Unchecked architecture is one reason trees fail. Pruning is essential for a young tree to grow into adulthood – and we want our trees to live as long as possible. Thanks to a grant from the Canadian Tree Fund, Neighbourwoods on the Grand is very excited to continue our new program – Citizen Pruner. Only having been done once before in Thunder Bay, Citizen Pruner aims to prune the urban trees in our community. Our volunteers are trained by arborist Chris Morrison both in-class and in the field about how to properly identify and prune branches.
With a team of arborists and knowledgeable volunteers, we will be heading out into our community once again to start pruning! Throughout the summer we will be in the Fergus and Elora area, wearing our bright orange Citizen Pruner t-shirts, giving our urban trees some TLC.
A very special thanks to our volunteer arborists: Chris Morrison of Storm Water Forestry, Alison Morrison of Green Legacy, Bill McKenna of MW Tree Services, Phil Guenter of Baum Tree Care, Andrew Hutten of Creo Concepts Inc., Doug Steel of Full Circle Tree Care and Andrew Doucette of Out of Your Tree Property and Tree Care.
As important as tree planting, if not more so, is looking after young trees while they get established. We visit as many saplings as we can, weeding, and generally making sure that they a flourishing. When we can, we replace any that have not survived. Watering continues to be our greatest challenge – especially in the summer when young trees can be under stress from a drought.
Neighbourwoods volunteers plant a few trees every year – usually in the fall when rainfall is more reliable. Our sites include the front yard of the Fergus Beer Store, boulevard trees on Watts Street, the trailway behind Elora Public School, Shortreeds Auto Centre, the streetscape at Collins Barrow in Elora, and the road leading to the OPP station on CR 18.
Benefits of Mulch
Properly applied mulch under a tree has a myriad of benefits:
- it protects trees from whipper snipper damage
- it keeps roots cool and moist
- it reduces weeds that compete for water (especially this summer)
Properly is key here:
- too much and rain and air can’t get down to the roots
- too high and it can rot the trunk
Sometimes contractors use volcano mulch mounds to camouflage the root ball which means that the tree was not planted deep enough.
Why Prune in the First Place: There are endless benefits to pruning, for the owner and the tree. Pruning makes the tree safer to be around, it improves the health and longevity of the tree, improve crop yield (of a fruit bearing tree), and can improve the appearance of the tree.
The Sooner the Better: When pruning trees, it’s best to do so when the tree is young and vigorous. You will make smaller wounds and work will lighter and smaller branches, which will be much easier to manage – for you and the tree.
When to Prune: It is often thought that there is a season to begin pruning all your trees – but this isn’t entirely true. Yes, if you prune your trees in early spring this will allow the tree to grow and recover throughout the summer – but trees are not very picky. Arborists say that you can prune your trees all year round. However, fall is not the most ideal time because healing is slower.
How Much to Prune: The general rule of pruning is to never prune more than 25% of entire the tree in one season. Any more and you risk putting too much stress on your tree.
What Branches to Prune: A good rule to follow is to find you ‘leading’ branch on your tree. All of the main side-branches around the leader should be at least 1/3 smaller than the leading branch. Another point to consider when pruning try to encourage the side branches to grow in an upwards angle – a quick way to remember is 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. Also, make sure that you prune any branches that are opposite to each other. It is important to ensure that your tree is symmetrical 360° around – this helps your tree stay balanced.
The Branch Collar: when pruning, it is very important to be aware of the branch collar. This is a part of the trunk, which wraps around and gives support to the branch. When pruning, make sure to cut in front of the branch collar – otherwise you will cut into the trunk and damage your tree.
Pruning Cuts: when cutting a branch – especially large and heavy branches – it is important to make a series of cuts so that the branch does not rip. Make one under the branch, and then start cutting the branch further out. This will ensure that when the branch falls, it doesn’t take the branch collar and trunk with it. Finally, make a clean-cut close to the branch collar.
What to Watch Out For: Some worrisome branches to look out for are: crossing branches, sprouting branches, hanging branches and broken limbs. Crossing branches will continue to grow and create more trouble once they are larger – it’s easy to prune one branch away when the tree is young. Sprouting branches (or “sprouters”) are quick growth the tree produces due to an injury – these branches will not be stable and should be pruned before they get too big. Hanging and broken branches are dangerous and should be taken down or pruned ASAP!
When to Stop Pruning: Pruning can be dangerous. Make sure that you are taking precautions – not using tools on ladders, wearing protective head and eye gear, using the proper tools for the proper cuts. It is never a bad idea to call in a professional – especially when you’re working with larger trees and larger branches.
What to Do Post-Pruning: Is there any way to help my tree heal after I prune it? The answer is: leave the tree alone. Trees are great at recovering from wounds and injury – so all you need to do is let your tree be.
Go-To Tools for Pruning: The right tools are important to ensure the best cut and the health of your tree. Pruning shears – specifically bypass pruners – are great for any stems or branches under ¾ of an inch thick. Loppers are the next step up, with a thicker blade and a larger handle. They’re great for stems up to 2 ½ inches thick. Pruning saws can take on branches from 1 ½ to 5 inches in diameter. Finally, pole pruners are great for branches that are too high to reach and can handle branches up to 2 ½ inches thick. Always remember to be careful and take your time when pruning.
Pruning Resources: Here are some great websites with more information about pruning your trees!
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