Because trees are generally more costly and take longer to become established than other plants, they deserve to be treated as an investment in your property. I have decided to give some basic rules, objectives and suggestions in maintaining these sentries that give us so many benefits.
Watering to ensure adequate root zone moisture for two years after transplanting is probably the most critical factor of survival. Juvenile pruning is the best way to create a safe and sound structure for the future growth of any tree. All too often, I see that holes are dug, trees are popped in and then left to fend on their own. This is not a good thing.
Generally, you can safely prune 10 to 15 percent of the canopy to improve its structure, but do not prune more than 30 percent of the canopy at any one time. If this is done, it may open the crown so much that sunscald and temperature stresses will occur.
Many trees and shrubs should be pruned in the winter. The plants are dormant and cut branches will not “bleed.” For others, a winter pruning ensures a great flush of growth and blooming during the growing season. Every tree or shrub may have its own specialized needs but following these general guidelines will give basic direction and avoid disastrous mistakes.
Reasons for pruning
• Overall safety and form of the trees
• The three D’s: dead, damaged, or diseased
• Overall aesthetics of the tree and directional shaping
• Fire safety by eliminating fire – ladders
• Horticultural pruning for fruit enhancement
Dead and damaged wood should be tended to, as it is a prime entry point for pests or diseases. Cut back to a bud or side branch or to the trunk, depending on how you want the plant to grow.
Remove branches infected with Fire Blight which can be a very contagious bacterial disease which spreads within certain types of the rose or apple family, ornamental pear, photinia, roses, malus, pyrancantha and others. Make sure to sterilize your pruning tools after every cut with bleach and water (1 part bleach/5 parts water).
Pruning is both a science and an art, and you must understand why you make various cuts. I will go into this in continued articles as we proceed.
Roger Boddaer, a certified arborist, can be reached at (760) 728-4297 for assistance.