Young Tree Pruning Akin to Raising Kids

by Dominick Bierdek, Certified Arborist WI-0635A

Winter 2007 Newsletter in Adobe PDF format Training pruning of young trees is the most important tree pruning in the life of a tree.

Good training pruning of young trees might arguably be the most important tree pruning of all. Just as with any training, future dividends of training pruning can pay off big in savings. To use an analogy, you would not birth a child and then run off to Honolulu for 20 years to allow the child to raise itself. The same should be true of planting a tree. Let’s say you did run off to Hawaii for 20 years. Would you be surprised to find the child in trouble or in jail? As a parent, you would have a lot of work correcting the ways of the child. Their foundation will lead to trouble and never allow them to reach their true potential. The same applies to planting a tree and not giving it training pruning.

Trees normally grow in a forest setting where there are many trees, all competing for sunlight. They grow tall, with a central leader, and lower branches are naturally shaded out and shed. Urban trees have an abundance of light, and therefore, the lower branches do not shed and may not be normal. Trees growing without training pruning will develop structural flaws and weaknesses that lead to future problems and hazards.

It is best to do training pruning every two to five years, depending upon several factors like age, species and location. Just as children grow rapidly when young, so, too, do juvenile trees, requiring training to achieve good structure with few defects. Training pruning sets the structural foundation by establishing a dominant leader, branch spacing, and mature branch height.

Unpruned urban trees are likely to grow without a dominant leader and have multiple leads. These often are limbs with narrow branch union angles. This makes them weakly attached and prone to failure in wind or under load. These hazards can ruin the tree or damage property. Trees in this condition often require the expense of extensive pruning, and possibly, bracing and cabling to assist against failure.

Proper branch spacing from training pruning will make the tree look more balanced and aesthetically pleasing, along with improving air circulation and reducing disease-causing conditions. This also lowers the chances of having to remove too large a limb later in life that would allow weakening decay into the trunk.

A tree that has had regular training pruning throughout its youth gives big dividends in the form of savings. In maturity, it will require less expensive maintenance and avoid the jail term of early death and replacement. The tree will end up being safer, healthier and longer lasting. It will be more aesthetically pleasing, adding to the comfort and value of your property.

Any time is a good time for training pruning. So don’t wait. The winter season is great for pruning. It is better to get training sooner than later!

© Copyright 2007 – Wachtel Tree Science & Service, Inc.

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