If you are a homeowner, this blog post will help you learn how and when to prune trees. If you’re a landscaper, this article is for you as well! You can find tips on tree selection, maintenance and more. Happy reading!
What do I need to know about tree pruning? What tools are required? How often should I trim my trees? These questions and many more will be answered in the following paragraphs. Let’s get started!
Would you go throughout life without ever having a haircut? For most people, the answer to that question is no. However, you need an occasional trim to remove split ends and keep your hair looking healthy and styled. Your trees and shrubs are no different.
Though they don’t have hair, they do have branches that need to be cut or pruned to encourage better, healthier growth.
Are you wondering, “Why should I prune my trees?” Pruning is essential to healthy growth. In fact, if you don’t prune, your tree can get diseased, stop growing, stop producing fruit, and potentially die.
Tree pruning cuts off dead branches and overgrowth to encourage trees and shrubs to grow stronger and in a more attractive shape. When you have your trees pruned, they become healthier, and they look better too.
Senske employs ISA certified arborists who understand how to encourage healthy growth, including pruning and trimming.
What Happens After I Prune?
After you prune and trim your trees and shrubs, they will enter their normal growing season. Because they have no more dead and diseased branches, they will grow more effectively.
Pruning and trimming also remove excessive branches and remove thick growth, allowing more air and sunlight to reach the ground. This helps encourage better photosynthesis. You may notice improved foliage as a result.
If your tree or shrub produces fruit, you’re going to get a better crop after pruning. Why? Because pruning takes away unnecessary branches, and this frees more of the plant’s energy to go towards its fruit.
Finally, with proper pruning and trimming, you’ll notice your trees take on a better shape. If you have decorative shrubs, hiring a tree trimming service is essential to ensuring they grow in an eye-catching manner.
When to Prune Common Trees & Shrubs
Spring is the best time to prune your trees, as it sets the foundation for robust growth through the growing season. It’s best to schedule pruning after the leaves have fallen, but before the spring flowers bloom, which means now is the right time to schedule trimming and pruning services for most tree types.
However, each type of tree and shrub has its own growth cycle, so check this list to see some common ones and the recommended times for trimming or pruning:
- Apple and cherry trees – Early spring
- Clematis – Spring
- Flowering dogwood – In the spring, after flowering
- Lilac – In the spring, after flowering
- Peach and plum trees – Early spring
- Rhododendron – After flowering
- Non-climbing roses – After the last frost of spring
- Trumpet vine – Early spring
- Wisteria – Spring and summer
How to Prune and Fertilize Your Trees
Many of us spend an excessive amount of time tending our lawns and gardens while practically ignoring our trees. And that’s too bad because healthy, properly trimmed trees can dramatically enhance the beauty and increase the value of any home.
The amount of time spent on tree maintenance is, of course, related to the number of trees on your property, but also to the age of the trees. Mature trees need little more than an occasional pruning and a dose of fertiliser every year or two. Younger trees, however, require a bit more work to ensure they live a long and healthy life.
Here are a few easy-to-follow guidelines for the two most important but least practised, of all tree-maintenance tasks: pruning and fertilising. (Note that these suggestions are general guidelines. For more information pertaining to your specific region and tree species.)
The Felco F-2 pruner proves the old saying that only cheap tools are expensive. After many years of use and much sharpening, it’s still my workhorse pruner. Of course, every part of it can be replaced. But unless you’re a master gardener, you’re unlikely to wear anything out.
Cost analysis aside, the Felco pruner is a joy to use. The deadly sharp edge makes short work of creating a swag for your front door or, more importantly, pruning cuts. I’ve noticed that when properly sharpened, a Felco cut heals very quickly. A clean-cut increases plant health. And I’ve done enough surgery on my plants and on those of my neighbours, to know.
Tree Pruning with a Purpose
All trees need to be pruned from time to time for no other reason than to remove dead, broken, and diseased branches. Young trees should be pruned annually for the first few years to control uncontrolled and unbalanced growth. Frequent pruning can keep a tree from outgrowing a pleasing shape.
Use small pruning shears to trim branches up to 3/4 inch thick and lopping shears for branches up to about 1-1/2 inches thick. Cutting branches any larger will require a bow saw or pruning saw.
To safely reach high branches, buy or rent a long-pole pruning saw. Regardless of the tool used, it’s important to keep the blades sharp to produce fast, clean cuts. Dull tools won’t sever a branch cleanly, which can cause the branch to rip bark from the trunk and expose the tree to a higher risk of disease.
And after pruning a diseased limb, be sure to dip the pruning tool into bleach to kill disease-carrying organisms. Otherwise, you could potentially transfer the organisms to the next tree.
