Trees are amazing living machines– they give us shade, beauty, and food! Some can live for hundreds of years. With a little bit of knowledge, care, and pruning, these trees can provide an abundance of benefits to us and the environment, and enable them to live to their full potential.
Understanding basic pruning principles and proper pruning cuts are helpful in caring for any tree. Remember, pruning, even though beneficial, is wounding the tree. So, be sure to have a reason for each cut that you make. Each cut has the potential to direct the growth of the tree for its lifetime– for good or worse.
Three important reasons to prune:
Reason 1: Prune out the 4’Ds
Anything that is dead, diseased, damaged or deranged should be pruned out as the bare minimum to keep the tree healthy.
Reason 2: Prune to train young trees
The first 5 years of a tree’s life are critical to set up a healthy branch structure that will benefit the tree far into the future. Leave branches growing along the length of the trunk during its first 5 years and in the upper 2/3 of the tree when older. When pruning, plan the vertical spacing of the main branches to structurally set up the tree.
Reason 3: Prune to train mature trees
Continue to prune out the 4 Ds and continue to analyze which branches to keep and which to remove as the tree continues in height. Do not clean out all smaller branches from the interior of the tree, as over-thinning decreases the vitality and good structure of the tree. And most importantly: never “top” a tree!