- We recommend to our clients that they wait at least three years after planting a new tree before they start a pruning program.
- Newly planted trees need as many leaves as possible to make food, energy, and to transition out of the transplant phase.
- Dormant season is the best time to prune most trees. In the Lake Country Area, the dormant season runs from Mid-November until the First of April.
- Advantages to dormant pruning include a lack of leaves, making it easier to see, and few insects or diseases that can attack the fresh pruning cuts.
Most small tree pruning can be accomplished with only three tools; a hand shears, lopping shears, and pruning saw. These three tools will be able to cut most small to medium size branches.
- Please don’t forget a good pair of safety glasses.
- Pruning with sharp tools will be much easier and safer than with a dull or rusty tool.
- Many hardware stores have a tool sharpening service that can be very helpful in getting your tools in shape.
- Please call a professional arborist, if you need a pruning pole saw, a chain saw, or a ladder taller than six feet.
- Pruning around overhead electrical wires is very dangerous, please do not attempt this on your own, call a professional arborist.
Which Branches to Prune:
Start with a walk around. Look at the tree from several angles to determine the branches that will need to be removed. Promote a strong central trunk or leader in a young tree, select a single trunk and remove multiple leaders. Develop branch structure that will form a balanced ‘ladder’ along the central leader. Branches that form a 90 degree angle to the main trunk of the tree will be stronger over time than those forming less than a 45 degree angle. Branches that are evenly spaced along the central trunk will allow for better air flow and more sunlight into the center of the tree. Remove any diseased, dead or crossing branches. Crossing branches will rub against each other, removing the protective bark, and invite a number of pests into your tree. Remove the less desirable crossing branch at the branch collar on the trunk. The diseased or dead branch should be cut below the infected area, closer toward the trunk. If you have to cut into diseased wood, clean the saw or pruner after each cut with a 10% bleach to water solution. Small trees can come from the nursery with branches lower on the trunk and as the branch grows it can become a hazard.
Start the pruning process by locating the branch collar, where the branch meets the trunk. The bark at the branch collar becomes more wrinkled and raised as it meets the branch. You want to make your pruning cut so it leaves the raised branch collar in place but removes the branch flush with the trunk. Small branches can be pruned with a single cut. Using a single cut on larger or medium size branches can sometimes tear the bark off the trunk as they fall.
We recommend using a three point cut to prevent this problem. Start the first cut about six inches off the trunk at the underside of the branch cutting about 1/3 of the way through. Make the second cut on top of the branch just past the first cut. The second cut will cut through the branch and it will fall away without damaging the trunk by tearing the bark. The third cut is made just past the branch collar, cutting flush to the trunk and removing the remaining branch stump. When pruning branch tips to direct the growth of a branch, start by locating a bud in the direction you want the branch to grow. Cut the branch tip at a 45 degree angle back toward the trunk, making the new branch tip and the selected bud the same point.
Using a few of the techniques listed above over time will provide you with a lower maintenance garden. A pruning program for newly planted trees establishes a healthy start and the structural foundation for many years of enjoyment.
For more tips on how to prune small trees, watch the short video below: