When to prune?
Tree trimming is essential to maintaining the health of a tree. Pruning excess branches can help the tree survive windstorms and prevent property damage. A pruned tree also looks nicer as the shape can be controlled.
Most trees should be pruned after the worst of winter has passed. This is when the tree enters a period of dormancy and does not grow at all, so it is most receptive to being cut back. Sap-producing trees will ooze sap after being pruned, but this will cease in the spring and does not hurt the tree.
Summer pruning removes leaf growth, which slows the overall growth of the tree since there are less leaves to perform photosynthesis. Summer growth makes it easier to see if a tree contains dead branches or limbs that hang too far down.
Spring pruning of a tree can enhance flowering if the tree is already in bloom. Pruning fruit-bearing trees during this time will also control where fruit develops. Long, thin branches may not be able to support the weight of fruit and so should be trimmed back.
No trees should be pruned during fall unless there is storm damage. During fall, fungus is more common and trees slow their growth, meaning that an open pruning wound on a tree is an invitation to disease and infection.
Throughout the year, pruning tools should be sanitized before and after each pruning. Using the same tool on different trees without sanitizing can pass fungi and bacteria from tree to tree. Any pruning creates an open would on the tree. Normally these will dry out and the tree will heal, but if weather is particularly wet, the tree can be prone to infection.
Carefully review and tie string around the branches that will be removed. No more than one-third of the top of the tree should be removed at any time. Since pruning creates stress on a tree, removing too much can mean the tree will have insufficient leaf coverage.
Tools should be sharp and clean. Pruning cuts on small branches should be made at an angle one-fourth of an inch beyond a bud or new branch. Young trees should be pruned early and regularly to shape their growth, remove unsightly branches and extend the life of the tree.
In some cases such as storm damage, tree pruning cannot follow precise rules since any broken branches will have to be removed. While some trees will come back after losing a large number of branches, others will simply grow a few shoots on the stump and will never recover their canopy. Severely storm-damaged trees should be removed and replaced once the old root system has died.
Maintaining and pruning a tree is essential to keeping a tree healthy and able to survive and thrive. Pruned trees have better chances of surviving storms and living long lives.