One of the most effective ways to keep your yards plant life happy and healthy is pruning. The act of pruning, which has several definitions, essentially involves removing diseased, dead or dying, and other unneeded plant parts to improve the wellness, landscape effect, and value of the plant. While proper pruning can improve the health and appearance of your plants, improper pruning can greatly reduce lifespan and landscape potential. These tips can help insure your plant pruning is successful.
When to Prune-
Pruning can be done at any time of the year. However, it is generally best to prune during late winter or early spring before accelerated growth begins; pruning at this time also makes it easier to see what branches you want to cut since the skeletal frame of the plant is easily visible. If you have a plant injured in a storm or other activity, prune it immediately to avoid disease or insect problems that may develop.
Taking into consideration the size and relative strength of the plants you are pruning is important in deciding what tools you will need. Simple pruning shears will work well with thin, twig-like branches. Lopping shears will give you added strength for branches inch in diameter to over 2 inches. A pole pruner will allow its operator to trim hard to reach places- but be sure to use precaution and keep the area beneath branches clear. Finally, hedge shears will work well for bushes and other shrubbery than can be cut into formal shapes.
Pruning Young Trees-
Pruning is the best preventive maintenance a young plant can receive. It is critical for young trees because it encourages them to develop a strong structure. As the tree grows, remove lower branches to gradually raise the crown of the tree.
Remove criss-crossing branches and those that grow towards the center of the tree.
Sometimes a tree will develop double leaders known as co-dominant stems. Co-dominant stems can lead to structural weaknesses, so it is best to remove one of the stems while the tree is young.
Cuts made along a branch should be made laterally.
Cuts should be made with the remaining bud facing outwards; this way the uncut branch will grow out from the tree rather than in.
Make pruning cuts just outside the branch collar.
Select strong, permanent scaffold branches that are spaced 12-18 inches apart.
Pruning Established Trees-
The pruning of large established trees should generally be left to trained professionals. The cutting of heavy, wide branches can be dangerous without the proper equipment. However, there are a few things you can do yourself, if you have taken all the necessary safety precautions.
Remove lower branches on established trees to allow for more clearance for lawnmowers, sidewalks, etc.
Selectively remove weak, unneeded branches near the crown of the tree to allow for greater light penetration and air movement.
When pruning your hedges, look for branches that are rubbing against one another, dead wood, suckers and water sprouts. Remove any branches that are growing straight up from the base of the plant with no lateral branches. Focus on the interior of the shrub rather than the exterior with most of your efforts centered on thinning cuts. Cut branches or twigs off at their point of origin, which is either the parent stem or ground level.
Information provided by: International Society of Arboriculture, University of Minnesota Extension Service, Texas A&M Extension Horticulture Information Resource
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