The 13 Tips of Pruning
Posted in Trees and Shrubs on January 18, 2014
(Not Just for Pear Trees!)
Pruning isn’t just for aesthetics, it also helps trees grow – and stay – strong. It works by removing damaged areas which allows new, healthy growth. You can also create custom-designed shapes to increase the visual appeal of your property. Before you start cutting branches off left and right, it’s important to learn how to prune correctly. A bad cut can damage or kill your tree. Read below for tips of pruning:
The “What” of the Cut
- As Michelangelo did with marble, look at your tree and see how you want it to look when you’re done pruning.
- Make sure you know which are the major branches, or the tree’s “skeleton”. You don’t want to break those bones.
- Broken branches continue taking water and nutrients from the tree. Pruning them allows redistribution to healthier branches.
- Too much of a good thing also applies to tree branches. While you want your trees to be full, overcrowding blocks air flow around the other branches. Good air flow is necessary for healthy trees. Additionally, overcrowding encourages fungus growth and attracts insects. Prune these branches as well as those that grow in toward the center of the tree.
- Square, round or elephant, you can prune your tree into different shapes for visual effect. A cut here, a cut there and odd branches become art (see #1).
- Beware of over-pruning! Regardless of #1-6 above, it’s important to remove as few branches as possible to accomplish your goals. Since pruning removes the tree’s protective bark, every cut increases the chance of fungus or insect infestation. Safety rules for pruning include:
- Never pruning more than 25% of your tree’s branches.
- At least two-thirds of your tree’s total height should be living branches.
- Only prune once per season as your tree needs time to recover. Obviously, storm or other damage can be pruned as needed.
The “When” of the Wound
- The late fall or early winter is the ideal time to prune because the tree loses less sap. The “wound” is also less likely to become infested by fungus or insects since those threats are usually dormant at this time of year.
- An easy way to tell if it’s time to prune is whether the tree has leaves. The tree is dormant until early spring once all the leaves fall off. Prune immediately in the case of storm damage, though.
The “How” of the Hacksaw
- Start with a cut on the underside of the branch, making sure not to cut all the way through it. This purpose of this cut is to keep the falling branch from causing a crack too close to the tree trunk. The correct placement of the cut is near a small lip of bark at the base of the branch called the stem collar.
- The second cut removes the branch leaving a stub several inches long. This cut is placed further from the trunk than the first cut.
- The third and final cut is tight against the stem collar and removes the stub. Your tree will have a better chance of a healthy recovery. Remember do not cut off the stem collar!
- Since you’ve essentially performed surgery on your tree, clean and disinfect your pruning equipment after each use. Tree diseases can be spread by dirty equipment.