Fall Pruning Tips: How and When to Prune Trees

 

Keeping up with your yard work on a yearly basis is key to a beautiful lawn and landscape. And knowing when to perform those tasks is even more essential to the health of your yard.

One task that homeowners need to perform annually is pruning trees. Pruning trees not only improves plant health and overall aesthetics but also reduces the amount of dead or brittle branches, enriches tree structure and manages fruit or flower production.

Take advantage of the cool fall weather this season to prune your trees. Before you begin pruning, here are questions to ask yourself.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Pruning Trees

Before you start thinking about when to prune trees, making sure you have the right tools for whatever job you’re doing is essential! If you plan to just prune back a few smaller branches or cut back a few perennial plants, a good pair of by-pass pruning shears will do the trick. If you plan to prune branches that are between ½ to 3 inches in diameter, then a pair of loppers is needed. Anything larger than 3 inches should be pruned with a good, sharp pruning saw.

What are you trying to accomplish?

Knowing exactly what you’re trying to accomplish before you begin is a step that should not be overlooked. Are you trying to control the size or shape? Are you pruning to remove limbs that are growing too low or pose a safety concern? Have a game plan ready to go that outlines what trees you need to tackle in your yard and what you want them to look like in the end.

Do you have the right tools?

After all, you can’t prune trees without the proper tools.

If you plan to cut back a few perennial plants or smaller tree branches, use a quality pair of by-pass pruning shears. Branches that are between ½ to 3 inches in diameter will require a pair of loppers. Anything larger than 3 inches needs a sharp pruning saw.

What will you do with the yard waste?

Depending on where you live, there may be a brush pick-up service that will haul away branches and other brush. This may come at an extra charge or be included in your monthly expenses. There may also be a set timeframe on when you can have them removed. Some cities may have rules and regulations homeowners must follow when using waste services, so be sure to research yard waste removal in your city before beginning.

How to Prune Trees

Most of the pruning you do will help the tree grow healthier and maintain a better form. First, look for branches that are crossing each other or are growing into the middle of the tree. Second, find dead branches and twigs. These are the types of branches you will want to remove first.

When making the cut, do not cut in the middle of the branch. Prune just above a growth point, like near a bud, stem or branch. The cut should be made at a 30-to-45-degree angle. Be sure not to cut too much on an angle, too high or directly on top of the bud. The end of the branch will not produce new growth, and eventually, it will die, leaving it open for invasion of wood-decaying organisms.

What if my tree needs major pruning?

If your trees need major pruning, or you are unsure of what needs to be pruned, contact a licensed arborist to assist.

What other ways can I keep my lawn and landscape healthy?

Aside from yearly pruning, it’s important to fertilize your trees and shrubs to provide essential nutrients and protect them from disease-causing insects. At Spring Green, we want to help your lawn look and feel its best so that you can enjoy your yard without worry. Contact us today to learn about the services in your area.

Pruning Trees & Shrubs in the Fall

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As a general rule of thumb when it comes to pruning trees and shrubs, if it flowers in the spring, don’t prune it in the fall.

Pruning is a standard component of tree and shrub care, but if the timing is wrong it can damage your trees and shrubs.

We recently had some pruning completed on some of our landscape plants that are around our corporate office. Many of our employees asked why the company doing the work did not prune all of the shrubs.

I took a look and saw that the shrubs that were not pruned were lilacs, specifically, Korean lilacs. Since lilacs flower in the spring, pruning them at this time of year would reduce the number of flowers they produce next spring. This is especially true if the pruning is completed using a hedge shears.

There are two basic types of pruning – shaping and thinning. Many people shape evergreens and small leafy shrubs into either distinct shapes or free flowing groupings. Thinning is when selected branches are removed for various reasons related to general tree maintenance. Examples of this are removing crossing branches or damaged or diseased branches, removing overgrown branches or opening up the plant’s interior to allow for better growth. Thinning can take place at almost any time of year, with the understanding that you may be removing some of the flowering branches, but there should be enough remaining to provide enough flowers to enjoy. Shaping is more time-dependent, based on when the plant flowers.

Spring flowering shrubs should be pruned shortly after they finish flowering in the spring. Shaping a bush in the fall, such as the lilac discussed above, would result in fewer blossoms the following spring. Many spring flowering shrubs set their buds and flowers the previous fall. If these are removed during the shaping process, you are removing the flowers. It will still produce some flowers, but the overall look of your plant will be diminished.

My Evergreen Tree is All Brown, What Should I Do?

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I am always a little sad when I have to tell someone that their tree is going to die or that it is already dead.  There are certain tree and shrub diseases  and some species of insects that have done or will do so much damage to a tree that there is no hope for its survival, regardless of the heroic efforts put forth to save it.

When I get a picture of an evergreen tree that has turned brown, there is usually little hope of it surviving. When a deciduous tree loses its leaves, there is often still hope for its recovery.  Deciduous trees have the ability to regenerate new leaves, often within the same growing season.  An evergreen tree, on the other hand, does not have that same  ability.  Once the needles or fronds turn brown, they stay brown.  Depending on the cause of the browning, an evergreen may be able to generate new growth from the tips, but sometimes the tree ends up looking like a tree made up of bottle brushes.

Many arborvitae trees succumbed to the drought of 2012.  Once that species of evergreen begins to turn brown, there is not much you can do to save it.

We had numerous reports of arborvitaes dying throughout the drought areas in 2012.  Unfortunately, there is no amount of tree care  that can bring those trees back. The only thing that can be done with those trees is to cut them down.
It can be discouraging to the homeowner to replace the dead trees with new ones.  Many times, two or three die in the middle of a row of 15 or 20 plants that have all grown to be about 8 feet tall and the biggest ones you can find as a replacement are only 4 feet high.  They will eventually grow up to match the height of the other plants, but it can take many years to do so.

What Causes Oak Galls?

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I recently received some pictures of some weird looking growths in an Oak tree.  They looked like a growth called a gall, which looks like a tumor growing on a branch or leaf.  They are usually the result of the feeding or egg laying of certain insects that cause the plant’s cells to multiply at a dizzying rate.  Immature stages of the insect or the larva feed on the inside of the gall and often use the gall as protection from predators.

The gall in this tree is a Horned Oak Gall.  They grow to the size of a golf ball and have an interesting life cycle.  The adults emerge from the gall in early summer and lay eggs on the leaves of the tree.  The resulting larvae cause oblong blister-like galls to develop on the leaves.

About three months later, new adults emerge from those galls, they mate and the females lay eggs in the twigs of the tree.  Small marble sized galls appear and grow together to form the larger gall.  The cycle continues on and on, from leaf to twig, and this can lead to deformity of the tree if populations become too large.

Treatment is possible, but it requires specialized equipment that will inject insect control materials into the tree.  This requires a tree care  professional  who is trained to properly inject these materials to do the job correctly.  Sometimes, if the tree is not too large, the twigs or branches that have galls on them can be pruned out as soon as the galls appear during normal tree maintenance  to reduce the ongoing life cycle.