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How to prune trees well

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Take a look at the bigger picture

Although we know that the temptation to reach for the chainsaw and start cutting is overwhelming, it is important to consider what you want to accomplish before you rush to do so. For pruning, read our step-by–step list to help you organize your priorities. Next, take a moment to look at the tree’s shape and consider what you want to accomplish. Finally, after each cut, take a moment to reflect on where you are going next.

Making the cut

Good pruning is done close to the main trunk, lateral branches, or bud. But not too close. The branch bark ridge at top and the branch collar at bottom should be reached. However, you don’t want to damage them. This collar is crucial because it contains hormones that aid in wound healing.

No stubbies

Do not make a stub. This is a cut that is too far from the collar and ridge. There are fewer hormones in wood, so the wound heals slowly. It is also very ugly.

Large branches can be cut using cutting techniques

To avoid bark tearing, you should not prune a branch that is more than 3-4cm diameter. To prune the trunk, first cut 40cm from the underside. You will need to cut through the branch until it begins to sag, trapping your saw. You can make a second cut at 45cm from the trunk on the top of each branch so that it splits between the two cuts. There is no trapsaw, no torn bark. You can then trim the stub back to a regular cut, as described above, without risk of more damage.

Are dead branches?

These should be your first pruning job. For both health and appearance, your top priority should be to remove dead branches from any tree. This gives you a framework to use when planning for what to prune back.

Are branches too close or crossing?

This is the next step in pruning. Remove any branch that is too close to or rubbing against another. This will reduce light and air flow.

Is the major limb below 45 degrees?

A tree with a major branch growing at a low angle to its trunk (less than 45o) is more likely to fall in high winds. If it can be caught early enough, you should remove it. You should weigh the potential damage to the tree and the cost of removing it in a controlled environment.

Stop suckers

You can make your tree look better by removing suckers and vigorous shoots from the tree’s base and water sprouts (succulent shoots) from any branches. These suckers can cause damage to the tree and make it look unattractive. They are best removed when they are young.

Troublesome branches

Sometimes, you have to be pragmatic. You can cut down or remove a tree or shrub that is making your day miserable. Winter is a great time for pruning. You can see the structure of trees and shrubs better in winter, and won’t need to deal with wet leaves. This makes it easier to give your plants a pleasing shape.

Are you really required to prune?

Trees in forest settings must compete starting at an early age. The weakest trees are thrown to the side, while stronger trees live longer, get more sunlight and water, and suffer less storm damage. An open area, such as your garden, can cause damage to your tree and make it more susceptible to disease. As the pruner, you become the competitor, removing weak branches and strengthening the structure to increase the tree’s longevity.

You don’t have to protect the wound.

Research has repeatedly shown that good pruning cuts don’t require any dressings or paint-on treatments. Contrary to long-held beliefs a wound that has been painted or dressed is more susceptible to insect damage or disease. The tree’s bark cracks and is easily damaged by the pest or disease.

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