Use Proper Pruning Techniques
Pruning correctly enhances the beauty and health of any shrub or tree in a landscape, but improper pruning can cause damage to its potential. It is usually better to not prune than to do it wrongly. Nature allows plants to grow for years without any pruning. But man can destroy what nature has created. Poor pruning techniques can lead to plants becoming weaker or more deformed. Every plant in nature eventually has to be pruned. Sometimes it is as simple as low branches being shaded with higher ones. This creates a collar around the base that restricts the flow of nutrients and moisture. The leaves eventually wither and die, and the branch falls off in severe winds or storms. Wild animals often eat tender branches from small plants in search of food. A plant that grows naturally will take the form that makes the most of the light and climate in which it lives. To appreciate the ability of a plant to adapt to a place, one only needs to go into nature and witness the beauty of natural-growing plants.
Reasons to Prune
- To train the plant
- To preserve plant health
- To enhance the quality of flowers, fruits, leaves, and stems
- To limit growth
Plan Approach to Pruning
Pruning should be done according to a plan. Before you start cutting, think about the purpose.
The number of pruning cuts can be reduced by following a specific order. First, the skilled pruner will remove all diseased, dead or problem limbs. This can be done at the point where they originated or back to a strong, lateral branch or shoot. This often opens the canopy enough to allow for no more pruning.
Next, make any necessary training cuts. The tree or shrub can be trained to form a desired shape by removing lateral branches. This is done to cover storm damage, wind damage, or to maintain a certain area. It is important to understand the plant’s natural growth habits before you can train it. If you are not careful, it is best to preserve the plant’s natural shape and growth habits.
When to prune
Pruning can be done at any point in the year. However, it is best to do so with specific plants. Pruning at the wrong time of year doesn’t kill plants. However, improper pruning can cause damage to the plants. Pruning should not be done at your convenience, but when the plant is least damaged. If you follow this rule, there is very little chance of causing damage to the plant. The best time to prune plants is in the late winter or early summer before their growth starts. However, there are exceptions to the rule. These will be discussed under the discussion of specific plant groups. The spring is the best time to stop new growth. In developing new growth, there is a lot of food stored in the roots and stems. These nutrients should be replaced with new leaves before the plant is taken down. If not, it may cause significant dwarfing. This is a common problem when pruning.
It is important to learn and practice the rules of pruning. However, it is equally important to use the right tools. If you choose the right tools, equipment can be reduced to just a few. You want tools that are durable, sharp, easy to use, and can be used for the job. This section contains some of the most common pruning tools. Properly cared for equipment does a better job, lasts longer and does a better work. Keep equipment dry, clean and in good condition. To prevent disease spreading to healthy plants, disinfect all saw blades and shears after every cut. This is an example: pruning fire blight on pears, pyracantha, or cotoneaster. When pruning plants with diseased leaves, disinfect the equipment using alcohol or bleach. Mix one part bleach with nine parts water. To prevent rusting, oil the pruning tools well at the end of each day.
There are many types of hand pruning shears. They can be used to cut stems upto 1/2 inch in diameter. If you try to cut branches larger than that, the shears may not be able to do the job properly and/or cause damage.
There are two types of hand shears that are most common: the anvil-cut and the scissor action. A scissor-action shears has a narrow, sharp blade that slides over a thicker, but still sharper blade. These are usually more expensive but produce cleaner and closer cuts. Anvil cut shears will make a sharpened blade against a flat, broad blade.
Lopping shears (or loppers) are long-handled and can be operated with both hands (Figure 1). Even the cheapest can cut material up to 1/2 inch in diameter. Depending on the species, better ones can cut branches up to 2 inches in diameter. Oak is more durable than ash, depending on its condition.
The pole pruners typically have a cutter that has a one-inch hooked blade and a smaller cutting blade below. This is similar to large lopping shears. The cutter is mounted on a pole. It is controlled by pulling a rope down. Poles can be made from a variety of materials. They can be either in sections or as a telescope. While wooden poles can be heavy and sturdy, aluminum poles can conduct electricity when they touch an overhead wire. The best material for poles is fiberglass or a type of plastic compound. Poles can also be fitted with saws but they are often very difficult to use (Figure 2).
Pole pruners can pose a danger. If material is not hanging up, it can fall on the operator. You should use caution and protect your eyes and head.
Take care of your tools
Regularly oil your tools and wipe any oily material on metal surfaces. Sharpen edges by using a good oilstone for several passes. Use linseed oil to treat wooden handles and paint, varnish, or treat them regularly. Make sure you use the tools correctly. Use pruners and loppers with care. The branch should be kept as deep as possible in the jaws, and as close to the pivot as possible. Use pruning tools to avoid cutting wires.
Many articles have been written about the benefits and drawbacks of dressing large cuts with wound dressings. Traditional wound dressings or pruning paint were only used on large cuts greater than one inch. Scientists have discovered that wound dressings are purely cosmetic and do not prevent disease or insect damage to the wound. Pruning paint can actually slow down healing. One exception to this rule is wound dressings. To prevent the bark beetle spreading disease through tree surfaces, it is recommended that oak trees be treated with wound dressings in Texas.
Correct Pruning Cuts
Smoothen all cuts to promote rapid healing. You will need good, sharp pruning tools to do this. Don’t leave any stubs as they can be used to help with dieback. When removing large branches, avoid tearing the bark. Here are some details about pruning techniques.
The arrangement of the buds on the branches and twigs determines which category woody plants are. The bud arrangement determines the plant’s growth habits. There may be an alternate arrangement of the buds on the twigs. Plants with alternate buds are usually rounded, pyramidal or inverted pyramidal. Plants with opposite buds rarely take on any other form than a rounded shrub or tree with a rounded crown. The direction that the new shoot will grow is determined by the position of the buds. The buds on the top of the twig will likely grow upwards at an angle to the direction it is pointed. It is best to trim each stem so that a bud or branch can grow. Chosen buds that point towards the outside of the plant will be more attractive than those that point toward the inside. The new shoots won’t grow inside the plant if they are cut to the outside.
Figure 5 shows how to cut back an intersecting branch (lateral). The diameter of the branch you are cutting back should be at least half the size of the branch. When removing limbs growing upward, make slanting cuts. This prevents water accumulation and speeds up healing.
Thinning vs. Topping
Trees are often “dehorned” to reduce their size or rejuvenate growth. Topping is not recommended in either situation. Some even refer to it as the Texas chain saw massacre. Topping refers to the act of reducing a tree’s size to just a few branches. A topped tree will re-grow after 2 to 3 months. It is strong, bushy, and upright. Tree structure and appearance are seriously affected by tree topping. The weakly attached regrowth may fall off in severe winds or rain storms. The tree’s life expectancy may be reduced by topping.
Thinning is a more effective way to reduce the tree’s size or revive its growth. Thinning, which is different from topping, removes unwanted branches by cutting back to their source. Thinning is a natural branching process that conforms to the tree and creates a more open tree. This emphasizes the internal structure of the branches. Thinning helps to strengthen the tree by allowing for the growth of the diameter branches.