Getting the Most Out of Your Investment: Proper Pruning
Written by: by Daniel Barwinski, Board-Certified Master Arborist WI-0716B
According to the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers, a sound, mature tree can add $1,000 to $10,000 to the value of your home. On the other hand, a poorly maintained tree can be a significant hazard and liability. Therefore, proper pruning is an investment with a considerable return value.
Pruning trees within the first few years of planting them is a critical first step. Early pruning removes problematic branches and corrects branches when they are small (less than 1’’ in diameter). This reduces the size of the pruning wounds, which promotes the tree’s ability to seal over. The quicker the tree can seal over the wound, the less chance of an infection or decay.
Good pruning techniques remove structurally weak branches while maintaining the natural form and beauty of the tree. Due to the abundance of light and space, some trees may not have a genetic tendency to form a natural leader, or the main vertical stem in a tree. A certified arborist will be able to recognize this tendency and prescribe a pruning routine that will promote a strong, central leader with proportional branches along the trunk. At Wachtel, we have more than 30 ISA Certified Arborists on staff, including five Board Certified Master Arborists, that follow the latest industry standards in pruning.
Some pruning is not necessarily a benefit to the health of the tree. However, with care and proper technique, negative impact to the overall health of the tree can be minimized. For example, a homeowner may wish to raise a tree’s crown from the ground so that plants in a mulched landscape bed have more room to grow. A certified arborist will be able to achieve this by reducing the length or weight of the branches or removing the whole limb if these are not viable options. Retaining as many of the lower branches in the tree as possible will contribute to trunk development and improved stability. A similar example would be directional pruning to guide a tree away a tree from a structure, thereby avoiding large limb removals in the future.
In addition to enhancing the form of a tree, proper pruning can also improve its health. Pruning will increase air flow and enable the leaves to dry out in the morning, which can help to mitigate certain fungal diseases. For example, we use pruning to reduce the amount of shade a spruce receives on its lower branches, which can prevent needle cast where needles turn brown and fall off. Pruning crabapples will also improve branch spacing and reduce the impact of apple scab. In order to control the spread of disease, fall and winter are the best times to prune certain species of trees that are likely to experience fungal issues. This is particularly true of Oaks and Elms, which can perish if pruning is not done at the right time of year.
It’s still necessary to continue to care for an older tree. The tree will need to be routinely pruned to maintain its structure. A Wachtel arborist will be able to concentrate their efforts on removing dead, damaged, and diseased branches throughout the whole canopy of the tree. As always, proper pruning technique will reduce risk and failure potential, which is the primary goal in lessening future maintenance costs and potential storm damage to your investment.
The goal with any treatment done for trees is to extend the useful life of the trees in your yard. Remember that pruning is an ongoing process to be done on a routine basis throughout the tree’s life. Contact your Wachtel Tree Science Arborist today, and have your trees evaluated for their pruning needs, or learn more by visiting this link.