When to Prune?
Many tree experts say clients or would-be customers often look at trimming as nothing more than a way of making fall leaf cleanup easier. Proper tree care is more than a simple shortcut, they say. When its limbs and canopy are bare of leaves, it can be a good time to judge a tree for pruning. Waiting until the leaves are gone provides a good way of seeing the skeleton of a tree and determining good branches vs. bad. That makes late fall and winter a great time for pruning since lack of leaves allows a worker “to see the whole structure of the tree.” Health is also the object of tree care, not elimination of leaf pickup. Many diseases and insect activity are dormant during the fall/winter months which will reduce the chance of infection or attack from harmful pests.
What is “Proper” Pruning?
“Pruning is a vague word,” When a customer wants pruning, simply asking them what they want the tree to look like and what they want to accomplish will give an arborist a good indication of the client’s goal. Pruning is not simply shortening or thinning out a tree! The National Arborist Association says “proper pruning is an art based on scientific principles of plant physiology. At its most basic level, pruning trees involves removing damaged, dead or structurally weak limbs, which will improve a tree’s health and reduce the chances of personal or property damage caused by falling limbs.”
Improper Tree Pruning Techniques – Facts about “Topping Trees”
- Reducing the top of a tree to eliminate danger could create more danger down the road.
- Topping leads to decay, rot and disease.
- It is slow death for a tree.
- Topping is the “single worst thing you can do for a tree.”
- Topping a tree is a simple, and rather brutal, cutting of a tree down to size. It basically is taking off the top of a tree with no regard to the quality of the limbs.
- Topping disfigures a tree and will never allow it to regain its natural form.
- If a company advertises the word “topping” STAY AWAY. They have no regard for the health of your trees.
Other pruning mistakes can also lead to problems with your trees. These include the removal of large limbs from the lower trunks of mature trees and over thinning of canopies.
Many clients will wait to have their trees pruned until that tree reaches its mature size or becomes overgrown for its location. By this time, you may be forced to remove larger limbs in an effort to make room or improve the conditions of smaller plants or turf below. Don’t wait! Start a pruning program on small trees now to eliminate problems in the future. This should include some of the following tips;
- Elevate branch levels while limbs are small and can heal over properly.
- Pruning to eliminate double tops to encourage a single main trunk.
- Lightly shape disfigured canopies into correct form for that species.
- Selectively remove diseased limbs and poorly attached branches.