All You Need To Know About Pruning Your Trees

Unlike forest trees that rely on nature’s pruning, your landscape trees must be regularly pruned as part of a rich maintenance and care culture. Without regular pruning, these trees may lose their aesthetics and structural integrity.

All that said, you can only prune when you understand tree biology. You do not want to put your tree’s life and wellbeing at risk with improper pruning. For every branch you cut or trim, you are altering the growth of the tree. So, beyond just pruning, it must be done correctly.

People prune to remove dead branches, minimize risks, or improve tree forms. Another critical reason to prune is to improve air and light penetration into the tree’s crown or the landscape below. Pruning may also be a preventive or corrective measure, especially in mature trees.

This post tells you all you need to know about properly pruning your trees.

When should you prune?

It may be pruning time if you notice weak, diseased, or dead limbs on your trees. It does not matter what time of the year is; these limbs must be pruned immediately. However, you should prune before the spring growth flush to facilitate wound closure and growth.

Pruning wounds may attract pathogens and, subsequently, a few tree diseases, e.g., oak wilt. To avoid this, do not prune susceptible trees during their active transmission periods.

What pruning techniques should you know?

There are different pruning techniques, each with a specific result. However, they all help to keep your tree safe, attractive, and healthy.

  1. Cleaning is the removal of weakly attached, diseased, low-vigor, dying, or dead branches from your tree crown.
  2. Thinning is the selective removal of branches. It helps to increase air and light penetration and improve structure. Other advantages of adequate thinning include unchanged natural shape, reduced weight on heavy limbs, and opening up the foliage.
  3. Reduction helps to reduce the size of the tree. It comes in handy in utility line clearance. To reduce the spread or height of a tree, prune back the leaders and branch terminals to secondary branches big enough to become terminal branches. It is a better alternative to topping, considering it doesn’t alter the tree’s structural integrity and form.
  4. Raising is the removal of a tree’s lower branches so that they do not block pedestrians, vehicles, buildings, or vistas.

How do you prune young trees?

It is essential to prune a developing tree adequately so that it comes out with an excellent form and strong structure. Trees that are properly pruned when growing up will need little in terms of corrective pruning when matured.

The first step is to establish the right structure of primary branches. These limbs or scaffold branches eventually become the framework of the tree when it matures. You can expect a well-nurtured tree to develop a correct and robust structure on maturity, needing only basic corrective pruning. For best results, a single dominant leader is ideal for a growing tree. Avoid pruning the back of the tip of the main leader and keep the secondary branches lower than the main leader.

Should you lop trees?

The answer is NO. Despite its widespread application, tree lopping is harmful to trees. In fact, you can be fined for tree lopping in Queensland and many other parts of Australia.

What is tree lopping? By lopping, we mean the random cutting of tree branches to stubs or lateral branches too small to become the terminal branches. lopping is also referred to as rounding over, topping, hat-racking, tipping, or heading.

What are the alternatives to tree lopping?

If you have to reduce your tree’s spread or height, you can try the pruning techniques listed below:

  • Remove small branches back to their point of origin.
  • When shortening a larger limb, prune it back to a lateral branch large enough to become a terminal branch. In this case, you are looking at not less than one-third of the diameter of the limb being removed. This safely reduces your branches without altering the tree’s natural form.
  • In the case of larger cuts, the tree may struggle to differentiate or close over the wounds. In this case, remove the tree and plant a more suitable species relative to the location.

Finally, whenever you are in doubt, invite a professional arborist to help.

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