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Maintenance; Is Pruning Killing or Helping?

1st July 2021

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If you have trees in your front, back or side gardens, in your grounds or as one of your management/maintenance responsibilities, then you have a choice to make – leave them to grow as nature intended, cut them back yourself when you feel they need it, or call in the experts. Pruning is a crucial part of tree maintenance.

I’m not saying this to win your business because if you choose to use another firm of arborists and tree surgeons then that’s perfectly fine with me, but for the sake of your trees I sincerely hope you choose to call in the experts. Let me explain why.

As Nature Intended
Trees in woodlands live for hundreds of years without sight of an arborist, so why can’t you leave the trees in your garden to their own devices, why interfere with nature? Well, woodland is a self-regulating ecosystem where trees only grow as fast, as high and as wide as they are allowed by the light and moisture they are afforded by the trees around them. And when a tree dies and falls, it’s only other trees that it will hit on the way down.

Garden trees will often grow unabated if allowed to. They don’t always do so evenly, especially if you do not prune them properly and regularly, and this could make them more susceptible to toppling in high winds, particularly if there are no other trees around to dissipate the force of the wind.

Infestation, infection and dehydration can rapidly turn a healthy tree into a husk of its former self, with the problem spreading to other trees on your and your neighbour’s property. And, if left undiagnosed and not dealt with by an arborist, it could even result in the death of your tree.

Imbalanced growth or illness leading to dead or dying trees makes them more prone to collapse, and in an urban environment this could mean limbs or the entire tree landing on homes, garden structures, power and phone lines, or even people. It’s messy, it’s a legal nightmare, and the risk of this happening could be so easily reduced if you ask an expert to regularly survey and prune your trees.

Cut Them Back Yourself
Pruning should be a fundamental part of your tree maintenance routine; it’s the selective removal of dead, dying, weakened or rotten branches and bark, though healthy branches can also be removed if the pruning is for structural or aesthetic reasons. Trees live for hundreds of years and you could be forgiven for thinking that if they can live that long then they can fend for themselves, but they also have their weaknesses. Break through the outer layers of bark and just like you and me, they will be wounded and they bleed (sap), and because of this they can become infected, get ill, and in extreme circumstances, they can die.

Because of this, a tree surgeon’s tools need to be sharp and clean. The more precise the wound created when you remove a branch, the quicker it will heal and the less likelihood there is of an infection or insect infestation getting in. Using substandard equipment and/or cutting into the tree in the wrong way could result in irreparable damage.

Unless you know which branches to remove, how much of the crown to cut back, when to prune and why, you could be doing more harm than good.

Pruning: Whys, Whens and Hows
Pruning is essential to your tree’s healthy development, but to understand the whys, whens and hows of pruning you need to understand the biology of your trees. An arborist is trained in the practical knowledge required to work on a wide variety of tree species and has the know-how to minimise the risks of surgery.

  1. Why should you prune?

Pruning improves sunlight penetration and increases air movement to maximise growth and minimise disease problems. It helps to create the right structures for trees to live long and healthy lives, stable enough to withstand storms without falling, and this is something that should start from a young age as a tree is trained to grow in the right way so less corrective work is required later on. For fruit trees it can encourage healthier crops, it can minimise the possibility of falling branches, or of the tree itself damaging property. It can prevent tree growth from straying onto someone else’s property; it can catch infestation and infection early and deal with it. It can allow in more light for friendlier gardens and it can shape your tree for a more aesthetically pleasing look.

  1. When should you prune?

For most trees the ideal time to prune is in the late winter as this is when they are most dormant and, therefore, produce the least amount of sap when limbs are removed. This is also the time when organisms that might enter the tree through the wound and damage it are also at their most dormant, reducing the chances of infection or infestation. Spring-blooming trees and shrubs are the exception to this rule, because you should wait until immediately after they bloom to prune them.

  1. How should you prune?

It is good practice to never remove more than 25% of the crown of your tree (the leaves and branches at the top of the tree) unless absolutely necessary, or you could permanently harm your trees. Always use clean, sharp tools to minimise the damage you’ll do – less damage will help shorten the recovery time for your tree. Know when your species of tree can be pruned, as to do so outside of those times could cause more harm than good. And recognise the reasons and benefits of different types of pruning, and how often your trees should be put through the stress of pruning.

To find out more about how our arboreal and tree surgery services can help you to maintain the health, safety and structure of all your trees long into the future through pruning, call us on 0208 292 8992. We’re always happy to pop round or to help with a little advice.

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