A Homeowner’s Guide to Proper Tree Pruning
Tree pruning is one of the most common tasks homeowners undertake to keep their landscape trees healthy, strong, and beautiful. However, pruning should be undertaken with a firm understanding of the biology of trees, since every cut can change the tree’s growth pattern — and affect its health. In fact, improper pruning can damage or shorten the life of your trees.
While most routine pruning — removing weak, diseased, or dead limbs — can and should be performed any time throughout the year, you should undertake more significant pruning at the proper time for the tree for best results. Since pruning incorrectly can not only spread disease or weaken your tree, but also pose a safety risk, you should leave major pruning jobs to tree care specialists.
Why Should You Trim Your Trees?
Trees in a natural landscape grow with no need for pruning, so why do homeowners need to trim their trees? While you may need to prune specific tree limbs for many reasons, there are specific instances in which tree trimming is necessary:
Pruning for Tree Health
When you trim a tree for health reasons, you will focus on removing branches that are dead, diseased, or dying; those branches that rub together; and any branch stubs so your tree can grow in a healthy, unobstructed way. This technique helps open up the tree canopy to let in light and air, which will decrease disease while also helping the tree generate more foliage. Additionally, pruning suckers and water sprouts at ground level can prevent them from weakening the main trunk and stealing nutrients. Establishing one strong main trunk ultimately creates a tree that is stronger and more able to weather high winds and winter storms.
Pruning for Fruiting and Flowering
Helping trees fruit and flower is best done not only at planting time but also during times when the buds have just formed but the tree remains dormant. At planting, you can cut the new stem 24” to 30” from the ground and remove side shoots to balance the root system and help the tree grow low branches for fruiting. After the first year, prune to minimize branch rubbing and crossing, promote fruiting or flowering branches, and increase scaffold strength.
You should prune flowering trees that bloom early right after they bloom, since they set buds on the past year’s growth. Late bloomers set buds on the current growth, so you should prune them in early spring to encourage prolific flowering.
Pruning for Safety
When a tree is pruned properly, it is stronger and healthier. Dead branches, diseased limbs, and branches that hang over buildings or near power lines pose a serious threat to people and property. Because of the safety factor, it is best to seek the assistance of certified professional tree care specialist before tackling trees that abut buildings, power lines, fences, or other structures.
The Proper Pruning of a Tree Limb
For smaller branches, you can use a hand tool to prune your trees. To prune effectively, make your cut about .25 inches above a bud that is facing the outside of the plant at a 45-degree angle to prevent water damage. This cut will determine the direction of new growth.
Thicker tree branches typically take up to three cuts — two to remove the weight from the branch and one to promote callus growth. A callus is a thick area that forms at the spot of a removed branch and is critical for the tree’s continuing health. For thicker branches, begin eighteen inches up on the underside of the branch you wish to remove and cut halfway through it. Then move to the top side of the same branch and begin cutting one inch further out from your first cut until it comes free. Now, find a slight swelling where the remaining stub of your branch connects to the main trunk. This is the stem tissue. Make a cut on the outside of this stem tissue, or collar, at a 45-degree angle, making sure not to leave a stub. Cutting in this way will help a callus form more quickly to keep water, insects, and other disease-causing agents out.
When is the Best Time of Year to Prune Trees?
While it’s important to prune dead or diseased branches as soon as possible, overall pruning should be done in mid- to late winter to encourage new growth when warm weather arrives. Plus, with leaves off the canopy, you will be better able to identify areas that need removal. Summer pruning — after seasonal growth has peaked — can help slow the development of branches or the entire tree, which may be desirable. This type of pruning is best left to professional arborists.
Remember, fruiting and flowering trees have their own special needs when it comes to timing your tree pruning. If you’re not sure when to prune, contact a local tree specialist for help.
Put Proper Tree Pruning at Your Fingertips
Pruning your trees at the right time, for the right reasons, and with the right safety measures can be a daunting task for many homeowners. And doing it the wrong way can cause lasting damage — or even kill — your trees, not to mention posing a safety hazard for novice tree pruners.
At Townsend Arborcare, our team of tree trimming and pruning experts know exactly how — and when — to prune every type of tree, so you can be sure your trees will grow stronger and live longer.
Don’t trust the life and health of your trees to just anyone. Contact a Townsend Arborcare consultant today and get expert tree pruning help.
In Indiana call 317-420-8548
In Ohio call 440-578-7249
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