Portland Landscape Design and Tree Care Expert Hiking

Pruning advice | Part 4

Copyright 2005 - 2011 by M. D. Vaden. Pruning information is divided into Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Etc. - plus other pruning topics.


Pruning Part 4

This season is as good of a season to schedule pruning projects as any other. The need of each person will vary, but the needs will include disease control, debris removal capability, crafts, training, appearances and more.

Here are some other ideas to consider about scheduling:

1. Saving removals for training – One of the best resources for practicing pruning are trees and shrubs that will be removed. Do you know someone who wants to learn how to prune? A master gardener, college instructor with a class, a friend or even yourself? See if postponing your removal will enable someone to practice pruning skills.

2. Pruning apple earlier can improve dormant spray coverage – If we wait until January or March to prune fruit plants like apple, we will have less effective dormant spray coverage. When apple are pruned earlier, such as mid-November and December, we gain better spray coverage afterward without sprouts in the way. This means using less chemical product.

3. Make sure that brittle or weak species are thinned before Autumn and Winter storms arrive. Hardwoods that are notorious for having weakness are redbud, flowering plum, sweet gum and some Robinia (locust) varieties. There are more, but those are a few.

4. Save conifer foliage that is useful for crafts or holiday decorations. If you have foliage that can be used for crafts or holiday decorations, consider postponing pruning for those plants until the holiday season has arrived. There are various types of cedar used for crafts, but conifers like blue junipers and blue spruce may also be useful for swags and centerpieces.

5. Consider your hauling capability – If you have a chipper or trailer, your debris removal ability may be almost unlimited. But if your hauling source is a large debris can that is dumped weekly, you may want to plan your pruning to get the most efficient use from your hauling service while simultaneously achieving your pruning needs.

6. Pruning to install an under-story planting: many landscape plantings – initially – can't have an under-story planting under conifers without lifting the immature canopy into a poodle. When the conifer gets larger, low limbs can be removed for space to add plants underneath, but summer heat makes that season impractical to establish new plants underneath. Autumn and winter is a good time to remove lower limbs and plant an under-story while the weather is moist and cool during a major root growth portion of the year.

7. Pruning for more light – Houses can become darker in the Autumn and winter, especially if branches block light near windows. Yearly growth can dim the interior of a house more each year. Fall is a good time to perform pruning that brings more light indoors for two seasons, at least.

8. Don't prune parts of the plant that will remove next year's color – Forsythia and Lilac, for example, form flowers next year on what was the new growth last summer. Don't do much pruning on these kinds of plants in the cool season.

9. Winter removal can reduce sunburn damage. One way plantss are harmed is by sunburn. This can happen (especially summer) by removing a lot of limbs, or entire plants, that expose large areas of bark to the hot sun. If you have big hardwoods or softwoods to remove, or large limbs that could open the exposure of sun to another adjacent trunk, then the cool season is the best time to do this. Cool season removal allows the bark of remaining plants to acclimate to the light and heat as spring weather progresses from cool to hot.

10. Manage your evergreen foliage – this can include renovation of large shrubs. Suppose you have a large laurel that you want to “stub back” rather than remove. If you cut away the limbs with foliage in November, the lack of growth in winter will provide you with about 6 months (one half of a year) of bare sticks to look at during the cool seasons. If this same large laurel was not causing significant problems, it's renovation could be postponed until near March. That would provide winter foliage and enable spring pruning that allows the plant to recover with foliage to avoid warm season sunburn damage to the bark and tissue.

11. Determine the greater need – Suppose it's better to shear an arborvitae hedge before October arrives. Then it may be wise to postpone shearing until next spring or summer. But suppose an arborvitae hedge is loaded with floppy growth and limbs. If left in that condition, rain, snow and wind could damage that hedge; causing the removal of broken and disfigured limbs that would open big gaps in the canopy. The same hedge, if left alone during the cool season, may even split apart and have the bark torn. A hedge like this with loose floppy foliage, should be sheared enough to reduce excess bulk that would cause harm if otherwise left to remain. This late foliage removal is a higher priority that adhering to a late summer shearing. It's your choice.

These are just a few examples to show the potential need to schedule pruning around the home. A few people may not need to schedule pruning due to their skill and their habits; and maybe their equipment. But many people will benefit from jotting pruning related notes on their calendar, planning notebook or computerized reminder program. We don't “have to” do it. But we should think about it.

the right way to prune a shrub

For years the professional strategy was to paint the cuts. Then researchers found out that although the wounds had been closing faster with the paint, rot still penetrated to greater depths than if pruning people had not used any tree paint at all. So, don't paint pruning cut wounds. Big plants make their own internal would dressing. And to help the process, it is critical that the collar around where a branch meets a trunk, is not damaged.

This is not new news. Apparently back near the 1700's, some foresters were lazy and did not make cuts flush. They made cuts a little further from the trunk where the diameter of the cut was a little less. Years later, the trunk wood prepared by the “lazy” foresters was harvested. It was of better quality. That knowledge got buried over the centuries, but has resurfaced again