With a few exceptions, light trimming can be done any time of the year. However, heavy pruning should be done during the late fall or winter, when the tree is dormant.
Pruning is also much easier once the leaves have fallen because you can clearly see which branches need attention. Most flowering trees are best pruned right after the flowers start to wither and die. That way, you won’t remove next season’s buds.
Needleleaf evergreens, such as firs, spruces, and pines, should be pruned to maintain a compact shape with thick, bushy branches.
Each year, between late spring and midsummer, evergreens produce long supple shoots called candles that will eventually grow into branches. Use pruning shears to remove one-half to two-thirds of each candle. The result will be a healthier, denser tree.
Fall is a great time to be outside, admiring the trees in our landscapes. First, we take stock of which trees are looking good and which seem to need a little help. If we discover trees that look like they’ve seen better days, we instantly want to solve the problem.
It is natural to want to do something to help a plant – prune it, fertilise it, polish it – we can’t help wanting to touch it in some way.
One basic housekeeping chore that might help a struggling tree would be pruning. Pruning is an oft-needed maintenance treatment for good tree health and safety, but pruning without a good reason is not good tree care practice.
Pruning just because your neighbour is doing it may not be beneficial for the tree and could result in too much live tree tissue being removed. This can cause the tree to become stressed and perhaps decline. In the fall, limit the amount of live tissue being removed and focus mainly on removing dead or broken branches.
In fact, industry tree pruning standards (ANSI A300) say no more than 25 percent of a tree’s foliage should be removed in a single growing season. If the tree is of a species that cannot tolerate a lot of pruning, even less should be removed.
When determining how much pruning your tree can tolerate, a qualified arborist may consider if the tree:
- is healthy
- is still growing rapidly or has matured and slowed its growth
- had its roots severed or damaged recently or in the past
- suffers from disease
- is a species tolerant of heavy pruning
A qualified arborist will work with you to set an objective for the pruning job (i.e., what you want accomplished when the work is done).
Pruning objectives usually include one or more of the following:
- reduce risk of damage to people or property
- manage tree health and direction of growth
- provide clearance for vehicles or roadways
- improve tree structure
- increase or improve aesthetics
- restore shape
The pruning process can be overwhelming to those not familiar with the pruning of shade and ornamental trees. A qualified tree care expert trained in tree and woody plant health care can answer your questions, as well as help you with your tree-pruning goals.
Make sure to ask for tree pruning to be done according to ANSI A300 standards, the generally accepted industry standards for tree care practices.
Tree Pruning Safety Tips
Pruning and trimming trees are not like levelling hedges or snipping shrubs down. Trees are much more challenging to keep, and their branches frequently pose a hazard to the untrained who attempt to cut them down.
The best tool to maintain your plants that are dormant in check are pole saws, and many places require users to enrol in a government-sponsored course or get a license or license to operate one.
Pole saws are not toys. But, if managed correctly, pole saws are convenient, dependable machines for clearing hardy branches. If you’re new to the operation of a pole saw, here are a few tips and tricks to ensure appropriate usage.
1. Read the manual
The most elementary thing you could do is to read. Within the user manual, you need to find all the things you need to know more about technical specs, tool procedures, and safety measures.
Read and heed the safety warnings and labels that could be about the guide, on the box, or on the pole saw itself.
2. Wear the correct gear
Make certain that you have the proper protective gear. From top to bottom, you should wear: a helmet, safety goggles, respirator or facial mask, work gloves, boots with good traction, thick pants and maybe even leg chaps. Do not forget to take off all portions of jewellery and tie your hair up if it is long.
3. Use properly
Pole saws are designed for one purpose and one goal only: to cut and prune tree limbs. Do not use a pole saw to cut on bushes, shrubs, trees and plants. There are tools and machines.
4. Check the conditions
Inspect the place for any obstacles. As you can’t run a pole, saw if it’s dark, windy, or rainy, assessing the weather prediction of the day may come in handy. Inspect the condition of the trees you want to prune or cut — dead or dying branches, wood rot, and the cutting can impact and even pose a danger.
5. Check the pole saw
Make sure your pole saw is before using it in working order. First, see if the chain is oiled and if it’s any lost or worn out teeth. Next, check for damage to the sprocket and guide bar. Lastly, try running the safety features of the unit to see whether they are functional.
6. Clear the area
Maintain a security exclusion zone using a perimeter of 50 ft in all directions. Don’t operate the pole saw if there are any bystanders, children, and pets nearby. If possible, have another individual guard from entering this zone this perimeter to stop people and creatures.
