The Pruning Workshop ( Presented by Kathleen Mercer)
Ø Reasons for Pruning
Ø Effects on Growth
Ø Time of Year
Ø The Right Plant for the Right Place
Ø Correct vs. Incorrect
Ø Types of Tools
Ø Cleanliness and Storage
Ø Personal Clothing and Safety Equipment
Ø Learn to Recognize or ask an Expert
Ø Disposal of Debris
Ø Questions and Answers
Class time will be 1 hour and thirty minutes. The Pruning Workshop Session 2 will be an outdoor class and we will discuss the location at the end of Session 1. Please come dressed for the elements, as there will not be an alternate date. If you have any personal pruning equipment please bring it to Session 2. Suggestions would be hand pruners, loppers and small saws.
Reasons for Pruning
v Nature has been taking care of her own pruning for quite some time and with the help of the elements, animals and inherent features of the plant, our forests and wilderness have stayed healthy, Unfortunately in the urban landscape we have a different schedule and idea of what looks good. We need to keep the artificial landscape looking neat and tidy.
v Some people are worried when they prune that they will prune too much or hurt the plant. The plant when pruned correctly will be healthier, sturdier and pleasing to the eye. Proper maintenance done with the correct tools at the right time will take the worry out of pruning.
v Pruning should be done for the following general reasons: Appearance, transplanting, health and rejuvenation,
Appearance - This is the type of pruning that will enhance your landscape. Shape should not be the only criteria. Consider also the height and scale of the plant in relation to the surrounding features. Remove sucker growth, odd shaped limbs or blooms that take away from the overall look.
Transplanting – When you dig up and move a shrub or plant a newly purchased bare root plant from the nursery you should check the plant for root damage. If there is significant root damage the plant will suffer.
The structure of the plant will be too big for the roots to support. Remember the roots are what bring in the water and nutrients from the soil. Some schools of thought say that you should prune approximately one third of the top growth to help slow down the new growth until the plant has recovered some of the root structure. Others say that this adds to the stress of the plants and reduces the leaf surfaces available for photosynthesis.
A good compromise would be to check the roots for damage and trim back any torn roots, and then prune any damaged branches. Container plants should also be inspected for damaged or crowded roots and prune the plant for shape as well. Make sure that you water diligently for the following two weeks and protect from the elements.
Health - Sometimes pruning must be done to eradicate disease or prevent the introduction of disease. Often a newly purchased plant will have the problem already or a newly dug plant will be in a weakened state and invite a pathogen. Usually an introduced plant will be more susceptible to pathogen than a native plant. In any case you must eradicate the problem by pruning off all branches. Clean your tools before you carry on to the next plant or you could carry the disease with you.
All dead and broken branches should be removed to avoid disease invasion. Make sure you cut flush to the branch collar at the trunk, this will enable the plant to close the wound more quickly.
Water sprouts that appear should be removed as they will weaken and are unsightly. Suckers that grow up from the base should be removed for the same reasons. Suckers that occur from below a union should be removed as they will take over the plant and eventually kill the graft if left unchecked. Thinning overcrowded branches will encourage good air circulation and discourage animals and pests from making nests.
Rejuvenation – Some shrubs benefit from a severe pruning when growth ceases and the shape has been lost. Before undertaking this drastic procedure make sure that the shrub will be able to recover. Most berry producing shrubs do not need this nor do broadleaf evergreens or conifers. Clematis vines, potentilla, hydrangea, lilacs and honeysuckle all will benefit from this type of pruning. Unless you have inherited a jungle you can achieve the same results by light and frequent pruning on an annual basis.
Effects on Growth
v Removing foliage has two effects on growth. Removing leaves reduces photosynthesis and can reduce overall growth. However growth that does occur is healthier and longer, this is called shoot invigoration.
v It is important to know what the special requirements for the specific plant are before you begin your pruning. Determine when the plant flowers and sets buds. Any plant that flowers in the spring will spend the rest of the season setting up for the next spring. Therefore pruning should be done immediately after the flowers have faded. Plants that flower in the summer and fall can wait until the fall or early spring.
v It also depends on the desired results. If you want to limit growth prune after the growth is complete for the season. This reduces the amount of buds that the plant will produce for the following season. If you want to maximize your potential, prune just before the beginning of the growing season in early spring. This causes the lateral shoots to activate.
v If there is damage, disease or stunted growth these can be removed at any time as their remaining is more detrimental than to remove them. Evergreens should be sheared or decandled in the growing season so that they can recover before the end of the season. Corrective pruning should be done in the early summer after the major sap flow has occurred. Some trees such as maple and birch can be pruned after the growing season in late summer to minimize the damage from excessive bleeding. Recent ISA literature indicates that though this is unsightly it is not detrimental to the tree.
v Think also about the pruning in terms of life span. Pruning done early in the development of the plant will shape it for life and save you years of disappointment and extra work. Pruning cuts made on young trees will create smaller wounds. All plants have mechanisms to close wounds and the smaller the wound the faster the plant will be able to close or seal the wound to prevent intrusion by pathogens. This is especially true for trees; they can quickly become liabilities when they begin to mature. The ideal time for pruning trees is in late winter or early spring when the tree is dormant. The wounds made at this time will recover more quickly with the approach of the growing season. Insect and disease activity will be much lower at this time.
