Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Pruning For Quality: Lateral Branches

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So far in this little pruning series we have corrected stag-headed trees and fixed steep branch angles and forks.  Those cuts make for sound, long lived, and merchantable trees.  Merchantability may not be your goal with your yard trees, but you do want strong trees that do not break up in storms.  The next priority is to remove lateral branches.  This will allow timber trees to grow higher quality wood, and your yard trees need this treatment so you can walk under them, and mow under them.  Try to do your pruning before the lateral branches reach an inch in diameter.

Make the first cut about 4 inches away from the trunk on the under side of the branch. The second cut comes in from the top and takes off the weight of the branch.  The third cut removes all of the stub while leaving the branch collar intact. The purpose of this order of cuts is to prevent bark from tearing down the side of the tree.  If the weight of the branch is not too much, you can hang onto the branch and make only cut number three, but be careful.  The bark tears very easily during springtime.

Use a sharp saw, and oil it when you are finished.  Do not lay your saw in the bed of a pickup truck, or other places where the teeth may touch metal.  I like to wrap mine in cardboard when they are not being used.  A small chainsaw scabbard is a good cover.

I like to buy only the blades and mount them in an axe handle so I can use both arms when I am sawing.  That makes a big difference in your sawing ability when you have a bunch of branches to prune.

After you have taken off the live lateral branches your final pruning priority is to take off dead branches.  Again, leave the live tissue in the branch collar alone when you are taking those off.

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