Proper pruning of young trees is the most important and cost effective pruning we do. Depending on the species, location, health and environmental stresses, many young trees have defects in their structure. Left unchecked such defects can result in long term problems that can be expensive to correct or even result in the loss of a valuable tree. The most common examples include:
1. Crossing branches. These rub against or crowd each other, resulting in future decay and hazards.
2. Co-dominant stems. The ideal tree has a central stem with a single strong, central leader. If two or more leaders compete to become dominant, weak joints develop that are prone to major storm failure- splitting the tree apart. Early pruning can often eliminate this problem.
3. Other V-joints. An ideal joint in a tree is U-shaped and is very strong. A V shaped joint is weakly attached and much more likely to fail in storm conditions. These can often be eliminated by early pruning. If uncorrected as a young tree, V-joints require expensive cable systems to maintain tree safety in older trees.
4. Fitting the tree to its’ site. Every year we see mature trees that have grown with major limbs reaching over the roof of a house. Often the only solution is the difficult removal of large branches at great expense and leaving large wounds on the trunk of the tree. Early identification of these structural elements can save a lot of grief down the road.
5. Proper branch height. Low branches on young trees are usually considered ‘temporary’ branches. As a tree grows taller, low limbs should be removed in proper proportion to its’ height (usually never more than 25%). If you wait to make these decisions you may be forced to make injurious wounds in the future.
While most pruning is best done in the dormant season, this is especially true when pruning of younger trees to enhance sound structure. The two main reasons? First, we often must remove substantial amounts of live limbs and this is much less stressful during dormancy. Second, without leaves, the essential structure is simply easier to see and work on.