The Right Plant for the Right Place
v The key to a successful landscape is to select a plant that will fit for the life of the plant. Planting a tree with a mature height of 50 feet under the overhang of your house is asking for disaster. In twenty years, if the plant thrives, it will have reached about the equivalent of two stories and presto your overhang is suddenly in the way! Now you must make the decision to prune this monster or cut it down and start again.
v The sensible solution is to do your homework before you buy the plant. If you can’t decide, ask your local garden center or parks department to help you choose a suitable plant for the location you have in mind. When you are doing your homework consider the mature size of the plant, pruning requirements light moisture and water requirements and you can avoid the disappointment later.
· Get to know the anatomy of a plant and you will begin to understand the proper way to make a cut. This is very easy to see when you look at the inside of a tree
v The trees' branches are a part of the main trunk, they share the same “veins” and when you cut below the collar of the branch you cut into the body of the tree.
v As discussed previously the tree must compartmentalize or seal off the wound by building layers around the cut. The collar holds special callus forming tissue that works to stem the flow of sap and close the wound. When making a cut you must cut close to the collar at a slant with the trunk. If too much of the branch is left above the branch collar dieback will occur. The slant of the cut is important as it helps to shed water and dry out quickly.
v In shrubs the same principles apply but for a different result. The shrub is pruned to promote branching and flowering where the tree is pruned for overall shape. With shrubs the cuts are a little less complicated but still just as important to do correctly. Remember that growth will begin from the stem that is cut. The bud below the cut will become active and begin to grow.
The cut you maketoday could be with you for the life of the shrub as is illustrated by the picture below. If you cut a bud on the outside of the branch the growth will be upward and outward. This is ideally the way in which you want the growth to spread.
However some trees and shrubs have buds that grow directly opposite to each other.
Types of Tools
v The tools that are used the most often are the pruning saw and the shears. There are variations within each of these types.
v The pruning shears should be of the bypass type as it gives a much cleaner and closer cut. Anvil or snap-cut shears tend to crush the wood when the blade comes in contact with the anvil. The bypass blade should be placed against the branch to be cut to insure a close cut and a minimal stub.
Saws come in a range of sizes. The basic saw is a 24” curved speed saw with coarse teeth that cut on the pull stroke rather than the push stroke. The smallest is a collapsible saw where the saw and the handle fold together and can be carried in the pocket. A pole saw is a smaller variation of the coarse saw mounted on a lightweight pole usually 10 feet or more. Some have a telescoping handle that allows you to reach up further. Some are equipped with lopping shears activated by pulling on a rope attached to a handle that pulls the blades together.
Loppers are essentially a larger version of the bypass pruners and can cut much larger diameter branches. Hedge shears are used for pruning evergreen and deciduous hedges but they should never be used to prune shrubs.
v It is preferable to do most of your cutting from the ground and within reach. Large branches are heavy and dangerous and should not be attempted without help. So ladders are not recommended, nor are chain saws and other aerial equipment. Leave this to the experts. A pole pruner can be used if the cuts are relatively small. Tools should be clean and sharp and in good repair before starting the job. Have enough time to finish the job without rushing. Mistakes can be costly both to the tree and to your personal safety.
Cleanliness and Storage
v After the job is finished, clean, sharpen and oil your tools and store in a dry, cool; place. Inspect the tools for loose connections and wear to the surfaces. The blades for the bypass pruners are replaceable but saws should be professionally sharpened. Loppers can be sharpened with a file and sharpening stone. Try to keep the tools out of the dirt and avoid dropping them, get a scabbard or pouch for your shears and a tool belt for hands free operation.
Personal Clothing and Safety Equipment
v Personal clothing should be sturdy and tight fitting especially if you are using motorized equipment. Gloves come in all shapes and sizes, they should fit comfortably and be close fitting. Hard hats should be used when you are working with large branches overhead. Eye protection is essential when you are working in the shrubbery at close quarters. When using any motorized equipment ear protection is a good idea.
Learn To Recognize
v Whenever a disease is present or you suspect that there might be one present, you must try to prevent the spread. Eradicating all branches with any sign of disease is essential to the survival of the plant. If you don’t know what is bothering the plant you can take a representative sample of the symptoms and send it to a lab for analysis or consult a certified arborist.
Disposal of Debris
v Once the diseased wood is removed you must destroy it by burning or taking it to the landfill. Do not compost this material as it might spread through the soil. All tools used to prune infected wood should be disinfected with a bleach solution, in between cuts if necessary. Methyl alcohol is no longer recommended as it can attract insects.
So have you got all that? It’s not that hard if you stick to the basic principles. Know when to cut, why you are cutting, and when to stop. Use the correct tool for the job. Remove dead, diseased, broken and crossing branches. Remove weak and suckering shoots. If you stick to these suggestions you will probably never need to worry about the big problems. Know when to call in the experts. Most tree companies have certified arborists on staff who can assist you with the bigger problems that can arise with trees.