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Advantages and Disadvantages of Tree Pruning

It’s not uncommon for people to prune trees on their property. Tree trimming can help maintain the health of the tree and prevent it from dying. However, there are many reasons why a person might choose not to engage in this activity. 

Some homeowners have an aversion to heights, while others are afraid that they’ll damage the tree or injure themselves with a chainsaw. So if you’re worried about these things, fear not! 

Tree pruning is the process of cutting off tree branches in order to make the tree more healthy, which can be done by both professionals and homeowners. The advantages are that it helps remove dead or unhealthy branches, improves light penetration into canopy for desired plants below, reduces risk of injury to people and property during storms. 

The disadvantages are that trees may become too dense after cutting back growth, making them less likely to survive storm damage because they don’t have enough foliage outside the trunk.

This article will review some of the benefits and drawbacks of tree pruning so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not it’s something worth investing your time into doing each year.

Pruning Cuts 

A pruning cut may or may not predispose the tree to internal decay and stress depending on the type of cut used, technical precision of the cut, size of the branch removed, species, and general health of the tree.

In pruning, there are three primary types of pruning cuts, thinning cuts, reduction cuts, and heading cuts, each giving different results in growth and appearance. 

Ideally, all pruning cuts are two inches in diameter and smaller. However, Woundwood (the callus tissue that grows over pruning cuts or wounds) quickly grows over these small pruning cuts. Therefore, any cut on a branch larger than a 4-inch diameter should be justified, taking into account the potential for decay.

Thinning cuts (also known as removal cuts, collar cuts or natural target pruning cuts) remove a side branch back to the larger parent branch or trunk. If the branch union has a branch collar, thinning cuts have the advantage of preserving the branch defense zone, giving a strong defense against internal decay.

Thinning cuts reduce the canopy density but generally have little impact on height. Thinning allows better light penetration into the canopy, which encourages desired growth of interior branches. This improves trunk taper and increases the general vigor of primary branches and trunk. In addition, thinning cuts reduce the weight on large branches, giving the tree resilience to snow loading. The primary use of thinning cuts is in the structural pruning of small trees, middle-aged and older trees, and shrubs.

Two features on the branch, the branch collar and the branch bark ridge, help identify the proper cut angle. The branch collar is the area where the annual growth rings of the trunk fold in between the annual growth rings of the side branch, in a manner similar to shuffling a deck of cards. The branch collar is readily noticed on some species, while the branch collar is less obvious on others. 

The branch bark ridge is where the bark from the trunk joins the bark from the side branch. It looks like a dark line or small mountain range extending out from the branch union (crotch) down both sides of the trunk/branch. It is the mirror angle of attachment for the side branch.

Within the branch, the collar is a narrow cone of cells called the branch defense zone. These cells activate the growth of woundwood, the callus tissue that grows over the pruning cut. The branch defense zone also plays an important role in activating a strong reaction zone inhibiting the spread of decay organisms into the trunk.

If the branch collar is injured or removed during pruning, the branch defense zone fails, limiting the growth of woundwood and predisposing the cut to decay. Thus a primary objective in a correct thinning cut is to preserve the branch collar intact.

With a thinning cut, the final cut should be just beyond the branch collar. Since the woundwood that grows over the pruning cut originates in the branch defense zone, it is imperative that the branch collar is not cut or otherwise injured in pruning. Therefore, to eliminate error, cut a little beyond the collar region (i.e., 1/8 inch for small diameter twigs and 1/4 inch for larger branches). 

In species where the branch collar is not clearly identifiable, look for the branch bark ridge. Make the final cut at the angle that mirrors (opposite) the angle of the branch bark ridge. 

The side branch must be less than half the trunk’s diameter for a branch collar to develop. In situations where a thinning cut is being made at a branch union without a branch collar, make the final cut at an angle to minimise the size of the cut. 

Be aware that there is no branch defense zone in this situation to activate rapid woundwood growth and activate a strong reaction zone to suppress the potential for decay.

With a proper cut, the woundwood grows out from all sides in a doughnut shape over the wound. If the branch collar is nicked, the woundwood does not grow from that point. It is common to see a pruning cut where the woundwood fills in only from two sides, indicating that the top and bottom of the branch collar were injured.

When removing a dead branch, the final cut should be just outside the branch collar of live bark tissue when removing a dead branch. If the branch collar has begun to grow out along the branch, remove only the dead stub, leaving the collar intact. Do not cut into living tissues. 

