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Taking good care of the trees on your property is just as important as maintaining your roof, furnace, or any other component of your home. Trees provide many social, communal, environmental, and economic benefits. Caring for them includes regular tree care maintenance by a professional. Pruning refers to intentional and selective removal of plant parts to achieve an objective.

Pruning differs from tree trimming, which is done for maintaining formal shapes such as with hedges and small trees. According to Dr. Edward Gilman, author of An Illustrated Guide to Pruning and professor of Urban Trees and Landscape Plants, trimming is, by definition, clipping the ends of young branches using heading cuts. Both pruning and trimming require the expertise of an arborist, and in fact, improper tree pruning or trimming can lead to a range of serious problems.

Over Pruning Leads to Poor Tree Structure

It’s important that the person pruning your trees uses correct techniques, quality tools, and proper safety procedures. For starters, they should not over-prune a tree. Depending on the developmental stage of a tree, maximum arboricultural pruning standard doses should be followed. Young, newly established trees are allowed as much as 50% foliage removal in one pruning dose, medium-aged trees 25% foliage removal in one pruning dose, and mature trees as much as 10% foliage removal in one pruning dose.

In addition to a tree’s roots, the foliage is another major food resource for a tree. Over-pruning can lead to poor branch structure, top heaviness, and poor health. Removing branches that shade the trunk of the tree can leave it vulnerable to sun scalding in summer.

Cuts in the Wrong Places Leave Wounds

A trained arborist will remove branches at the branch collar, protecting the branch bark ridge, the raised section where the branch and tree trunk meet. It’s important to cut just close enough to this spot–but not too close–in order to leave enough tissue for the tree to heal itself. Cutting a branch beyond the branch collar, damages the branch bark ridge. Cutting into the branch bark ridge causes long term damage and slows the compartmentalization process and sealing off wounds.

Damage from Unmaintained Tools

Tools that are not well maintained can create uneven cuts or tear the bark. These injuries look unsightly, and can present an entry point for pests and disease. If the tools have not been correctly cleaned and stored, they could transfer pathogens, such as bacteria or fungi from other pruning projects to the trees in your yard. Homeowners and professionals alike should always clean and disinfect pruning tools after each use.

Injury to the Tree Trimmer

Tree maintenance can be dangerous, so proper training and safety equipment are crucial. An untrained person could fall, cut themselves, or sustain eye or facial injuries from branches. Trees near power lines present even greater hazards, including electrocution or fire. That’s why even if you know how to prune or trim your trees, it’s safer to call a professional arborist. Ensure that they are licensed and insured to protect yourself from liability.

Tree Topping is Not Advisable

An inexperienced tree trimmer might suggest “topping” a tree to encourage new growth. With tree topping, the upper branches are cut to stubs with little to no foliage. It disrupts the natural growth cycle, potentially causing poor branch structure, and too many and too large of wounds for a tree to seal off at once. In addition, leaving exposed, stubby branches makes the tree more susceptible to pest infestation and disease.

Rely on a Professional Arborist for Tree Pruning or Trimming

Regular tree care and maintenance by a professional arborist helps keep trees healthy and attractive. It’s always a good idea to remove unwanted branches prior to the summer storm season. To make your trees last as long as possible, while reducing any risk to your home or safety, contact Townsend Residential to schedule tree pruning or trimming.