Every year, trees need to be pruned. The years that are missed make it more difficult to clean up the trees as years go by. Pruning is required because trees will put up excess growth, grow the wrong way or have dead branches that show up from excess growth or damage. The time to prune trees is now. The only trees that should not be pruned this time of year are birch or maple trees. They run excessive sap if pruned in the spring. The first type of material to prune out of a tree is the dead or dying material. These branches will harbor disease and look unsightly. The branches should be removed at least six inches behind the area where the dead material is present. This ensures that the dead material is all removed and will not progress further into the tree. This may not be possible if the branch has died to the main stem. If this is the case, prune the tree branch back to the main trunk. All cuts should be flush with the trunk. If a branch needs to be cut, cut the branch back to a bud that is alive. This will ensure that new growth can develop. Leaving potential dead material above the bud will just be a potential point of infection. The second type of material that should be pruned out of any tree is material that is crossing over another branch. This material will potentially rub other branches and will be a possible sight of infection in years to come. With fruit trees, removing this type of branch will also open up the interior of the tree. This is important for air circulation to dry out the interior of the tree and for allowing sunlight into the canopy of the tree which helps in ripening the fruit. Pruning is essential for the strong development of fruit trees. The final aspect of pruning that needs to be taken care of is shaping. Many people do this first. Doing this first is the wrong approach because the health of the tree should be considered first. By removing dead material and cross over branches, the health of the tree will be maintained. To shape the tree, special cuts need to be made. If there is a branch causing problems it should be removed in its entirety. Cutting the ends off branches causes dense growth to develop on the end of the branches. This is abnormal growth and will eventually be a potential site for disease. Remember to stand back and look at your tree when doing the pruning required for shaping. It is a lot easier to see the branch that needs to be cut when you are standing back from the tree. Growing trees for shelter and for food is important. We have the capability to grow numerous types of trees in our area, so the potential for a wide variability of trees and shrubs in our community exists. For these trees and shrubs to stay healthy, proper pruning must take place.
By Dave Cubbon, P Ag