In suburban gardens, trees should be manicured by thinning at least once a year. A regular manicure is best for long-term manageability and keeps the trees structure sound, while providing balanced light for itself and surrounding areas.
The trees flowers are easier to see, smell and pick. Uphill neighbors can keep their views and birds stay within your view.
Keeping a tree scaled down encourages growth that is more apt to provide privacy. Leaves stay on their branches better when there are fewer of them for the roots to feed. There is less shedding, and thereby less noise from blowers and steel rakes.
Even in the case of trees, bigger is not necessarily better. Proper and regular maintenance cost less in the long run, and beautiful trees increase the value of your home.
For a knowledgeable tree trimmer, it is discouraging to find a tree that has had all its lower branches cut off by someone standing on the ground with a pole saw. The tree is now difficult to climb. It will grow with too much weight out on its ends, becoming top heavy, and could split to a very low crotch. Lower growth produces limbs that are easier to climb for future pruning. Pruning annually prevents having to use an expensive tree trimmer with chain saws, spiked shoes, and good wages.
A pair of loppers, a 12″ – 20″ pruning saw, and a ladder is all that is needed to maintain trees. It is fun, healthy and productive exercise. Just don’t get too far out on a limb.
When deciding where to make the first cut, visually follow the tree up its trunk and look at the crotches. Quickly assess whether any large limbs need to be removed. If no cuts are needed at the lower crotches, then continue to follow looking upward and outward to find which of any two connected branches need to be removed. It is generally better to remove the bigger of two branches where they meet. There should be a gradual downsizing transition. Since your tree is being properly managed and thinned rather than “whacked”, you will not be left with unsightly and unhealthy stubs. Such a whacked tree takes years of retraining to recover a good shape, if it ever does. Improper shearing or stubbing of trees and bushes causes unfavorable growth and entire flowering seasons can be lost.
When using a saw, always cut on the lower and outside of the branch to prevent stripping bark as the branch pulls away. Each cut needs to be lined up with the branch that will remain. When you are finished, the trees branch patterns will be more visible and everything around looks and grows better. The tree still looks natural, not like it just had a bad haircut.
Pines are best cut at the beginning of winter or in time for holiday decorations. Deciduous trees are best to cut before they leaf out in spring. Avocado and citrus should not have their trunks exposed to the direct sun. Figs bear on new growth, so cutting them back aggressively forces more new growth and more figs. An easy way to determine if a branch is dead is to scratch the bark with your thumbnail, and see if there is any green underneath.
Economically and ecologically, we need to care for our tree, so that we may see a view of birds being free, in our screen of privacy, extra light for flowers abundantly, and growth of more food ideally. “Money does grow on trees” so please properly see to your trees.
The Version “Pruning for healthy trees” was published in Orange County Home on May 2002