How to Have Healthy Trees for Life: Structural Pruning
What’s our secret to having healthy trees for life? Structural Pruning while they are young!
There are many reasons to prune trees. We prune to reduce hazards, improve tree health, improve our views, to clear branches off structures and to prune for shape and aesthetic reasons. One of the most important but often overlooked types of pruning is the structural pruning of trees. This is typically done in younger trees, usually within the first 15-25 years of a tree’s life. Structural pruning should be done regularly from the time the tree is planted until it reaches a circumference of 20”. Structural pruning allows us to train the tree and coach the tree to grow up with a strong branch structure. The goal of structural pruning is to promote one strong central leader in a tree with well-spaced branches. (View more here)
Structural pruning reduces the amount of hazards a tree will present later in life. Flaws such as co-dominant stems are eliminated. When one dominant trunk is established in a tree the likelihood of splitting and failure becomes greatly reduced. Structural pruning allows us to remove crossing and rubbing branches, preventing branch failure due to the decay caused when two branches rub together. It allows us to make sure branches that are not part of the permanent canopy don’t develop too fast and compete with permanent branches by growing upright or too large, and then selectively removing temporary branches at the right interval as the tree ages.
Creating one central leader is achieved through making heading cuts on branches that are developing at the same or greater rate as the main tree trunk. This forces the tree to direct carbohydrate production into the leader that has not been pruned. No branch should be allowed to me more than 50% the size of the main trunk. It is also important to suppress growth in branches with bark inclusions in their unions, as these branches are naturally very weak.
Proper structural pruning reduces the maintenance needed when a tree is older. By promoting proper branching habits, the need for supplemental support systems is eliminated when a tree is fully developed. Making smaller cuts when a tree is younger, allows the tree to heal properly while it grows. Older trees are slower to heal, and the cuts needed to make corrections in older trees are generally larger and open a tree up to more decay and external vectors.
Remember to have a licensed arborist perform the structural pruning on your young trees. A good arborist will have extensive knowledge of how pruning affects a tree and will be able to achieve the desired results with ease. Having an untrained person perform the pruning will be more detrimental to the tree than if you simply didn’t prune it at all.
Let us know if you are interested in creating your own ecosystem and we can help make a custom plan!
Stacey Marcell, owner of Northeast Horticultural Services, has a profound passion for the environment and the cultivation of healthy, attractive and sustainable trees and landscapes. Her dedication to the environment and deep love for nature led her to form Northeast Horticultural Services. She hopes to educate people to be good stewards of the earth and looks to form lasting relationships with clients so she can watch her landscapes grow to their full potential.