There is not a yard, park or green space that is not enhanced by the majesty of a tree, be it large or small. Keeping our trees pruned and trimmed, not only keeps them in good health and looking good, but helps protect them from pests and breakage during harsh weather conditions too.
There is a difference between pruning and trimming however that one should be aware of. Trimming is the act of cutting trees or shrubs back, shaping them and making the general appearance of them fit the aesthetic of our yards or gardens. Pruning is the much finer art of helping maintain healthy trees. With pruning you can help stimulate or stop the growth of a tree, and overall, it requires a little more finesse and precision than trimming.
Let’s discuss requirements for pruning and the things that should be kept in mind before starting:
1. Time of year
4. How to cut
It is always best to prune a tree in late winter or early spring right before the tree is ready to start its new growth cycle. This way you are not yet hindered by foliage and are able to see the branches and shape of the tree more clearly. Also, you are not cutting off branches that the tree has already put energy into for the growing season. With the dead or excess branches removed before the growing season, the tree is able to actively grow without having to spread its energy too thin.
There are three types of tools needed to prune most trees effectively: hand pruners, loppers and a pruning saw. If anything larger is needed, then professional help should be considered.
Hand pruners and loppers come in two different types that you should be aware of - bypass and anvil. Bypass cutters cut like scissors resulting in a good clean cut. Anvil cutters have one sharp blade cutting against a flat surface essentially using a crushing action to facilitate the cut. This type of cut can result in infection however and is therefore not really recommended.
Hand pruners are made to do cuts on stems and branches ½ to ¾ inches in diameter, while loppers which are larger over all than hand pruners with longer handles, are made to cut stems and branches ¾ to 1 ½ inches in diameter.
Pruning saws are used to easily cut larger branches up to 3 inches in diameter.
Safety while pruning your tree is a two-fold warning. Remember not only safety for ones self, but also safety for the tree. For the pruner we recommend goggles, gloves and other protective gear. We also recommend the correct tools for the tree and suggest that you never start pruning a tree without a plan. A good tip is to use colored tape to mark which branches are the ones you plan to cut first. Different colors of tape could stand for different types of cuts. This plan is essential for your tree and will ensure that you keep on track and that the pruning process remains simple and does not become overwhelming once the branches start coming down. Keep in mind where and how the larger branches will fall and try to preempt any damage they might cause the tree in their descent.
The final step in the pruning process is getting in there and finally taking those excess branches off your tree. Remove the larger branches first. It is always best to do this in intervals. Use your saw to cut sections of the larger branches off. In this way hoyou can avoid possible hazards to ones self, and also avoid the possibility of damaging the tree with tearing from the branch becoming too heavy. Once your branch is successfully removed, do not try to paint anything over the cut. Your tree will seal its own cut and will start growing a donut like callus over the cut to “heal” itself.
Once the larger branches are gone, remove any suckers around the base of the tree and smaller growing shoots. Look for branches that are rubbing together or that are intertwined and clean those up as they may cause damage to the tree as it grows bigger. Then trim your tree of excess dry or damaged branches. And remember, never remove more than a third of your trees original growth.