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Reduction Cuts

Reduction cuts remove a larger branch or trunk back to a smaller-diameter side branch. Reduction cuts are commonly used in training young trees. They are also the only type of cut that will significantly lower a tree’s height.

However, reduction cuts do not have a branch defense zone, leaving the branch with a weak defense against decay. This is not a major concern on young activity growing branches. However, reduction cuts are discouraged on mature trees and on limbs larger than two-inch diameter. On trees under stress or in decline, avoid reduction cuts as it can accelerate the decline.

Dodoughnut not cut into or otherwise damage the branch collar or woundwood growing around the dead branch when removing a dead branch.  613-5 In a reduction cut, make the final cut to bisect (split the difference) between the branch bark ridge angle and an imaginary line perpendicular to the stem being removed.

To prevent undesired suckering at this point, the diameter of the smaller side branch should be at least one-third (one-half preferable) the diameter of the larger branch being removed.

Suppose the diameter of the smaller branch is less than one-third the diameter of the larger branch being removed. In that case, the cut is considered a heading cut when removing a dead branchThe and is generally unacceptable in pruning standards. 

Types of Tree Trimming

Before we look at tree trimming benefits, let’s discuss the various options you have.

Dead Pruning

This involves trimming the branches that are dead, diseased, or dying. It’s also known as crown cleaning, and it helps improve the overall appearance of the tree. Many homeowners have conflicting thoughts about this type of tree trimming service despite it being the most basic.

With dead branches, it’s not about whether they’ll fall but rather when. Removing those branches at an early stage minimises the risk of injury or any possible damage of property. You also prevent sick branches from spreading the disease and enhance the aesthetic appearance of the tree.

At times, you can focus on minimising the size of the deadwood instead of removing the entire branch. This type of tree trimming makes the tree less dangerous and makes it look cleaner.

Crown Thinning

Also known as crown thinning, this type of tree trimming involves removing weak branches to open the canopy. Crown thinning enhances air and light penetration into the tree. It also lightens the load of the larger branches by removing defected branches.

When crown thinning, ensure you remove unwanted branches throughout the crown without forgetting the edges. Avoid removing too many branches from the centre as this may affect the overall structure of the tree.

Crown Lifting

This is cutting off the lower branches of the tree crown to lessen the mass of the larger limbs. It is done with the aim of clearing sidewalks, roads and removing branches that may be conflicting with your house structure.

This type of tree trimming adversely affects fully grown trees since larger branches leave bigger wounds on the tree. Crown lifting is, therefore, recommended for younger plants. It is also advisable to avoid over pruning as this may affect the lower limb of the tree negatively.

This type of tree trimming allows your tree to match the surrounding landscape.

Crown Reduction

This involves lessening the overall height of the tree or the mass of the larger branches. This type of tree trimming service is highly recommendable on younger trees than it is for more mature ones. In older trees, it’s better to remove an entire limb instead of reducing it.

In this type of tree trimming, the focus is to remove terminal branches to preserve the main limb. Crown reduction should be done with great care by someone who understands the tree growth pattern. If done the right way, crown reduction allows your tree to grow healthy and minimises the risk of decaying after pruning.

Pollarding

This tree trimming technique involves removing all branches and remaining with a framework of the secondary branches of the main stem. Pollarding begins when the tree is still young and is done at regular intervals during the tree’s lifespan. This trimming is done to provide a constant supply of small diameter poles.

Top Benefits of Tree Trimming

Why should I trim my trees? It’s easy to be reluctant about pruning your trees and especially if you have several on your property. What you may not realise is that tree trimming exercise has several benefits to your trees as we’re going to see.

  • Improves the Overall Health of Your Trees. Although a large tree is attracting the eye, it doesn’t have the capabilityto absorbg all the essential nutrients from the soil or the ground. Lack of enough nutrients affects the overall health of the tree. You can change this by cutting off some of the larger branches allowing it to use the less available nutrients maximally. But for you to know which branches need to be pruned, you need the help of a reliable tree trimming service provider.
  • Help the Tree Get Better Exposure to Sunlight. The amount of photosynthesis happening is determined by the amount of sun reaching the leaves other than thetree’s number of leaves. Therefore, if your tree has many leaves that are hidden from the sun by higher branches, then the process is diminished.

