Maintaining your trees health

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Winter brings snow, ice, and frigid temperatures, but it also brings the perfect conditions for pruning most non-flowering trees.

In winter, trees go into their dormant season. Cooler weather causes leaves to fall to the ground, making the tree's branch structures easier to see. With trees free from leaves, it is the ideal situation to spot broken or damaged branches that could easily snap under the pressure of snow and ice in the winter months.

Deciding what and where to prune involves an understanding of basic tree biology, sharp tools, and an artful eye. Where you make the cut is as important as knowing what to remove.

There are a few simple principles to understand before you prune:

Always have a purpose in mind before you cut. Removing dead or diseased wood, providing clearance, or improving structure are most common.

Proper technique is essential. Poor pruning technique can cause long-term damage. Learn how to make proper cuts or consult an arborist or reputable tree service company to do the work for you. Contacting the Iowa State University Extension Service is also a good idea for proper advice and recommendations on how to proceed, depending upon your situation.

Small cuts do less damage to the tree than large cuts. Unlike people, tree wounds do not heal, they close. Smaller cuts close quicker.

Make cuts just outside the branch collar for quick wound closure.

Avoid leaving stubs.

Keep tools sharp and clean.

If pruning your tree cannot be done without using power equipment or leaving the ground, then it should be left to a professional arborist. You can find more tips on how to prune trees, or how to find a Certified Arborist in your area at http://www.treesaregood.com.

"Proper pruning can be an important part of tree health maintenance," according to Jim Skiera, Executive Director of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). "Just be aware that each tree is different, and pruning at the wrong time or the wrong way can injure a tree or make it susceptible to disease."

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), headquartered in Champaign, Ill., is a nonprofit organization supporting tree care research and education.

Please protect your trees and maintain them in a healthy manner. They serve countless invaluable purposes in our environment. Plus, they are beautiful to look at in full bloom or covered in frost!