trees is very common in the Santa Ynez Valley. There is an abundance
of these old trees. Some of them have never been pruned and are
hundreds of years old. So it is very important that these trees
are treated properly. Using sound trimming techniques will insure
that these majestic trees will survive for years to come. Once again,
avoid topping, lion tailing and over trimming.
is the most common tree maintenance procedure. Although forest trees
grow quite well with only nature's pruning, landscape trees require
a higher level of care to maintain their safety and aesthetics.
Pruning should be done with an understanding of how the tree responds
to each cut. Improper pruning can cause damage that will last for
the life of the tree, or worse, shorten the tree's life.
each cut has the potential to change the growth of the tree, no
branch should be removed without a reason. Common reasons for pruning
are to remove dead branches, to remove crowded or rubbing limbs,
and to eliminate hazards. Trees may also be pruned to increase light
and air penetration to the inside of the tree's crown or to the
landscape below. In most cases, mature trees are pruned as a corrective
or preventative measure.
does not necessarily improve the health of a tree. Trees produce
a dense crown of leaves to manufacture the sugar used as energy
for growth and development. Removal of foliage through pruning can
reduce growth and stored energy reserves. Heavy pruning can be a
significant health stress for the tree.
just after the spring growth flush should be avoided. This is when
trees have just expended a great deal of energy to produce foliage
and early shoot growth. Removal of a large percentage of floliage
at this time can stress the tree.
types of pruning may be necessary to maintain a mature tree in a
health, safe and attractive condition.
is the removal of dead, dying, diseased, crowded, weakly attached
and low-vigor branches from the crown of a tree.
is the selective removal of branches to increase light penetration
and air movement through the crown. Thinning opens the foliage
of a tree, reduces weight on heavy limbs, and helps retain the
trees natural shape.
removes the lower branches from a tree in order to provide
clearance for buildings, vehicles, pedestrians and vistas.
reduces the size of a tree, often for clearance for utility
lines. Reducing the height or spread of a tree is best accomplished
by pruning back the leaders and branch terminals to lateral branches
that are large enough to assume the terminal roles (at least one-third
the diameter of the cut stem). Compared to topping, this helps
maintain the form and structural integrity of the tree.
should be pruned ?
The amount of
live tissue that should be removed depends on the tree size, species,
and age, as well as the pruning objectives. Younger trees will tolerate
the removal of a higher percentage of living tissue than mature
trees. An important principle to remember is that a tree can recover
from several small pruning wounds faster than from one large wound.
common mistake is to remove too much inner foliage an small branches.
It is important to maintain an even distribution of foliage along
large limbs and in the lower portion of the crown. Over-thinning
reduces the tree's sugar production capacity and can create tip-heavy
limbs that are prone to failure.
should require little routine pruning. A widely accepted rule of
thumb is never to remove more than one fourth of a tree's leaf bearing
crown. In a mature tree, pruning even that much could have negative
effects. Removing even a single, large-diameter limb can create
a wound that the tree may not be able to close. The older and larger
a tree becomes, the less energy it has in reserve to close wounds
and defend against decay or insect attack. The pruning of large,
mature trees is usually limited to the removal of dead or potentially
were once thought to accelerate wound closure, protect against insects
and diseases, and reduce decay. However, research has shown that
dressings do not reduce decay or speed closure, and rarely prevent
insect or disease infestations. Most experts recommend that wound
dressings not be used. If a dressing must be used for cosmetic purposes,
then only a thin coating of a nontoxic material should be applied.
Q: My oaks
have never been pruned. Do they need to be pruned, and if so, how?
can be used to manage tree safety, improve aesthetics, extend useful
life span, manage certain pest problems and minimize conflicts with
people, buildings, vehicles and power lines. When improperly done,
it destroys natural shape and beauty, creates hazards, causes stress,
reduces longevity and increases cost and reduces property value.
Trees are routinely mis-pruned by well-intentioned people who don't
understand how trees grow or respond to pruning. They are often
motivated by fear of tree failure as trees grow in size or the misconception
that trees need to be pruned to maintain health.
not be desirable or beneficial. There is always some negative impact,
at least temporarily. When done improperly, pruning can be destructive.
Severe (hard) pruning can kill or seriously weaken trees by removing
too much foliage. This diminishes food production (photosynthesis)
causing stress, which may result in energy depletion, dieback, increased
susceptibility to pests, or decline. Problems, however, seldom develop
when pruning cuts are few in number, kept small and properly made.
Damage, of course, depends on extent of pruning, size of wounds,
time of year, and tree health prior to pruning. Pruning can also
alter branch spacing and attachment strength, architecture (shape,
foliage, density and distribution), and susceptibility to decay.
Thus, trees should be pruned only as needed to accomplish the desired
goal. Some goals, however, may be incompatible with tree health.
concepts to consider when pruning
- Pruning large
trees is both dangerous and difficult; It is best left to professionals,
preferably someone certified by the Western Chapter of the International
Society of Arboriculture.
- Prune only
- Have a valid
reason to prune each branch.
- Remove as
little foliage as possible particularly for an older or declining
- Prune with
the health of the tree in mind.
- Remove dead
branches if they pose a safety hazard to people, property or structures.
Dead branches can be left in trees in naturalized settings for
- Keep cuts
small and few in number. Don't stub unwanted tree branches; remove
branch where they originate.
- Don't cut
branches flush to the trunk or branch; leave the collar or swollen
area at the branch base intact. Removal of the collar will encourage
- Wound dressing
does not prevent decay and should not be used on pruning cuts.
- Prune in
late winter to early spring, or early to midsummer. Avoid pruning
when the leaves are forming and in the fall when leaves are shedding.
- Dead and
weak branches can be removed at any time.
- Correct extensive
structural problems gradually.
- Avoid thinning
- Don't alter
- Avoid excessive
crown raising (removal of lower branches, some times called lion-tailing).
- Don't top
oaks and other trees to reduce tree height or spread.
pruning, e.g., topping and over-thinning, diminishes health, safety,
longevity, aesthetics, environmental benefits, and property value.
Proper pruning minimizes foliage removal and avoids significant
changes to the tree's natural shape, growth habit and size. This
saves money, reduces impact on health and maintains maximum environmental