7. Keep it upright
Try to keep the rod saw as upright as possible. The machines can be too difficult to handle at an angle that is parallel to the floor. The pole saw will be manageable the longer vertical it is. Use a tap to spread the program’s weight away from the arms.
8. Do not cut above you
Branches shouldn’t ever cut directly overhead, even when you’re an experienced pole saw operator. Do some training and acquaint yourself with the methods for reducing weight. A wrong move, and you could be crushed by the falling limb. Stay away from the branch you are pruning or cutting.
9. Firm footing
Keep a good, firm base, with both feet planted and balanced. Both feet must stay on the ground in any way times. Use both hands when operating a pole saw, never with one hand.
10. Don’t like pruning?
Then don’t plant a tree near overhead lines, choose evergreens that tend to retain a neater, more conical shape naturally; you can give them some direction when they are young if they have multiple leaders, but other than that, they will almost never need pruning. Finally, if you don’t like hedge pruning, go for a mixed hedgerow of plants as opposed to more formal hedging like Buxus or macrocarpa (C. macrocarpa).
12. Get some perspective
We know the urge to grab the chainsaw and get cutting is overwhelming for many of the male species, but before any wholesale attack gets underway, you need to think about what you are trying to achieve.
If it is pruning, go through our step-by-step list to get your priorities in order; stand back and really look at the shape of the tree and what you would like to achieve; and after each cut, stand back again and think about where to go next.
13. Making the cut
A good pruning cut is close to the main trunk, lateral branch or bud, but not too close. You want to get in close to the branch bark ridge at the top and the branch collar at the bottom but not damage either. The collar is important as this area contains hormones that assist with wound healing.
14. No stubbies
Don’t create a stub; this is a cut that is too far away from the ridge and the collar; there are fewer hormones in this wood, so the wound heals very slowly – if at all – and is a common entrance for insects and disease, which can then cause dieback. It also looks terrible.
15. Cutting techniques for large branches
If you have to prune off a branch larger than 3-4cm in diameter, or one that you can’t support with more than one hand, it should be removed using the three-cut method of pruning to avoid unsightly tearing of bark. First, make a cut on the underside of the branch to be pruned 40cm away from the trunk.
Cut through until just before the branch begins to sag and traps your saw. Then, make a second cut on the top of the branch at 45cm away from the trunk to split between the two cuts. There is no trapped saw, no torn bark, and you can then prune the stub back to a proper cut as above, with no danger of a heavy branch doing more damage.
16. Dead branches?
These should be the first of your pruning jobs. Removing dead branches from any tree or shrub is your number one priority, both for health and looks. It also gives you a plan to work from when it comes to planning what to prune back further.
17. Branches crossing or too close?
This is the next pruning decision. Take out a branch that is too close or rubbing against another – it will reduce light and air flow through a tree (especially important if it is a fruit tree), and if they touch it forms a wet area that will be more prone to disease and fungi growth.
18. Major limb less than 45 degrees?
Suppose you have a tree that is growing a major limb at a narrow-angle to the trunk (less than 45º, it is far more likely to split in high winds; if you can catch it when it’s young enough, remove any branches that have this narrow-angle. In large trees, you need to consider what damage it will do when it comes down and weigh up the cost versus removing the limb in a controlled situation.
19. Stopping suckers
The earlier you cut off vigorous shoots and suckers from the base of a tree and any water sprouts (succulent shoots on a branch), the better it is for your tree and its appearance. Suckers like these rob the tree of valuable nutrients and tend to look ugly; they are most easily removed when young.
20. Troublesome branches
Sometimes you need to be practical. For example, if a tree or shrub is making day-to-day life miserable, you need to cut it back or take it out. This is what makes winter such a great time to prune – you can see the structure of a tree or shrub more easily in winter, and you won’t have to deal with wet leaves. It also makes it easier to create a pleasing shape.
21. Do you really need to prune?
A tree in a forest setting must compete from an early age. Weak trees fall by the wayside, and stronger trees take in more sunlight and water, suffer less storm damage and live longer.
A tree in an open setting, whether in your garden or out on your farm, doesn’t get that competition and can develop a weak structure, making it far more prone to damage and more likely to die early. You, as the pruner, become the competition, taking out weak branches, strengthening the structure and helping to ensure the tree’s longevity.
22. No, you don’t need to protect the wound
Long-term research has shown repeatedly that a good pruning cut does not require a wound dressing or painted-on treatment. Furthermore, in contrast to long-held beliefs, a wound that is dressed or painted is more likely to suffer from insect damage or disease as it invariably cracks or is damaged, allowing the pest or disease an entry straight into the tree.