Why Should My Trees be Pruned?
Pruning trees, especially when younger, helps promote healthy trees with good branch structure. Think of a tree in its native environment, the forest. The tree is in stiff competition with other trees. It is forced to grow fast and upright. Trees growing in man-made conditions usually have much more space and less competition. They will spread out to form much broader trees than they would if located in the forest. The branch structure will often be inadequate if the tree is left to develop on its own. These trees can develop hazard limbs that eventually could fail, leading to an early tree death.
- Promotes good branch structure
- Can correct poor branch structure
- Reduces potential hazards
- Improves overall health by removing dead, diseased, and dying branches
- Gives the arborist a chance to examine the tree more closely than possible from the ground
Pruning Guidelines (basic pruning practices)
- Will not leave branch stubs
- Will make few or no heading cuts
- Will not cut off the branch collar (a flush cut)
- Will not top or lion's tail trees
- Will not remove more than 25% of the foliage of a single branch
- Will not remove more than 25% of the total tree foliage in a single year
- Will not damage other parts of the tree during pruning
- Will not use wound paint
Should I Have My Tree Topped?
The answer is "NO". Topping often leads to many large, fast-growing sprouts. These sprouts are attached to stubs that soon become rotten. The sprouts then become hazards, as they grow larger. The common reason given for topping is to limit the growth of a tree, but this does not occur. In reality, the fast growing, vigorous water sprouts will actually outgrow a similar-sized tree that has not been topped in about 5 years after the topping.
When is the Best Time to Prune Trees?
The old arborist saying goes, "the best time to prune is when the pruners are sharp."
Meaning that trees can be pruned at any time. This is true for most trees, although there are some exceptions to the rule.
Some points to consider when deciding when to prune;
- Spring flowering trees can be pruned as soon as the leaves turn dark green and harden to avoid cutting off any of the following year's flower buds.
- Summer flowering trees can be pruned before new growth begins in early spring to avoid cutting off any of the current year's flower buds.
- Birches, elms, magnolias, maples, walnuts, willows, and a few other trees are known as "bleeders". When these species are pruned in late winter or early spring, the wounds may bleed. This flow of sap is more unsightly than damaging to the tree. In fact, sap at this time of year is roughly 98% water and 2% sugar, so little energy is lost through a bleeding wound. The sap flow will taper-off and cease as the new leaves turn dark green.
EXCEPTIONS: There are a few trees susceptible to insect and disease problems that could be encouraged if pruning is done at the wrong time.
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