If young trees are looking a tad lanky with their bare branches, and you want to trim a few back, this is a good time to do it.
"Right now is the perfect time to prune trees, because you can see the structure," said Dan Bauer, a master arborist and manager of Empire Tree and Turf, a division of Bartlett Tree Experts.
Pruning young trees is essential to the tree's continued growth, according to arborists.
Dr. Bruce R. Fraedrich, a researcher for Bartlett Tree Experts, said that pruning young trees can help prevent structural defects as the tree ages.
"This practice can avoid the need for more expensive tree care practices later in the life of the plant and can extend the lifespan of the tree by decreasing the likelihood of branch failures," Fraedrich wrote in a lab report. "Structural pruning of young, developing trees provides a desirable and stable form at maturity and is one of the best investments that consumers can make in their landscape."
Pruning a young tree requires the proper tools. Bauer suggests using a good handsaw.
"You don't want to use a chainsaw at the end of a pole," said Bauer, referring to tree trimmers often sold in hardware stores. "It can cause a bad cut and leave a stub, which is not ... pleasing to look at, but can also open the tree up to insects and disease."
Pruning is essential for a number of reasons. First, pruning helps to form a central dominate leader for the tree. By pruning any co-dominate leaders, the tree becomes stronger. Pruning also is important in helping the tree maintain and keep nutrients.
"If you have a limb hanging out there, it's just wasting energy and not allowing the tree to have proper nutrient uptake," Bauer said.
In Fraedrich's report, he outlines the frequency with which trees should be pruned.
"Pruning should begin as soon as trees establish and resume normal growth rates following planting," he writes. "This generally occurs two years after planting, but may be longer on large transplants. Inspect trees on an annual basis for the first 10 years after they become established and prune as needed to provide desirable structure."
On smaller trees, the first 10 years is a critical period for structural pruning, Fraedrich wrote. However, on larger species, structural pruning should continue for up to 25 years after planting.
For specific tips on pruning, visit Empire Tree and Turf's web site at www.empiretree.com.
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