Several years ago, having just completed the tree steward class offered by the Department of Natural Resources, I wrote a similar column.
The course gave participants valuable knowledge relating to the pruning of landscapes. The best advice one can give to a homeowner to maintain curb appeal is to keep trees and shrubs attractively pruned. Here are some suggestions to help with this advice.
Trees and shrubs need to be examined annually for pruning requirements. Permitting to grow without correct pruning will allow them to become overgrown and weak. Regular pruning will keep the plant at its desired size and the growth vigorous.
Pruning is necessary to remove dead, diseased or broken branches, maintain or reduce the plant size and prevent damage to life and property. Pruning is not difficult, but if done improperly, the plant can be injured.
Timing of the pruning is based on the flowering, fruiting or growth habit of the shrub or tree. Generally, trees and shrubs that flower before June should be pruned immediately after flowering. Those that bloom later should be pruned in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins.
Proper tools are required to do the job correctly. Buy the best quality you can afford and keep your tools sharp. Use hand shears for small branches (up to one inch), lopping shears for branches up to one and one-half inch and a pruning saw for larger branches.
When cutting large limbs use a three-cut process. The first cut should be under the branch a few inches out from the trunk and only about half of the way through the branch. The second cut, which removes the branch, should be about an inch beyond the first cut. The third cut removes the stub from the trunk. By using this process the damage to the tree is minimized.
Thinning and heading back are two pruning procedures. Thinning completely removes some branches back to the main branch or trunk. Heading back involves shortening branches back to a bud or lateral branch. Never top or “haircut” a tree or shrub because this destroys the plant’s natural form and beauty.
Suckers – of which crab apple trees are notorious for producing – that come up around the base of a tree should be pruned at ground level.
If you hire someone to do your pruning, always ask how they plan to proceed. You might ask to see pictures of previous work.
Trees that become hazardous and probably should be removed are those that are lopsided, have forked trunks (including those overhanging your house), showing signs of limb or trunk decay and those with cracks or signs of root decay. These trees should probably be removed.
“Citizens are the roots of a healthy tree program.”
– Charles Bansley