By Brighton West
If your husband or boyfriend claims he knows how to prune, don’t believe him. Quiz him before you let him loose in your yard with tools.
OK, maybe it sounds sexist to blame men for all bad pruning, but just last week, a friend of mine was able to stop her husband from topping their four-year-old street trees. He said he knew how to prune because he’s an artist and knows what looks good. I’m sure engineers out there know how to prune because they know what makes things stay standing, and so do dentists because they know how to prevent decay. In reality, even certified arborists didn’t know how to prune until someone taught them.
It’s really not that hard—but it’s not instinctual. Today, I’m going to cover the proper place to cut, as this is one of the most common mistakes.
Trees have special cells in their “branch collars,” a bulge where the branch meets the trunk, which react to produce “wound wood” around a pruning cut. If you remove the branch collar when you prune, the wound doesn’t seal and your tree can start to decay from that point. If you prune too far from the branch collar, it doesn’t seal and your tree can start to decay from the nub you left behind.
You simply need to prune at the branch collar for your tree to remain healthy.
In a future post, I’ll cover which branches to prune, when to prune, and how to make the cut. If you want to know now, check out Arbor Day Foundation’s web site.
If your tree is more than three years old, we recommend pruning once every five to seven years. If you can’t prune from the ground, or you want to be sure it’s done correctly, contact an ISA certified arborist. Anyone can call themselves an arborist or a landscaper, but in order to be ISA-certified, you need to pass a rigorous test that shows you know more about trees than the average artist, engineer, uncertified arborist or landscaper. You can find some ISA-certified arborists on our web site.
By the way, if you’re reading this in winter, now’s a good time to prune most trees.
–West is Program Director for Friends of Trees.