When and How Should I Prune My Trees?

By Nancy Penrose

Tree pruning is an essential part of keeping your trees growing healthy. Trees with dead or dying limbs will benefit from regular pruning, and pruning can play an important role in the formative stages of a tree’s life.

But how often should you prune? When is the best time to prune your tree? When is it appropriate to tackle it yourself and when should you call in an expert? With the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to ensure your tree continues to grow healthy and without unnecessary trauma.

Why Pruning?

Removing dead/dying/diseased branches from trees helps a tree stay healthy. It prevents diseases from spreading to the rest of the tree which could kill it. It removes excess dead weight and helps the tree grow. You will also need to prune branches which are rubbing against each other, as these will cause stunting and friction as the branches continue to expand.

Removing excess tree limbs lightens up the canopy and helps more air and sunlight get to the tree. Your tree will look better and grow in more natural, healthier foliage with the dead branches cut away.

There is another target for pruning: small shoots at ground level going off from the main tree. These steal nutrients from the main tree and make it weaker. Establish the dominant tree trunk and prune away smaller excess shoots. You will end up with a stronger tree, better able to withstand the elements.

Finally, there is the question of safety. You do not want tree limbs that could break off and harm people walking below them or fall and damage property. Learn to identify these and cut them for the safety of your family and others.

These are the major reasons you will want to ensure your tree gets the appropriate amount of pruning to keep it healthy.

When Should I Prune?

First off, you will want to prune early on after planting. Pruning young trees can go a long way to helping to promote proper structure which will enhance the tree’s longevity, as well as avoiding costly maintenance pruning later in their lifespan. Selectively pruning competing branches and stems will ensure a strong framework for future growth. Typically structure pruning happens every 12 years for the tree’s first 57 years of growth.

For general maintenance and pruning you will want to prune a little more frequently. If you see that a branch is obviously dead or diseased, you can go ahead and prune it. It is generally best to prune when the tree is in dormancy, so that when Spring comes it is ready to grow back more readily. Be aware that pruning when a tree is not in dormancy could lead to disease as the branches begin growing back. Consult a tree maintenance specialist if you are concerned this could become a problem.

When Is It Safe to Prune the Tree Myself?

If you are sure you have the right equipment for the job and are sure you know how much to cut (not pruning too much or too little of the branches that could result in tree rot during new growth) then you can safely do the tree pruning yourself. Watch the tree as the branches grow back to ensure they are healthy.

If you are in doubt about how much pruning your tree needs (such as due to its size or if you just aren’t sure which branches to cut) then it would be advised to consult a tree maintenance specialist. They can consult and point you in the right direction or take care of the tree maintenance.

Proper pruning will be very beneficial to your trees in ensuring that they continue to grow healthy branches for years to come.

Nancy Penrose is the owner of Big Trees Inc., located in Snohomish, WA in the Seattle area. The company is one of the largest tree nurseries in the Seattle area with over 120,000 trees available in over 300 varieties. They not only deliver young trees, but also mature trees in a wide range of sizes. Some types of trees available include spring flowering, deciduous, evergreen, and privacy trees. The company also does tree transplanting including large trees. Their blog can be seen at https://bigtreesupply.com/blog/ or http://arboristblog.com/. They can be reached at 360-563-2700.

Big Trees Inc.
10928 Springhetti Rd
Snohomish, WA 98296