Pruning Basics

PRV Tree Service is an important part of keeping trees and shrubs healthy. It helps with aesthetics and safety, but it also promotes the health of a plant by controlling growth.

Understanding how plants grow is important for successful pruning. Each tree or shrub stem ends in a terminal bud, and the buds at the tip of the stem produce growth-restricting hormones to the buds lower down.

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Removing dead or damaged branches prevents rot and insects that can spread to the rest of the tree and promotes new growth. It can also protect people and property from damage caused by falling branches in storms or windy weather, especially when limbs hang over homes or yards. Properly pruning trees also improves the appearance of your property by reducing its overgrowth and maintaining the plant’s shape.

Branches that cross or rub together should be removed because they can cause serious disease problems by providing an entry point for pathogens. If you’re pruning large branches, it’s best to do so in stages so the tree only has a little bare wood.

When removing branches from a live tree, make a sharp cut that eliminates the branch as close to the trunk as possible without cutting into the bark. Always make the first cut on the underside of the branch and travel about 18 inches up the branch before making your second cut. This will allow the branch to fall away from the tree and form a callus, which helps prevent rot and seals the wound from infection. Never apply dressing to the cut; it can shelter pathogens and slow wound healing.

It’s important to prune a tree during the late fall or winter while it’s dormant since it is less likely to be hurt by the pruning. This also helps with fruit production, as it’s easier to get the fruit off the tree when it is not stressed by the onset of the growing season.

Pruning a tree can seem intimidating or confusing, especially for someone not used to doing it alone. However, anyone can safely prune their trees with a little patience and some know-how. Remember to take your time, and always step back to reassess your work. The more you do each year, the better your tree will look! And remember to spray or wipe down your pruning tools habitually to reduce the chance of introducing harmful organisms from one tree to another.

Many people prune their trees to remove branches that hang low or are hazardous. Other reasons to trim a tree may be to encourage fruit or flower production, reduce disease risks by allowing better airflow, or make the trees look nicer. Whatever the reason, trimming tree branches can be a dangerous task. Getting it wrong can lead to injury or damage, leaving the tree open to pests, disease, and water damage through poorly healed pruning wounds.

Removing large branches requires making three cuts to prevent tearing the bark as the branch comes down. Start by undercutting the branch a few inches away from the trunk. Then, move an inch farther out and cut the branch to break it free. Make a final cut that is an inch outside the branch collar (the slightly enlarged area around the branch’s base). Leaving a stub will prevent proper healing and encourage diseases like rot to form in the opening left by the removed branch.

The branch collar is often easily identified by a slight swelling and rougher bark near the joint where a limb joins the trunk or a primary limb. It’s tempting to flush the final removal cut with the trunk or a parent limb, but doing so is usually a mistake. This flush cut removes the branch collar, a natural barrier that protects against disease and insect infestation, and allows the branch to seal over the cut with a callus properly.

Instead, the final cut should be made outside the collar, angling down and away from the tree to prevent water damage and encourage the quick formation of a natural callus over the wound. Never use stubs or a “heading cut” to remove branches, which are cut off randomly and discourage the tree from sealing the wound quickly with a callus. Wound dressings, such as tars or paints, are also generally not recommended, because they can inhibit proper healing and encourage the build-up of organisms that can cause wood decay in the exposed area.

Pruning involves removing certain plant parts to improve health, appearance, or function. Knowing when to prune a plant is important to avoid damage or weakening it. It is also necessary to have the correct tools for pruning and to properly use them. More plants are damaged by improper pruning than by insects and diseases.

The first step in a pruning job is to remove dead or diseased branches or limbs. This will help keep the structure of a tree or shrub in good condition and reduce the spread of diseases to other healthy limbs. Removing these limbs will also help the overall health of a tree because it will allow sunlight and air to reach more of the foliage.

When removing dead or damaged foliage, it is best to do this in the winter before new growth develops, although recommended pruning times will vary with different types of plants. It is never a good idea to prune immediately after a plant comes out of dormancy in the spring, as this can be very damaging to the plant. This is because a lot of the food stored in the roots and stems in the fall is used to produce the new growth that appears in the spring, and if too much of this new growth is removed too soon, the plant can be severely stunted and weakened.

After removing any dead or diseased material, the next step in pruning is to make training cuts to encourage desired growth. In general, these pruning cuts will involve removing a portion of the current year’s growth from certain limbs and then cutting them back to a point on the branch where they connect to the trunk or other limbs. This can be done on most trees and shrubs to change their shape, fill gaps caused by storm or wind damage, or fit them into a space.

One important pruning technique is to avoid removing the branch collar, which is a swelling at the base of most branches. This provides a protective zone that helps prevent wood-decay fungi from invading the plant’s trunk. Removing this growth can allow decay to enter the trunk of a plant and cause serious problems.

Thinning refers to the removal of some branches in a tree or shrub. This helps the remaining branches grow larger and improves their health and appearance. It can also reduce the risk of damage during a storm or from wind and snow and help with overall tree maintenance. There are several types of thinning, and your reasons for pruning will determine the best technique to use.

Thinning is commonly used to promote new growth and to remove weak, problematic, or diseased branches. It can be performed on various plants, including evergreens, roses, fruit trees, and shrubs. This thinning can also improve young trees’ performance, making it easier for them to form strong attachments to their supports.

Foresters use thinning to increase timber value, make a forest more productive, and improve wildlife habitats. It can also minimize the risk of a catastrophic fire by creating space between trees. This allows water and nutrients to reach the remaining trees, which leads to healthier, faster-growing trees.

When doing thinning, it is important to avoid making “stub cuts.” This occurs when a branch is cut so close that a stub extends past the point of cut. This type of cut blocks the specialized cells in the branch collar, which prevents them from growing over the wound and sealing it. To avoid stub cuts, make your pruning cuts when the branch meets another branch or trunk of the plant.

Unlike other types of pruning, thinning requires knowledge of proper techniques and tools to ensure that your work looks good and stays healthy. The right equipment and the right timing are essential for successful thinning projects.

While many people use pruning to keep their landscape trees and shrubs looking neat and attractive, it can also reduce the risk of damage from storms or winds, control insect infestations, or encourage a specific growth pattern. The most common types of pruning in a landscape are: