Proper Tree Pruning Techniques

By: albertaarb - February 24, 2014

With the spring rolling in (and the dreadful polar vortex dying away), few things allow us to become better acquainted with the fresh new weather than observing  the newly revitalized trees that greet us every time we leave our homes. In order to keep their healthy color and shape, trees should be pruned several times throughout the year, but preparing the tree for early spring is possibly the most important time to care for your trees.

Why to Properly Tree Prune in the Early Spring

Some trees need more help than others during different seasons of the year. For the early spring, the trees that need the most attention are: apple, cherry, peach, plum, and trumpet Vine trees.

Some trees also need to be pruned after they begin budding and flowering, these are:

  • Flowering Dogwood
  • Forsythia
  • Lilac
  • Rhododendron
  • Rose (climbers)
  • Rose of Sharon (after buds)

These trees should be pruned during their respective seasons in order to keep the tree healthy, but proper tree pruning technique will not help only one tree. It is also done to help the entire garden. Pruning your tree in early spring will help keep your garden healthy by:

Providing Access to Light

The early spring is when your garden can finally see the sun again! It is when all of the plants search for the light that will make or break their health for the rest of the year. This means that the early spring is the time to thin out a tree in order to provide enough sun for the rest of your garden, including your lawn. 

Due to the vibrancy that comes from plants in the early spring, it is much easier to find the branches that might cause problems for the tree later in the year. These branches might have mold, appear weak, or lack foliage. The rapid growth that comes with the early spring also allows the tree to give a better impression of where the branches look like they are going to grow.

Quick Recovery

Plants grow at a much faster rate during the early spring. Trees will heal much quicker during this time meaning that pruning at this time of year will not have a negative affect on your tree if you were expecting to do some pruning later on that year.

Proper Tree Pruning Techniques 

While it is important to remove dead branches, there are several other branches to look for that need pruning. Different trees give different warning signs for which branches need to be removed.

Some examples for branches that need trimming are:

  • Awkwardly shooting branches
  • Branches that are growing too rapidly
  • Dying ends of branches
  • Old branches beneath the tree
  • Branches with scaly growths
  • Branches that appear "weak" or thin
  • Branches that are growing too closely to other branches

These branches should be cut and removed in three steps. If proper tree pruning technique is used, then the tree should be able to heal over the pruned area in much less time with much less evidence of the tree being pruned in the first place. This proper pruning technique is known as the "3-Cut Method." 

The 3-Cut Method

1)Cut only as deep as the bark goes 6 inches from the notch of the branch that you would like to cut, preferably with a pruning saw. This stops the bark from tearing and helps the tree maintain healthy regrowth.

2)About an inch further from the cut, away from the rest of the tree, cut through the entire branch until it snaps off.

3)The final and most important cut is closest to the tree. Looking at the collar, or where the branch meets the tree, you want to cut about ¼ inch away. This allows enough bark to heal over the removed branch while cutting as close to the tree as possible.

If you follow this method, your tree will stay healthy for years to come and will grow beautifully.

This is a general approach to tree pruning, but it gives a good idea of what to look out for. Some trees require a much more specific technique, but these tips will help your garden maintain health and look its best.

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