Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Pruning Solution: Nip It! Nip It In The Bud!

 Trees like this one are a disaster just waiting to happen if they have a target. This hackberry is lined up to damage the corner of a very nice home. If you aren't tuned into looking at tree structure, you might miss the problem.

The homeowner noticed the problem when squirrels began chewing the edges of the split.  This crack is about three feet long, and the solution to this problem is to remove the tree. One pruning cut twenty years ago could have saved this tree today.

 Forking and tight branch angle problems need to be fixed while the branches are still small in diameter. You can lop off one side of a fork with a pole pruner like this one.  The stub you leave with this method is really not a problem. The tree will grow around it and in a few years you won't know it was ever there.

If you are a neatnik, use a pruning saw to cut off all of the fork.

 Be careful not to damage the fork you leave.  You want to leave the better side (Straighter is better.), and part of that decision for me is to use the prevailing wind, and the sun to straighten the tree.  I prefer to keep the side that is to the north or west, and I will have a straighter tree in a few years.

 There, this swamp chestnut oak now has a straight stem.

You can also improve the quality of the wood produced by taking off the lower branches on the trunk of the tree. Lumber quality is the goal in the woods; safety for the person mowing the lawn is the motivation for yard trees. 
You should have your pruning done before the limbs reach 2" in diameter.  That will insure that pruning wounds heal over quickly. You will tire quickly if you are pruning 2" limbs by hand, and I prefer to have them off before they pass 1". Leave as little stub as possible, while leaving the collar around the base of the limb unharmed. This minimizes wound size while getting rid of all of the limb.


Merle Morrison said...

I couldn't see the problem in the first picture, but the second was close enough & big enough for my old tired eyes.

Would it still be possible to trim off the damaged part & still save the tree?


David aka True Blue Sam said...

Cutting off the west side removes the danger to the house, but it leaves a large area of exposed, easily rotted wood on the east side, and that side has an additional crack. No target, though. I would remove it and plant a new tree right away. The homeowners decided to remove the immediate danger, plant a couple trees in vacant spots in the yard, and remove this hackberry after the new trees are up and going. Because there is little or no danger if the other side falls off, their decision is sound.