Last month, I talked about the damaging effects of topping trees. This month, we will talk about what you should be doing for your trees instead of topping. Pruning. Believe it or not, there are pruning standards and classifications ranging from Class I (fine pruning) to Class IV (crown reduction), which has a very limited application.
Properly applied pruning is the best thing you can do for your trees from the ground up. A properly pruned tree adds beauty and value to any property. Neglected and poorly maintained trees can be a headache to have in your yard, and may even be hazardous.
Pruning is not just cutting off all of the bottom limbs to 30 feet high. It involves knowledge, discretion and even artistry.
I'll briefly explain the three major classes of pruning and the particulars of each.
Starting with Class III. I commonly refer to this one as hazard pruning or coarse pruning. Broken or dead limbs that are big enough to damage something or hurt somebody if they fell, are what are covered in this class of pruning. Any place where vehicle or pedestrian traffic is common, Class III pruning should be a “no-brainer”.
Class II pruning goes a little further in detail. On top of hazard pruning, take out sucker growth, crossed limbs, and dead wood down to roughly an inch in diameter, and you have a Class II prune. This level generally covers the bottom ¾ of the tree's crown. For aesthetic value, yard cleanliness and economics, this is my most common recommendation in residential settings.
The best way to describe Class I pruning is “postcard perfect”. From a Class II prune, take every dead twig, every sucker limb, every limb that even looks out of place. Now you have a Class I prune. As you can imagine, this level of detailed pruning can be rather time consuming and expensive to have done, but if your tastes demand the very best in tree care, then this is the one for you.
In addition to proper pruning, your trees may need trimming or limb removal to clear the house, garage, pool, house wires or streetlight. More often than not, it's the bottom limbs of a tree, which cause problems for a homeowner.
If you missed last month's column on topping, it is available online at www.nwitimes.com in the archives for June 24. Other consumer information regarding tree care is available at www.treesaregood.com. If you remember nothing else from the last two columns, remember this. Topping Bad, Pruning Good.
Russell Hodge is a Certified Arborist and can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.