Trimming the unnecessary branches enables the tree to get more sunlight, hence increasing the amount of photosynthesis. In the long run, trimming helps improve the overall health of the tree.

  • Tree Trimming Helps Counterbalancing Root Loss. Trimming your trees regularly allows you to accommodate any root loss. It also helps in shaping the trees as you wish and end up having the tree looking as you envisioned it.
  • Allows You To Detect Any Diseases before They Advance. You can easily detect any diseases affecting your trees when performing the trimming exercise. Early detection will enable you to prevent the disease from spreading and also reporting the problem to a specialist.
  • Increased Productivity. Minimizing the number of branches that each tree has increases the number of nutrients that the tree gets from the soil. As a result, you end up getting bigger and tastier fruits.
  • Improve the Overall Appearance of the Tree. An expert tree trimmer knows how to shape a tree such that it looks as exquisite as you want it to be. You have to trim and clip your tree regularly to achieve the desired look.
  • Minimises Damage. Trees close to the house, pool, or garage need to be pruned regularly to get rid of branches that could fall and damage your property.
  • Adds Value to Your Property’s Environment. Untrimmed trees make your property look unkempt, causing your environment to lose its appearance value. You can easily change that by pruning your trees regularly.
  • Cost-Effective. If dead branches fall from untrimmed trees, they can cause damages to property. Keeping the trees trimmed minimises these risks and, hence, cut any possible cost spent on repair.
  • Pruning is very vital for tree crops. When tree crops develop excessive branches, sometimes these branches prevent sunlight and air from reaching the middle and ground portions of the tree, thereby impeding the proper growth of the tree. However, when these excess branches are pruned or cut off, sunlight and air can get to all parts of the tree and make the tree grow very well.
  • Pruning promotes the fruiting of trees. Pruning can be very important for fruit trees because it enables them to produce more fruits. Fruit trees that do not get pruning on a regular basis do not produce as many fruits as those that are properly and regularly pruned.
  • Pruning also helps in making sure that there is a balanced distribution of fruits on fruit-bearing trees.
  • Pruning ensures the longevity of plants. Plants that undergo proper and frequent pruning enjoy more longevity than those that do not.
  • Pruning plants regularly ensures that all diseased and damaged parts of the plant are gotten rid of to ensure the smooth growth of the plant. If diseased or damaged parts of a plant are not removed quickly, the disease can spread and take over all the parts of the plant.
  • Pruning will ensure that the plants remain healthy because pruning helps in controlling diseases and pests attacking the plants.
  • Pruning improves the appearance and beauty of the plant.
  • When plants are pruned on a regular basis, the plants tend to maintain their natural shape all the time.
  • Pruning is very helpful during plant transplanting – especially during the transplanting of tree plants.
  • Pruning also improves sanitation and keeps your environment safer. For example, hedges around your house that do not regularly undergo pruning can harbour harmful animals such as snakes, scorpions etc. Bad people can also hide in such unpruned plants to perpetrate their evil deeds. Also, pruning trees along pedestrian paths and road that have excess branches is very essential. Doing this can prevent the branches of these trees from accidentally breaking and falling down during a storm and causing harm to pedestrians.

Damage caused by pruning

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Pruning is a double-edged sword, either helping or hurting according to if, where, when, how, and why it is applied. When properly executed, a variety of benefits can occur. 

Benefits include reducing the risk of branch and stem breakage, preserving health, better clearance for vehicles and pedestrians, improved appearance, enhanced view, and increased flowering. 

On the other hand, pruning can harm the tree’s health, stability, and appearance when improperly performed.

Several consequences occur when pruning is not performed at all. These include the development of low aggressive limbs, weak codominant stems, bark inclusions, and accumulation of dead branches. 

The first three occur primarily, but not exclusively, in planted trees. They are less likely to occur on trees growing in a forested area. The formation of codominant stems and defects such as inclusions can lead to an increased risk of breakage. Topping trees and overlifting are extremely harmful procedures.

One of the most common, unrecognised defects in planted trees is the formation of large low limbs (left photo). They could overextend and break, or they may droop under their own weight and have to be removed later, leaving a large pruning wound (right photos). 

Removal of large branches and those more than about half the trunk diameter are more likely to initiate decay than removal of smaller branches. Removing branches with a flush-cut can begin a process that leads to trunk decay. In addition, cavities, cracks and hollows can result from removing large branches. Train trees so this type of cut does not have to be made!

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