Each year about this time I start feeling the itch. This is a work acquired itch that is a direct result of teaching the Master Gardener classes. The sun is shining, things are beginning to feel like spring and my head turns upwards….at the trees in my yard. You see, it’s that time of year when many of us should begin pruning the trees in our yards, if we haven’t already.
To begin with, why prune? You know it is something that is done every so often, but why? Pruning a tree can make it more fruitful. It can bring overgrown trees back into bounds. It can simply improve the look of a tree or shrub from an aesthetic standpoint. It doesn’t happen overnight and it must be done properly.
When pruning trees you are looking for several things. If it is a young tree you might be looking for badly formed crotches where two branches of equal size are diverging. If left unchecked these divergent branches could ultimately be a source of tree failure as it splits at that crotch. Avoid this by trimming these type of divergent branches when younger and smaller, in essence training the tree to follow a certain path.
In more established trees, such as my Canada Red chokecherries I am looking for several things. I start by looking for branches that cross. Branches that cross will be rubbing against each other, creating weaknesses in the bark where insects and diseases can enter. Remove those damaged branches. I also look for branches that are running parallel to each other at too close of a spacing. Additionally, look for branches that come off at a poor angle, either downward or have a very narrow crotch. Lastly, look for things such as suckers along the main trunk and branches as well as dead or diseased branches.
When pruning, what is the proper procedure? The proper procedure is called the three cut method. There are three steps to cutting branches off of any size larger than a pencil. First, make an undercut about 6 to 24 inches from the branch collar or where the branch comes out. Make a second cut just above the undercut and remove the branch. This will leave a stub that you can then cut off leaving the branch collar intact. The branch collar is simply the point where you begin to see the branch flair out. Leaving this intact will allow the tree to heal over, which in turn keeps insects and diseases out. Never paint over a cut or apply any other sealants. Simply allow the tree to heal itself.
If you have further questions about pruning trees, or would like information about pruning shrubs, please contact the Extension office at 759-5625.
Remember that my door is always open and that I am always willing to help out however I can.Posted: by OverlieP