by Debra Wyatt
(last updated October 19, 2018)
There are several reasons why one would want to prune their tree aside from the obvious reason of shaping the tree. Pruning can help keep the size down and help prevent problems. Pruning also improves the quality of leaves, flowers, and fruit.
It is not unusual for a tree or shrub to be pruned when it is first transplanted into your yard. This initial pruning should not be very extensive and should only focus on the removal of broken or dead branches. This limited initial pruning does not apply to fruit trees, which should be fully trimmed and shaped immediately after they are transplanted.
After any initial pruning, you should not do any major pruning for at least two years. A good time to plan for pruning your trees and shrubbery is when the trees are dormant. Try to time the pruning before the weather gets too cold. If the weather is going to drop below 18 degrees Fahrenheit than it's too cold to prune. All you succeed in doing when it's that cold is to freeze yourself and the branches will not be able to heal properly.
Of course, there is an exception to every rule and that is the case with pruning deciduous trees such as the maple, birch, and walnut trees. These trees have high sap pressure. This same pressure is what allows for the tapping of sugar maples, but it also causes the branches that have been cut to continue to "bleed," and then the cuts won't heal correctly. The best time to prune these trees is right after their leaves fall, just before they enter dormancy, which is also just before the winter cold sets in.
It is best to use the proper tools for pruning. Usually a general-purpose pruning shear is all that is needed. This pruning shear is about eight inches long. If the tree that is being pruned has branches that are over 3/4 inches in diameter than a lopping shear should be used.
Before pruning take time to dip your pruning shears into a ten-percent bleach solution. This is absolutely necessary if you are dealing with a diseased tree. After pruning the diseased branches or shrubs take time to disinfect the tool. Using an alcohol and Lysol combination doesn't cause the blades to rust.
Trying to decide which branches to cut can be hard. Understanding the basic structure of the tree will help you to decide which branches should be cut out. When the branch grows, the bark has a collar that forms between the branch and the trunk. If the angle of the branch is wide there will be plenty of room for the extra bark. The problem arises when the angle is small, causing the bark to crumple up with little space, leaving a thick layer on top of the branch which allows no support for the branch which then weakens the branch.
When pruning consider the natural shape of the tree and then prune your tree to enhance its natural shape. If it has a branch that is sticking out and growing differently than the other branches you will want to trim it back. You will want to make the cut as clean as possible.
Clean up the area that has been pruned, and dispose of the pruned branches and leaves. Return your pruning shears and other pruning tools to their proper places so that they will be ready next time when you need them again.
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