Garden Clippings for April 20, 2019
Pruning trees is not much different than pruning shrubs and evergreens, except for the fact that trees are bigger.
The job of pruning mature trees is best left to professional arborists who are trained to do the job safely. If your trees are small, you may want to tackle the job on your own and save a few bucks.
Start with the right tools. If you a have a secure ladder, a hand held secateurs pruning tool, a lopping shear and a sharp buck saw, you have all you need.
Before thinking about changing the shape or size of your tree, check for the three D’s: dead, dying or diseased wood. Pruning out limbs that are dead or struggling will make for a healthier tree.
Next, remove any limbs that are criss-crossed, growing in the wrong direction or growing immediately parallel to another limb. Remove sucker shoots that may have sprouted along the main stem. Don’t leave stubs but make your cuts as close to the main stem as possible.
You are now ready to change the shape and size of the tree. Take a few steps back and assess the tree before pruning. Don’t be timid. You can easily remove somewhere between 1/3 and 2/3 of the branches without issue.
When removing large limbs, make your cuts as close as possible to the main stem. Leaving stubs creates the possibility of decay entering the fresh cut limb and migrating to the healthy wood. When pruning smaller limbs, make your cut immediately above an outward facing bud or limb
If you are removing heavy limbs, take the extra precaution of doing a three-step cut. Start by making a partial cut at the bottom of the stem, a foot or two away from the spot where you want the eventual cut. Next make a new cut just beyond the initial cut. Finally, now that the limb is lighter and easier to work with, make your final cut flush with the main stem.
There is no need to apply pruning paint or tree wound dressing on fresh cuts. Trees have the ability to heal their own wounds. If you are doing a drastic job, consider adding fertilizer to help kick start new growth.
As for timing, my father always told me that the best time to prune is when the pruner is sharp. Pruning in late winter or early spring before leaves appear makes the job easier. If you prune Maple trees in early spring, you may cause sap to run. Do not prune Oak trees anytime between April and July for fear of creating entry points for beetles that cause Oak Wilt.
Don’t be afraid to tackle large growing evergreens such as Spruce and Cedars, although I would recommend not removing more than 1/3 of the limbs. And pruning an evergreen’s central leader is not a problem, as the tree knows enough to form a new leader.