I planted a kousa dogwood last summer, and it looked to be doing well, with nice autumn foliage. Last fall it looks as if a fat raccoon has tried to sit in the fork, and two of the largest boughs have been torn off. The damaged dogwood height is about 5 feet, the largest branch left is 3/4-inch diameter, and there is a huge scar where a branch got torn off. What should I do this spring to the wound?
Do not paint or bandage the wound left by the torn branch. This only provides hiding places for insect pests and traps moisture which can lead to mold issues. Trees have an amazing ability to heal over injuries. When the wound occurred, the cambium reacted chemically to seal off that area to prevent moisture loss. Eventually an exterior bark layer will form over that spot, much like a person’s skin heals from a cut.
Make sure the dogwood is sited for optimum light and water preferences. Water the roots deeply when day temperatures are high and rainfall is absent. The tree has endured stress with this injury and used additional resources to repair itself. You can apply a granular tree and shrub fertilizer around the root zone before mulching to help the plant rebuild its energies.
Provide two inches of composted mulch over the root zone, avoiding contact with the tree trunk. Watch the tree’s growth during the season. You may notice stunted leaf and branch development and even lack of bloom buds on the side of the tree with the wound. To prevent inquisitive critters from chewing on the bark, place a narrow cage of wire mesh around the trunk from the ground to about 2 feet up, being careful not to wrap the trunk with wire.
After spring bloom, you may prune the dogwood to re-establish shape and form. In early fall, you can apply another light dose of granular fertilizer per the container label to help the tree’s nutrient storage for winter.