Tree pruning is one of the most important steps you can take to protect trees. Trees don’t typically need much help growing, but they do need some care and maintenance to remain healthy and beautiful. Without proper care, trees can be damaged by storms, disease, insects, pests, erosion and other forces.
Pruning helps strengthen weak branches so they can grow more vigorously than their counterparts; encourages new growth; allows sunlight to reach the interior of the tree canopy which stimulates faster growth.
Prevents overcrowding of branches that inhibit air circulation; removes dead or diseased wood; allows gardeners to reduce certain branches for aesthetic purposes (such as removing crossing limbs); keeps trees safe from lawnmowers and weed hackers; reduces wind resistance, and occupies animals so they don’t nest in dead areas.
Tree pruning is most effective when done during the late winter or early spring while the tree is still dormant. It’s important to remember that you are not trying to eliminate all growth on a branch, but rather redirect its flow towards healthier limbs. With that said, here are seven useful tips from experts in tree pruning.
1. Prune each branch according to its size
Different sized branches require different levels of pruning. Always begin by removing the smallest branches, then move up in size until you’re working on larger limbs. For most trees, this is done when the branch is about pencil-sized or smaller.
The reasoning behind this method is that large branches are structurally stronger than smaller ones, so you don’t have to worry about them breaking away under their weight once they’ve been reduced. Smaller branches are more likely to break because they lack structural support and cannot flex with the wind.
2. Remove deadwood first
Deadwood should be removed before any healthy portions of a tree’s limbs and stems because it poses a risk of spreading fungus and disease to the rest of the plant. This is especially important for trees with cankers, such as pine trees.
3. Prune one limb at a time and start with the tallest limbs (ones that protrude most into space)
It’s always best to work from the top down when pruning your trees, whether you’re removing large branches or small ones. Removing larger limbs first helps lighten the load on smaller branches, which decreases their likelihood of breaking during the pruning process. Also, remember to cut each limb as close as possible to its point of origin to encourage new growth and sustain your tree’s health.
4. Make angled cuts across the grain instead of flush with it
When making trims to branches, avoid cutting flush with the limb to prevent splitting. Instead, use an undercut slightly below the branch collar for most trees. Don’t make your cut too low or you’ll affect the tree’s structure. If it’s a particularly large limb, make sure not to cut too close to the trunk because doing so will leave a stub that is more susceptible to rot and insects.
5. Remove dead branches at their points of origin rather than flush with the trunk
When pruning dead wood, always remember that it’s better to remove it at its point of origin rather than flush with the trunk of the tree. This prevents moisture from collecting where it doesn’t belong and provides space for growth beneath existing bark tissue.
6. Always remove diseased or damaged branches cleanly
When removing dead, diseased or damaged limbs, be sure to cut them at their points of origin, leaving a clear stub so you don’t leave any rotting matter behind. Make your cuts as thin and flat as possible by cutting on the side where the branch joins the trunk. If it’s too wide for the notch in your pruning tool, use a chisel to create an undercut that will allow you to make a thin slice.
7. Ensure proper air circulation throughout the tree canopy
Airflow is critical because it prevents fungus from developing around leaf stems and bark tissue, but ensuring this process is inhibited when crowded branches block one another’s access to sunlight. Removing crowded branches and twigs is one of the most important aspects of tree pruning.
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