Pruning is the most common, routine tree maintenance practice that is done. It is important to understand the science behind pruning, and how a tree will respond to each cut made. There are many different types of pruning, but if done improperly, it can lead to serious damage or worse to the tree.
Several common pruning practices include:
Crown Cleaning – The removal of dead or diseased branches, weakly attached or crossing branches, and water sprouts.
Crown Thinning – The selective removal of branches in order to increase light and/or air movement. Thinning opens up the tree and reduces weight on heavy limbs.
Crown Raising – The removal of lower branches to provide clearance and/or vistas.
Crown Reduction – Decreases the height or the spread of a tree.
Crown Restoration – This type of pruning is to improve the structure and appearance of a tree that has been topped, vandalized, or storm damaged.
As a very general rule of thumb, no more than 25%- 30% of a tree’s foliage should be removed in any full year. Any more than this can lead to serious stress on the tree. This is one reason why topping a tree is a totally unacceptable practice. Topping not only disfigures a tree, but it places it under such great stress, that if it survives, it is forced to rapidly shoot forth new growth to compensate for this sudden and immediate loss of foliage. These new “ branches “ are very weakly attached and make the tree more dangerous and actually creates more work to be done than before it was topped. Never use a company that advertises topping as one of it’s services.
When pruning larger or heavy limbs, the common 3 cut method should be applied. The first cut undercuts the limb out from the parent branch and prevents the branch from tearing or peeling the bark when it is removed. The second top cut is made slightly further out than the first, and this removes the branch. The third cut is to remove the stub at the branch collar. Do not make a flush cut as this will inhibit the tree’s ability to compartmentalize itself, a unique ability found in trees to close a wound and protect itself from disease and pests. If 2 branches develop at the tip of the same stem, they will form co-dominant branches. It is almost always best to remove one of these branches when the tree is young as it will cause problems for the tree in the future. Wound dressings are not recommended.
It is often said that pruning is both an art and a science. If proper pruning techniques are applied, more often than not, the art will naturally follow.