Some homeowners have never pruned their trees, but it’s a good idea to take a critical look at the trees in your garden, because a good prune not only improves the look of your trees but also increases their life expectancy. The best time to prune your trees is during winter when the trees are lying dormant and before the rush of new spring growth.
Your aim is to remove any dead, broken or diseased branches, particularly diseased branches, as if these are ignored they will eventually drop and can endanger people and animals, as well as damaging your property. There are three reasons to prune your trees this winter:
- Managing disease: Pruning during the winter when trees are dormant is less likely to attract disease-spreading insects, bacteria and fungi that can weaken your trees.
- Protection against storm damage: We have all been witness to the severe damage caused by branches being ripped off trees during wild winds and fierce storms. Removing any diseased, broken or structurally unsound branches during winter not only removes these potential hazards but strengthens the tree as well.
- Improved growth: Pruning during winter when the trees are dormant causes less stress to the trees and encourage new strong growth in spring.
It’s fairly easy to spot branches that need to be removed, but you need to know how to remove them safely and correctly so that the tree retains its integrity and you don’t injure yourself.
Tips on safely pruning your trees
Never take on a pruning job that could be hazardous to you or anyone else in the vicinity. It’s always a good rule of thumb to call in the professionals if the branches are too high and you need to use a ladder to prune them.
You also need to know where to cut the branches, because cutting in the wrong area can seriously affect the tree’s growth and health in the coming years. Topping is the worst way to prune your trees, as this involves removing all of the branches and literally ‘topping’ the tree. This practice is no longer recommend as it undermines the health of the tree, encourages disease, nutrient stress and poor growth.
Instead, directional or natural pruning is the method of choice, as this method only removes branches that are diseased, broken, structurally unsound or are causing problems with overhead power lines. This pruning method leaves your trees healthier and stronger and ready for their spring growth.
When you have identified a branch that needs to be removed, start sawing underneath the branch and about 60cm (2 feet in old money) away from the trunk, but stop halfway through the width of the branch. Next, saw from the top of the branch downwards, but start about 5cm (2 inches) further along the branch and saw all the way through. Once the branch has dropped, you can saw off the small stub that is left, resulting in one clean cut that didn’t split the branch or tear away any of the bark.
A good pruning can do wonders for your home’s curb appeal, helping to prevent storm damage and diseased trees, as well as giving your trees a good boost for their spring growth.