How to prune trees. We first need to ask an important question before addressing how to prune trees which is why is the tree being pruned in the first place? The answer to the question of why, may have a strong influence on the answer to the how.
Trees may require pruning for a number of reasons including aesthetics, safety, light issues, fruit production or to keep them away from services or buildings. Each of these factors may require the tree to be pruned in a different way in order to achieve the desired outcome.
The Evolution of how to Prune Trees
Trees have evolved to take care of their own needs and in the majority of circumstances do not require human interaction in order manage themselves. Humans often demand certain characteristics of trees. For example they don’t want branches to drop on our heads, damage property, or block all of the light to our houses, and this is where the need for most pruning originates.
How to prune Trees safely
By removing branches, and therefore leaves, from a tree you are reducing the trees’ ability to create and store energy via photosynthesis. Any wound made on the tree is a potential entry point for infection and breach in the trees’ natural defences. So, it is important that when we are pruning we always take the least amount of material possible and make the smallest and lowest number of wounds in order to minimise the negative effects on the tree.
It is also important that the arborist who is carrying out the work is skilled and knowledgeable in tree biology. They should be able to prune the tree in a way that works alongside the trees’ natural copying mechanisms for branch removal. Accuracy and positioning of cuts are vital to a successful outcome. As a general rule no more than 30% of the foliage should be removed in any one go, and you should not leave wounds that are greater than 1/3rd of the stem diameter they are being left on.
How to prune Trees based on Seasonal conditions
The time of year can also influence the trees’ ability to cope with pruning. Trees can be more vulnerable at certain times in the year and it’s best to avoid pruning at these times. Producing flowers, fruit, leaves, and shedding leaves are costly in terms of energy for trees. It is best to avoid pruning trees when these processes are occurring. As a general rule mid to late summer and early to mid-winter are the best times to prune trees. Trees can be pruned at other times but these parts of the year are best.
Trees grow in all shapes and sizes according to the conditions they are growing in. They will grow to oppose gravity, towards light, and as a result of the prevailing wind. For these reasons trees are often not symmetrical. As it grows, a tree will lay down wood as a result of the forces placed upon it. A tree that is not symmetrical, will have different distributions of wood throughout its trunk and branches in order to balance out its lopsided shape. It is therefore not always necessary to prune a tree into a symmetrical form. However, in some settings a symmetrical shape can be more pleasing to the eye.
In some situations only part of the Tree needs pruning
Sometimes it is only part of a tree that has developed a fault or weakness which is causing a problem. In these circumstances only part of the tree may require pruning. Sometimes an individual limb may extend out of the canopy and be open to more force from the wind, or it may have a crack or rot hole. In these cases just the affected limb can be worked on in order to minimise harm to the tree.
Pruning should be done early in a Trees life
The best time to prune any tree is when it is young. Selecting a good branch structure when they are younger will significantly reduce the need for pruning in the future. There is much less work (and therefore expense) involved in pruning a young tree compared to a more mature tree. A young tree has much more vitality and can cope with the effects of pruning far more easily.
Further reading for anyone seeking more specific details regarding tree pruning can be found at the following links: