Many homeowners like to prune their own trees to save money. But, while there is nothing wrong with knowledgeable people pruning trees in a safe fashion, most amateurs make mistakes that can lead to a poor outcome. Today we will cover a few tips including the best time to prune trees.
Take, for example, the question of timing. Just as it is important to use the correct tools and techniques when pruning trees, you’ll need to prune during the best time of year, as well.
The Trauma of Limb Loss
Trees protect their living tissues by covering themselves in a layer of bark, which is comprised of dead cells. But when you rip off a tree’s limb, you expose their delicate interior to a world full of bacteria, fungi and insects, just waiting to feast.
Trees have protective mechanisms to help them deal with occasional limb loss, but these methods are not perfect. In fact, they are more effective during some parts of the year than others. Prune a tree during the right time of year, and it is likely to seal up the wound and live out the rest of its life; prune a tree at the wrong time of year, and you invite disease and decay.
Note that pruning a tree during the wrong time of the year doesn’t guarantee that disease will set in, but it certainly increases the odds of a problem. So, whenever possible, it is important to prune trees when they are best equipped to mount a robust defense.
In the real world, there are often other factors arborists and amateurs must consider when deciding when to prune a tree. This complicates the decision-making process somewhat, so consider the type of pruning work that is necessary when deciding when to prune a tree.
Hazardous Limb Removal
When a limb is deemed a potential safety hazard, you can ignore all matters of timing. Hazardous limbs can drop at any time, leading to tragic results. If you believe one of the limbs on your trees may be subject to failure, contact an arborist immediately and follow his or her recommendation on trimming and pruning.
Pruning Fruit Trees
Fruit-tree pruning is best carried out in the mid- to late-winter. Pathogens and pests are at the least active at this time of year, and, because the tree is not producing new growth, it can allocate more resources to defending itself. There’s also the additional benefits of shaping the tree to produce the best possible crop and ensuring that most fruit-growth occurs within easy reach.
Structural pruning, in which the basic shape of a tree is changed to encourage healthy growth, should also be carried out in the winter, as you’ll want to ensure the tree can fend off bacteria and fungi. Deciduous trees also provide a second reason to prune at this time of year: They’ve shed their leaves, exposing their structural framework. This makes it easier to see the tree and change its shape accordingly.
When trees produce a crowded canopy that is full of dead branches, a crown cleaning is usually in order. During this process, this dead wood will be removed. Because you are only cutting dead wood during a crown cleaning, the tree doesn’t care when you do the pruning. However, it may make the best sense to have crown cleanings carried out in the fall, before the rains arrive, and cause these dead branches to rain down on your property.
Crown thinning refers to the removal of living branches within the canopy. This is somewhat similar to structural pruning, but the primary goal is to open up the canopy and allow more sunlight to reach the tree or more air to pass through the tree’s boughs. Accordingly, it is wisest to perform crown thinning work in the winter, when trees are dormant.
Be mindful that these guidelines are not set in stone.
You’ll usually have to consider a variety of other factors, such as the species in question, the extent to which pathogens are common in the area and the presence or absence of other trees in the area. Additionally, many pruning techniques are carried out at the same time to reduce costs, which will complicate your decision-making process a bit more.
Aside from pruning at the right time, you must also prune with the correct technique and tools. This means using the three-cut method whenever removing branches of significant size and taking care to place your final cuts just outside the branch-bark-collar (the swollen area at the base of most large branches). Additionally, be sure to follow appropriate safety protocols, such as wearing the proper personal protective equipment and avoiding the use of ladders. You’ll also want to refrain from using a chainsaw above your head.
Of course, the best solution is to simply contact your favorite local arborists and let us prune your trees for you. Not only will this save you the time and effort of having to do so yourself, you’d be surprised how affordable such services are. As an additional bonus, we can inspect your trees while performing this work, to point out any unnoticed – and potentially dangerous – problems.