Pruning Young Trees

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Juvenile trees are often an afterthought, since they rarely pose safety concerns, and have limited impact to the landscape. Decision making comes down to cost, and having trees pruned with the maintenance crew makes short term financial sense. The reality is most maintenance crews are rarely trained on properly pruning trees, and approach the trees as they would a shrub leaving the tree ‘balled and poodled’. This is a problem for multiple reasons, but most importantly the issues associated with a 50’ tree that doesn’t have a healthy structure. Corrective pruning on juvenile trees is much less expensive in the long run, and better for the overall health of the tree.

General rules for young trees:

  1. Have a plan - The first step of pruning a young tree is to start with the end in mind and decide what type of structure each tree should have. 
  2. Decide on a central leader branch - Designate the central leader and remove (or subordinate) any branch that is more than half the diameter of the central leader. 
  3. Develop scaffolding branches -  Start developing the long term structure of the tree by designating which size branches are appropriate for that tree species. 
  4. Ongoing branch removal - Remove branches that may be broken or a nuisance due to vehicular or pedestrian traffic (Note: this may need to be done over the course of several years, since over pruning trees causes them to push rapid growth while depleting their reserved energy) 
  5. Do not over prune trees! - Contrary to common belief, over pruning doesn’t reduce the frequency a tree needs to be pruned.  In the end over pruning creates a weaker branch structure and the tree becomes more susceptible to pest and disease attacks.

These simple rules, along with making a few strategic cuts each year on juvenile trees typically ends up saving owners hundreds of dollars per tree in the long run. Multiply this across all trees throughout a given property and it adds up to big savings. A small investment and a little bit of planning at the outset, limits the issues for mature trees, and ultimately saves money for the property.

For an assessment of your tree care strategy, please contact us to connect with one of our certified arborists.