Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

"Can I prune my trees despite recent, unusual weather fluctuations?"

"How would pruning affect drought-stressed trees?"

These are some recent questions we've been getting as people are feeling the warmer weather and thinking of tidying up their homes and gardens, something we all like to refer to as spring cleaning.

While pruning could cause further unnecessary stress on your trees if done incorrectly, Bal Rao, Davey's research and technical development manager, says minimal pruning, such as creating air tunnels in the canopy to help trees withstand storms, is acceptable.

Drought Check. When it comes to drought, before deciding whether to prune your drought-stressed tree, first remove excess leaves. If moisture is present, growth will remain and buds will emerge. Also evaluate the tree's surroundings, such as sidewalks, buildings and other obstructions, and the value of the limbs in question.

Rao uses three levels to determine the value of tree roots and branches:

  • No value: Limbs are dead, broken or hazardous. Prune them at any time - you will not harm the tree.
  • Low value: Limbs are typically crossing or rubbing branches, or co-dominant branches that are the same size. Prune these with caution, keeping safety and tree health in mind.
  • High value: Limbs are often found on healthy, good-looking trees. Prune these only for cosmetic reasons.

Pruning Pointers. In general, never prune more than 25 percent of your tree's foliage at one time. "In theory, you are making the tree 25 percent less efficient by reducing the photosynthesis surface," Rao says. In some cases, cabling and bracing might be better for your tree than pruning.

But if pruning is necessary, a few guidelines can help you protect your trees from further damage:

  • Prune during active growth periods to allow trees to heal themselves at the wounds. "You don't want to slow down the 'walling off' process," Rao says.
  • Prune with sharp, clean tools to make small, clean cuts. Disinfect tools with rubbing alcohol.
  • Only prune dry trees with angled cuts to help the water drip from the branches. Wet branches can spread disease if spores are present.
  • Avoid pruning branches that connect at a V-shaped crotch.
  • Remember that topping gives trees weak branching.
  • For trees with summer blossoms, prune them in winter before the buds break.

Some trees prefer to be pruned during certain times of the year, so check with your local, licensed arborist for advice.

  • Sara López Ramos July 25, 2016 >Great info. Thanks Dave. Need to cut a few of the branches, neighbors planting a couple of cypress, long tall ones. My branches will go into the their trees.
  • The Tree Doctor April 6, 2016 >Hi Ivan, Thanks so much for reaching out to Davey for help. Your cypress trees sound gorgeous! We absolutely offer tree pruning in your area. That may be the best way to fix your leaning trees. To confirm and get an official diagnosis, schedule a free consultation with your local Davey office. Once they see your cypress trees first-hand, they'll help you determine the best way to remedy this problem and provide you with a quote, too. You can schedule a consultation with your local office in West Denver here: davey.com/local-offices/west-denver-tree-service/#main-form. Or, give them a ring at 303.515.7493. Wishing you and your trees all the best, Ivan!
  • Ivan Joens April 5, 2016 >We have a pair of cypress trees that have developed a decided lean due to snow loading over the years. Can they be pruned to correct the problem and is that a service you provide? They are about 20 feet tall.
  • jasmin MacIntosh December 5, 2015 >I need consultation on an elm tree in my backyard. You have been recommended to me by a friend. thanks
  • The Tree Doctor May 15, 2014 >Hi, Paula! Considering the extensive injury you described on your new dwarf apple tree, the problem is not worth trying to correct. We suggest to remove and replace it; however, another option is to remove the leader branch above the break point. Prune the remaining tree canopy after dormancy in fall/winter. We hope this can help you!
  • Paula May 14, 2014 >We have 2 dwarf apple trees we planted last summer. One got some disease or something. Dark hollowed out area on the central leader branch. It has broken off. We haven't yet pruned it or any of the trees. How far from the bad section do we need to cut? Both trees have bloomed and have fruit started. Other than thinning out the fruit should we prune now?
  • Linda Knowle - Canyon Oaks May 14, 2014 >I would like to have someone look at two trees I have on my patio that are getting too large. I don't want them chopped but possibly thinned. One is a vine maple and one is a dark red maple. My address is 2902 Kennewick Pl NE, Renton. I live in Canyon Oaks town home community. The trees can be viewed without me having to be home. Thanks! Linda
  • The Tree Doctor April 15, 2014 >Hi Terri! Applying a sealer is not necessary; in fact, it may trap moisture and encourage wood decay fungi. Healthy trees will naturally wall-off their wounds.
  • Terri Fick April 15, 2014 >I trimmed some low branches off my sycamore tree. should I put a sealer on the area's I cut off close to the trunk or not?
  • Brooklyn Tree Service April 1, 2012 >This is great tree pruning advice. We've seen way too many unfortunate cases of trees being ruined by amateurs. It takes years and years for trees to retain their beauty and healthy, and only seconds to destroy.
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