Preventative Pruning for Young Trees

Preventative Pruning for Young Trees

Part of Ep. 1004 Winter Interest

Learn why pruning a small, young tree is better than pruning a larger, mature tree with Dane County Horticulturist Mike Maddux.

Premiere date: Dec 22, 2002

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
There are many things you can do to make gardening easier. But I bet that cutting your young trees so that they don't have problems when they're older was not on your list. I'm with Dane County Horticulturist Mike Maddux. And Mike, I understand that trees are really your passion.

Mike:
Yes, Shelley, I'm an arborist by training, and now I'm an educator with Dane County Extension. and today, I'm going to education you on why pruning a small, young tree is better than pruning a larger, mature tree. When you prune a smaller tree, you're making a smaller cut.

Shelley:
Just because the branches are smaller.

Mike:
Just because it's smaller. And it's less for the tree to have to heal over. Also, it's going to be less work on our part to do this.

Shelley:
So, less stress all around.

Mike:
Less stress all around, much better to do.

Shelley:
But why am I pruning the tree at all?

Mike:
Well, what you need to learn to do is recognize problems in small trees that will develop into problems in large trees. One of the first problems we can recognize is the formation of double leaders. Trees have a main growing stem, that is the trunk that's going to give the tree the height that it needs. Sometimes, a second one can from. The problem occurs when these both develop in size and the weight of the branches pull them apart during a windstorm or any other kind of stress in the tree.

Shelley:
So, they actually-- We'll see in big ones where they'll split apart.

Mike:
They'll split apart and you can have a large rip on the side of the tree that can lead to decay.

Shelley:
But you don't have a problem now.

Mike:
No, not now. But with just a simple cut, you can avoid any problems in the future.

Shelley:
How would you decide which? Does it matter which one?

Mike:
This is a judgment call on your part. And what you have to do is pick the healthier one of the two and just go with your choice.

Shelley:
Just a nice sharp cut?

Mike:
A nice, clean cut.

Shelley:
Are there other things that I might not see in this tree that we could work on now?

Mike:
In this tree, there is also a problem with some crossing branches. If you look right here, we see a branch that's growing up alongside of the other one and has a lot of occluded bark. This is not a problem now, but down the road, as weight increases on this branch, there's going to be the probability of this branch ripping off and stripping the bark down the tree, leaving another large wound.

Shelley:
And I suppose moisture can get stuck in there as it gets older, too.

Mike:
It could, but the primary concern is just going to be the weight.

Shelley:
The weight and heaviness.

Mike:
With just a simple cut right here from the crotch outward, we'll have a small, minimal wound for the tree to heal over. And we'll be preventing problems from occurring in the future.

Shelley:
So, is there a time of year to do this?

Mike:
Timing is when the tree is dormant. And that's anywhere from December through Mid-march at the latest.

Shelley:
And that's because one, there's no insects or diseases running around at that time of the year.

Mike:
And it's also a lot cooler for you to be doing the work.

Shelley:
Okay, so timing, knowing what's wrong and then, it sounds like, knowing how to cut, too.

Mike:
Yeah, a proper pruning cut is going to make all the difference. An improper cut can lead to all sorts of problems. So, let's take a look at a proper branch.

Shelley:
So, this is a normal, healthy branch. There's nothing wrong with this, really.

Mike:
There's nothing wrong with this branch, other than the potential of it getting ripped off. We are in a park situation, and kids can be dangerous to trees. So, what we need to do is identify where to make the cut. A bit of the anatomy. This is the branch bark ridge, this rough area through here.

Shelley:
This is a normal thing?

Mike:
This is a normal thing on the tree. And this is where trunk tissue comes into contact with branch tissue. Below this, you can see this bulging or shoulder-like area. This is the branch collar. And when we make our cut, we want to make the cut along the branch collar. And in doing so, we're removing as much of the branch tissue, but leaving all of the trunk tissue. This will allow for a small wound that can be healed over by the trunk tissue.

Shelley:
So, right there, basically.

Mike:
Right there.

Shelley:
Now, what happens if I cut there?

Mike:
If we cut out there, we're leaving too much of a stub that the trunk tissue will be unable to heal over. Conversely, if we cut into here, into the trunk tissue, we'll be damaging the trunk and that will have to heal itself before it can heal over the wound.

Shelley:
So, there's a reason for that.

Mike:
It's the smallest wound that will heal over the quickest.

Shelley:
There's another type of cut that I've heard about, the three-point cut.

Mike:
If this was a really large branch, there would be a lot of weight here. And as soon as we start cutting, it may rip the bark off the tree.

Shelley:
Which we're trying to prevent by making these cuts.

Mike:
So, if you can make and undercut about a third of the way through the branch, about an inch outside that going through, that's going to remove the weight from this branch. So, then, we could very safely and easily make this cut here without an accident happening, stripping the bark.

Shelley:
You'll have just that stub, and nothing heavy.

Mike:
Correct.

Shelley:
Okay. Thank you very much, Mike.

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