The heart of the pruning story – trees.
With a very few exceptions, trees love to be pruned. They’re going to stay much healthier if the dead and crowded wood in the center of the tree is removed. Many of them will sucker up from the root, and these suckers sap the energy and strength from the tree if they’re not removed.
In addition, whenever we prune the top of the tree, (the half that’s above the ground), we allow the bottom half to provide that much more water and energy reserve to the part of the tree we really want to see growing – the parts we leave when we prune! There’s no downside to pruning a tree, and lots of upsides.
I always like to use the natural tendency of the tree to guide how I prune it. If it’s an apply tree that likes to spread out, then I like to help it spread more nicely by the way I prune it.
An important thing to keep in mind is that conifers need pruning much less than to deciduous trees. In fact, there are many conifers that may never need pruning, or need to be pruned very rarely. It’s very important to realize that with a few exceptions, a conifer grows primarily up a central trunk. So, if you “top” most conifers – meaning cut the top back – you’ve probably stopped the upward growth of that tree. Some will recover and build another central trunk, but many won’t.
With conifers, the most common pruning we do is to simply raise the “skirt” up a bit, so it’s easier to mow and maintain beneath the tree.
With a deciduous tree, the same need is nearly always there. We need to decide where the floor of the branching will be – how high off the ground it should be – and prune up to that level. Once that’s done, we want to look at the branches to identify which “trunks” we want to encourage, and which we want to remove because they’re growing at a weak angle or growing into the center of the tree rather than outward.
Stand back often and visualize the shape to help guide you through your pruning choices. Keep in mind that deciduous trees are generally very forgiving, and will help you cover mistakes quickly. By the same token, prune with a long-range plan, not helter-skelter.
If you’re not sure, it’s good to hire someone like us to come out and help you with your first round or two of pruning. We love to help people learn the basics of how you visualize, and how your prune. A round or two with a professional who really knows pruning will have you pruning like a pro in no time!