What is Pruning?
Pruning is an art that takes skill. The skill is learning to make the proper cuts without damage to your tree. The art is obtaining the best possible shape, without drastically altering your tree’s natural growth habit.
What tools do I need?
There are two main tools used to prune – pruning shears and a curved saw (or folding saw). Pruning shears are used for removing slender suckers. The best shears have stainless-steel blades and are small and fit neatly into a pocket. A curved saw (or folding saw) is used for removing thicker suckers and small limbs. Other tools used for larger limbs are a bow saw, pole pruner, and a chain saw. Precaution should be used even with the smallest tool. Use the tool only as it was meant to be used.
How do I take care of my tools?
Make sure your tools are clean and sharp. A dirty and dull blade can damage your valuable trees. One trick to keep tools clean is to dip them in a bucket filled with sand and oil (just enough oil to make the mixture look like wet, beach sand). The sand will keep the blades of your tools clean, while the oil will prevent tools from rusting.
Where do I start pruning?
Remove suckers first. Suckers are thick stems that grow up from the tree’s roots or from the base of its trunk. Besides being ugly, suckers draw energy from the roots and crown and can weaken the tree. Use pruning shears to remove suckers that are no more than 1 inch in diameter. A curved saw or folding saw can be used to remove larger suckers.
What about larger branches?
For most trees, the best time to do such surgery is when the tree is dormant, usually winter or early spring. Before cutting off a large branch, examine it carefully. Look for its branch collar – a swelling where the branch connects to the trunk. Make your cut close to the branch collar, but never into it. Substances from the collar help the tree seal and heal the wound. Some people like to use dressings or salves on the cut, but it’s not necessary. The tree has the ability to heal itself naturally. If the branch is heavy or long, don’t try to remove it all in one piece. Cut it into two or more smaller sections to keep it manageable. If the idea of removing a branch seems too intimidating and you’re concerned about safety, contact a professional tree specialist to remove the branch. Sacramento Tree Care is available to help out with tree pruning in Sacramento, CA.
Can I damage my tree if I prune wrong?
Yes, but that shouldn’t stop you from pruning. Eventually, your tree will re-grow. Maybe not the way you originally intended, but it will grow. The secret to proper pruning is to cut just beyond a bud to promote new growth. Buds are found all around a branch surface. If the branch is pruned back to an outward-facing bud, the new growth will be outward. So it’s a matter of cutting at the right bud to force the growth you desire.
What is thinning?
Thinning is the procedure to prune entire branches from a tree to open its structure – whether for overall shape of the tree or to allow for more air circulation, which helps keep the tree healthy. To thin, determine the tree’s natural shape, and then decide which limbs should be removed to open it up. Cut just beyond the branch collar – the swelling at the base of the trunk. Look for small limbs growing parallel to major branches and prune these off. In time, the foliage of these limbs will interfere with sunlight reaching the tree’s interior. For branches more than 1 inch in diameter, use a pruning saw or a folding saw.
Are there safety precautions I should be aware of before pruning?
Falling limbs can cause serious injury, if not death. As stated before, if you feel pruning a tree is beyond your skill level, don’t hesitate to call a professional tree specialist.