Pruning Trees: The Right (And Wrong) Way

While the erratic Minnesota weather may make you think spring is never coming, it is on its way! Those few warm, bright days we’ve had are making our grass greener and are bringing our trees back to life.

Late winter is the ideal time to prune your trees, but we understand that most people don’t want to be outside in the Minnesota cold pruning trees. So, if you didn’t put on your mittens last month and clean up your trees, do it now. You want to prune before foliage obscures your trees’ structure and so the new growth will heal the pruning wounds quickly.

Important to note: The following are great tips for pruning all trees, but make sure you are pruning during the correct times of the year. For example, we have officially entered "risk season" for oak wilt, which means it is advised to no longer prune oak trees in order to prevent the spread of the disease. If you have an oak tree that needs to be pruned because it has become a hazard, call us. We have the tools and experience to prune while reducing the spread of oak wilt.

HOW TO PRUNE TREES

Pruning trees is important for many reasons. Yes, it makes them more aesthetically charming, but more importantly, it makes your trees safer. Pruning prevents trees from harming property and people.

WHEN DECIDING WHAT TREES NEED PRUNING, HERE IS WHAT TO LOOK FOR:

  • Dead branches
  • Branches or entire trees that are near electrical or utility wires
  • Branches or entire trees that hang over your home, parking areas or sidewalks
  • Young trees, so we can provide the proper branch spacing for future growth.
  • Structural problems such as crossing/rubbing branches

THERE ARE FOUR COMMON TYPES OF PRUNING:

  • Crown thinning: This consists of removing weak branches on your trees in order to make room for the strong branches to receive more light and grow.
  • Crown raising: Crown raising is removing lower branches on mature or developing trees to prevent them from becoming obstacles on the street or sidewalk.
  • Crown reduction: This is a last resort type of pruning and should only be done when absolutely necessary. It consists of removing the larger branches of the top of a tree to reduce height.
  • Crown cleaning: Crown cleaning is the removal of dead, dying or diseased branches from the crown of the tree.

HOW TO SHORTEN A BRANCH OR TWIG

  • To shorten a branch or twig, cut it back to a side branch or make the cut about 1/4 inch above the bud.
  • Always prune above a bud facing the outside of a plant to force the new branch to grow in that direction.

HOW TO PRUNE LARGE BRANCHES

To avoid tearing the bark, you need to make 3-4 cuts to remove a large branch:

  • The first cut should be on the underside of the branch about 18 inches from the trunk. Undercut one-third to one-half way through the branch.
  • The second cut should be an inch further out on the branch and you need to cut until the branch breaks free.
  • The final cut is the most specific. You want to cut down to sever the branch, but you want to leave the branch collar intact; leaving the branch collar will help the wound seal more effectively.

PRUNING TREES: WHAT TO AVOID

Pruning is meant to improve safety and plant health, not put you in harms way or hurt your trees, so do it right.

  • Leave major pruning to the professionals – especially any jobs that requires climbing or crown reduction.
  • DO NOT prune trees near wires. Call a professional.
  • Don’t prune oak trees between April and October; this is prime time for beetles to spread oak wilt.

Other than oak, Elm and Ash trees, you need to start pruning now. We are always here to help, too. So, if you don’t have room in your schedule, give us a call!