Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summer Tree Care: Pruning

Thanks again to everyone who helped us prune trees at Murch Elementary on Saturday! If you attended the event, kudos for knowing how to prune. And if you missed it, you’re in luck! This summer we will be blogging summer care tips every other Thursday so you can help D.C.’s trees stay healthy. Today’s topic—you guessed it—summer pruning.

A clean final cut.
Some literature suggests that pruning should only be done in the winter. But while winter pruning may be better for structural purposes, the summer is actually a great time to remove dead or injured branches. When a tree has its leaves, you can distinguish the dead branches from the live branches much more easily than when the whole tree is bare. Dead branches make the tree more vulnerable to insects and disease and should be pruned promptly.

So if you’ve noticed any trees with dead or damaged parts, don’t wait until winter! You can help your tree out now. Before you begin, here are a few things to keep in mind:
  • Don't over-prune! No more than 25% of a tree’s canopy should be pruned in one year—especially if you are working with a young tree.
  • Prune parts that are threatening to the tree’s health. Branches that are dead, damaged, or crisscrossed all qualify.
  • Leave elm trees alone for now. Because of their susceptibility to Dutch elm disease, elms should not be pruned during summertime.
  • Always wear head and eye protection to avoid injury.
  • Some pruning care—such as the use of a chainsaw to remove extra heavy branches or branches far out of reach—should be handled by a professional. Check out the replay of last week’s Tree Talk Thursday for more information on certified arborists.

A twisted branch can harm an otherwise healthy tree. Photo credit: HaeckDesign

Since pruning is a skill that takes practice, it is best to learn how to prune from an expert before trying it on your own. We suggest becoming a Citizen Forester. Citizen Foresters can participate in our pruning events, which will take place once a month for the remainder of the summer. For dates and locations see our calendar. If you’re interested in becoming a Citizen Forester, sign up for our next qualifying class: Trees 101. If you really want to get into pruning, we also provide training sessions in the winter where you can officially become a Citizen Pruner.

For more pruning information, check out the Department of Agriculture's "How to Prune Trees" pamphlet. Thanks for helping us take care of the District's trees, and don't forget to check back for more summer tree care tips!

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