Spring break is a great time to trim and prune your trees, since it is the time when branches are easiest to remove (no leaves to weigh them down). Particularly if your trees are still growing, pruning is critical for both strength and form. If a young tree receives proper pruning, it will require less corrective trimming as an “adult.” |
Of course, you can trim and prune year-round. However, if you can take care of this task before the big spring growth, you can maximize that growth and ensure wounds close faster. You need to know how each type of tree is prone to responding to cuts. If tree pruning is incorrect, you can cause lifetime damage to your tree (or even reduce its life cycle).
Make each cut so that just the branch is removed — steer clear of the trunk. This leads to a smaller wound, which is easier for the tree to seal, and you won’t face as big of a risk of wood decay. You can find the right place for pruning cuts by checking out the bark ridge along the branch’s upper surface (right where it attaches to the trunk). Once this has been identified, check the underbelly for a branch collar, or the swollen part that wraps the branch. Cut right outside this area (away from the trunk) in a downward angle.
For all trees, utilize a three-cut method. The first cut is made to the underbelly, around nine inches away from the trunk. Don’t go beyond halfway through. This cut is just to prevent ripping once the branch is totally cut. Next, cut two is made one inch away (outward) from the first, from the top down. Finally, the third cut nixes the last of the stump and is also made in a top-down movement.
You’ll always want to remove some branches right away — if they’re broken, diseased, dead, crowded, rubbing, water sprouts or suckers, they need to go. Next, prune to create the structure you want. A tree needs solid scaffolding to offer a strong framework. A trunk with sturdy branches is crucial for a healthy tree. Stick with a single, dominant “trunk leader” for younger trees.
How much you’ll need to remove depends on the species, age and size of the tree, and your goals. Younger trees can stand to lose more than older trees. However, never take off more than 33 percent of the total canopy. Foliage should be evenly distributed on bigger limbs, as well as at the bottom half of the crown.
Never create flush cuts that remove the collars of the branch. These wounds cause severe injury. Trimmers should never “top” trees, or remove the tops of all the branches with flat cuts, since they’ll be left with a stub past the following viable branch. It also promotes wood rot.
Never put wound dressing on the surface — these chemicals are dangerous and unnecessary. If a tree “bleeds,” don’t worry; some species like maples are prone to it, but it won’t hurt the tree. Finally, don’t take on any trimming or pruning project with which you’re not comfortable. That’s what professional trimmers and arborists are for, so take advantage of these experts and employ them to trim and prune your trees.
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