Trim conifer

Garden Clippings for March 18, 2023

It was just a matter of time before the brittle limbs on my neighbour’s gnarly Jack Pines would break.  That time came on the eve of Friday, March 3, when the snow load proved so heavy that 2 of the 8 Pines lost most of their branches.  By morning, a tall White Cedar on the opposite end of the yard suffered the same fate.

The Pines will be taken down with a chainsaw, and I will let the wood dry and burn it next time we roast marshmallows around the fire pit.  A sore reward for a life well-lived.

The Cedar, which originally was about 30 feet high, lost 2 major limbs and is now half the height.  The bottom half is in reasonably good condition providing privacy between us and the neighbour, and providing shelter for the birds.

As soon as weather permits, I will prune the Cedar in order to regain its shape.  I will need a tall step ladder, a pole pruner, pruning saw and lopping shears.

Before tackling the pruning job, I will stand back, assess the damage, and determine the height and width I want the Cedar to be when the job is done.   The tree is currently 10 feet in diameter and I’d like to reduce its width to 6 feet.  Its new broken height is 15 feet high, and I intend to cut it down to 12 feet.

For step one, I will cut 2 feet off all sides and will do so working off the ground using a sharp hand pruner.  I will gradually taper the shape to achieve a tidy conical form.

Now that the Cedar is narrower, I will tuck the ladder against the tree and finish pruning the sides, continually making it narrower until it is only about 1 foot wide at the top.  I will make a clean cut where the limbs were broken by the heavy snow.

The end result will be a freshly pruned Cedar that looks rather worse for wear.  Viewing from a distance will be okay, but taking a closer look will reveal that the lush green outside growth has been cut off, leaving the older and tired limbs and foliage in place.  Fortunately, spring is around the corner and by June, new growth will conceal the pruning cuts and will give the tree a brand new appearance.

To speed up new growth I will fertilize the Cedar and apply a thick layer of moisture retaining wood mulch at the tree’s base.

The benefits of pruning the Cedar are two-fold.  Number one, the tree will look much better with a new lease on life.  Number two, my thorough pruning job will strengthen the tree so it will withstand any future winter snow load.

For an example of how to properly trim click  ->  Trim Guidelines