Whether it's keeping a large-growing species in scale or giving a shaggy tree a trim, smart pruning can improve a tree's appearance. Some trees show their attractive bark or flowers more effectively when pruned. Cut off water sprouts and suckers for neatness.
Diseased branches can sometimes be removed before they infect the rest of the tree. (Be sure to dip the pruning blade in a 10 percent bleach solution between each cut to avoid spreading disease.) Dead or broken branches can be removed before insects burrow inside to make a home.
Pruning also alleviates potentially hazardous situations. Trimming branches that threaten power lines avoids serious problems, but leave this task to the pros. Large dead or dangling branches should be removed, as well as branches that could interfere with vehicles or lawn mowers. Branches that contact the house on windy days should be cut before they cause damage.
- Trees that have just leafed out in spring could be weakened by pruning too early. Pruning in late summer will prevent weakening.
- Pruning for structure and form is best left until after the leaves fall and the branches can be seen clearly.
- Remove dead wood in the summer when leafless branches are easily spotted.
- Major pruning should not be initiated during "maple sugar time" (January through early March in most areas).
- Beetles that infect oak trees are active from late spring through midsummer. If oak wilt is present in your region, do not prune your oaks during this period.
- Pruning for clearance should be done when branches are sagging to their lowest point.
Continued on page 2: Where to Make the Cut