Following a few simple basics will greatly benefit your trees
Trimming trees at the right time
You may have heard the old saying about tree trimming that goes something like this “Trim trees anytime your saw is sharp.” This may be true when it comes to removing broken and dead branches, but in many cases, timing is very important.
Trimming flowering trees: “Timing, timing, timing!”
Most flowering trees set their blossoms the year before they bloom. Therefore, they won’t bloom if these flower buds are trimmed off the tree. The best rule is to always trim flowering trees within 3 weeks of when they finish blooming. That should prevent you from inadvertently removing buds containing next year’s flower show.
Removing this Weeping Cherry branch in the
Fall of the year removes the branch AND
the ‘flower show’ for next Spring
A few other trees that shouldn’t be pruned at certain times of the year are listed below:
- MAPLES – Maples trimmed at certain times of the year will “bleed” or drip from the pruning cuts. Bleeding is most likely to occur when Maples are pruned in the seasons just before and right after winter. Studies indicate that “bleeding” doesn’t hurt the tree, so it becomes more of a cosmetic issue. If you want to prune Maples without bleeding, it must be pruned when it is fully dormant in the middle of winter, or during late spring or summer when it’s in full leaf.
- DOGWOODS – If you trim Dogwoods in April or May, it will make them more susceptible to the dogwood borer. This insect severely damages the vascular system of the tree after boring into the trunk.
- OAKS – Oaks should be not be trimmed from April thru October, due to the prevalence of Oak Wilt disease pathogens during that time frame.
Severely cutting back major branches causes weak growth in the form of multiple branches that grow straight up, ruining the natural structure of the tree. These fast-growing shoots are known as ‘water sprouts.’ Similar shoots called ‘suckers,’ grow from the roots of some trees, especially Crabapples
Trimming trees in the right place
One of the biggest pruning mistakes is cutting off branches in the wrong place. Amateurs tend to leave too much of a stub when removing branches. Once the stub dies off, it creates an entry point for disease pathogens and destructive insects.
Unlike human beings, trees don’t regenerate tissue. While our skin replaces itself, trees grow new tissue around wounds and compartmentalize them. Once a tree compartmentalizes an old wound, it has a much better chance of survival.
Efforts should also be made not to wound tree trunks with lawnmowers, tractors and other machines. Trunk wounds create opportunities for destructive fungi.
A natural defense system is built into trees, in the swollen area at the base of branches, known as the “collar” — right where the trunk intersects the branch. Flush cuts are important to make, provided you don’t remove the collar. Proper pruning cuts should be made just beyond the collar, without leaving a stub, but still leaving the swollen area.
Two branch cuts (bottom of photo) are already walled off with
callus tissue, while the long branch stub (top left in photo)
is preventing callus tissue from closing over the wound
Removing a tree branch
Steps for sawing-off a tree branch
- About one or two feet from the trunk, make an undercut one-third of the way up through the bottom of the branch. Your saw will get pinched if you cut too far up.
- Make your second cut completely through the branch from the top side, about three inches out the branch from your first.
- This should allow the branch to fall away without tearing the branch bark into the trunk.
- Keep it Safe – Never do tree trimming or removal work that should be done by a professional. Heavy tree branches can seriously injure you in a split-second!
- More safety tips:
- Never use a ladder for trimming trees. This is asking to get hurt!
- Tie into the tree in 2 places, using professional grade equipment and techniques:
1) Use a safety line through a strong crotch in the top of the tree
2) The strap on your saddle (designed for tree climbing).
- Be sure to properly “notch” a tree trunk when you are felling it. Kickback can kill you!
- Take a class in chain saw safety and operation. Wear safety chaps lined with material that will protect your legs.
- Eye protection and a hardhat should be worn (also wear ear protection).
- False economy — Hire a professional for jobs you can’t handle — it’s really not worth getting seriously hurt, or damaging expensive property, just to “save money.”
If your tree is large and you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable then call a tree removal company. Don’t risk injuring yourself or damaging your tree if you are unsure of handling the tree trimming yourself.