitted tightly enough there should be little movement.

Tie the props together close to the tree using short lengths of timber or chain. This will prevent any of them falling loose in a very high wind.
Although the props are designed to help support the tree they will almost certainly cause some damage as they rub or press against the trunk. You should start a regular inspection routine to ensure any minor damage is not made worse by mold or beetles. Do not attempt to tie the props to the tree because this could cause serious damage by reducing the sap flow, a similar affect to a tourniquet.

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