Recommendations for tree-friendly pruning

Pruning is a very essential skill to maintain your garden. When pruning is done correctly, you encourage healthy tree growth and flowering in the trees. Pruning also makes the trees and plants look good thus adding to the beauty of your garden. It is best to prune the trees and shrubs at the right time, some are best pruned in winter and some just after flowering. Unlike forest trees that grow well without any pruning, landscape trees need pruning to maintain their structural integrity. Pruning when done in an improper fashion can damage the trees and shorten the tree’s life span.

Common pruning techniques and the right time to do it:

There are specific pruning techniques that needs to be done. Here are the four common pruning techniques:

  1. Cleaning: Cleaning is the process of removing branches that are either dead or dying, diseased or weakly attached. These branches are removed from the crown of the tree.
  2. Thinning: Thinning helps in opening the foliage of the tree, reduces the weight on the limbs and helps in retaining the original shape of the tree. Selective removal to improve structure and enhance the penetration of light and movement of air through the crown is known as thinning.
  3. Raising: Sometimes the lower branches of the trees become an obstruction, especially for vehicles and pedestrians. Raising is the technique of removing these low branches.
  4. Reduction: Reduction is basically reducing the tree’s height or spread and is best done by pruning the leaders and the branch terminals to the secondary branches. This technique is often used for creating clearance for utility line. This process maintains the structural integrity and form of the tree.

Most of the regular and routine pruning with the aim of removing weak, dead, or diseased branches can be done at any time of the year. Waiting for the right season to remove these will cause further damage. The thumb rule is that growth and closure of wound is maximized if pruning is done before spring sets in.

Few diseases like oak wilt can spread after pruning as the open wounds provide access to pathogens. Therefore, pruning of susceptible trees should not be done during active transmission period. Late fall, when the trees have shed most of their leaves or early winters are the best time to prune the trees. The branches are bare, and it gives a very clear view of the tree structure.

Common pruning challenges and the strategy to be used:

Pruning can become challenging sometimes due to the growth patterns of the trees, damage due to storm and specific needs of the landscape.

  • Branching in V-Shape: Narrow V-shaped structure of the trees makes them weak and prone to breaking off in strong wind or storm. To prevent these problems, you can remove one of the stems when the tree is still young.
  • Tree wounds: Allowing the tree wound to breathe and heal is the best way to deal with a tree wound. Some arborists now use a tar-like dressing for the wounds only in special cases.
  • Stubs: When a branch gets broken due to strong and gushing winds, they leave a stub behind. You must remove the stubs as soon as you see them, as a stub prevents the formation of protective callus tissue to close the wound. When you are cutting the stub, make sure you do not remove the callus tissue that is forming near the trunk.
  • Clustered branches: When too many branches get bunched together, they make the trees weak. Smaller and weak branches limit the growth and development of larger ones. Remove these excessive branches that are often growing laterally to let the remaining tree get better light and air.