Many people understand the need for professionals when it comes to things like fixing plumbing or repairing a car, but when it comes to landscaping, do-it-yourself projects reign supreme. After all, how hard can it be to plant a flower, spread mulch, or lay sod?
While some landscaping tasks can be tackling on a weekend by earnest homeowners, there are some tasks that should always be entrusted to a professional. Pruning and trimming your trees may seem simple, but DIY tree trimming can actually cost you the life and beauty of the trees you are trying to improve.
Here’s why inexpert pruning can prematurely end the life of your beautiful trees.
Taking Too Much
When you prune your own trees, you risk taking too much in the wrong places.
Many people look at pruning as a method of cutting back a tree because it has gotten too large or grown too close to a house, power line, or window. However, to compensate for this growth, homeowners can chop away several branches, removing all the offending areas that have grown too large or too close for comfort.
While it’s natural to want to prevent a tree from taking over, especially when the branches represent a danger, this approach to pruning leads to structural instability. Pruning is about balance. Often this approach to pruning removes weighty branches from one side of the crown.
Continuing to encourage this pattern of growth results in a lopsided crown. During a storm or another stressful situation, the entire tree could blow over because it is not weighted well.
Even if you take evenly from all around the tree, many people still make the mistake of taking too much. Pruning is a gentle art, and it requires taking a little at a time over several seasons during the tree’s life, gradually and artfully directing the natural growth patterns.
Too many homeowners view pruning as a time for drastic action after a tree has already gotten out of control. They cut back or cut out tons of foliage, thinking they will have longer to wait until the job needs done again if they just do it all at once.
Removing so much foliage causes intense damage to the tree, as it needs its leaves and branches for food and continued healthy growth. Without naturally thick foliage, the tree is also more likely to experience sunburn and blighting.
If you have a tree that causes you concern, it’s best to consider moving or removing the tree entirely, instead of continually cutting it back. Alternatively, it’s best to rely on a professional arborist who can maintain the structural integrity of your tree.
When you prune a tree, you have to know exactly what you’re doing, or you risk hurting the tree. Professionals know how to avoid the following.
When removing large branches, it’s important to cut them close to the mother stem. This means that large branches should not be chopped off in the middle of the branch, nor should smaller branches. Not only does this type of pruning shock the tree, but it requires a great deal of nutrients from other tree components to heal the damage.
If someone continues to cut a branch or stem in the middle instead of at the proper angle close to the mother branch, the internal components of the tree become consistently deprived of nutrients. The outer areas of the tree will have explosive new growth, but the older branches closer to the trunk will have fewer leaves and may even die.
Growth becomes patchy and the true growth pattern of the tree can be compromised. Eventually, the tree will lose its natural growth patterns and branches will die or lose health at random until the entire tree is too damaged to continue growing.
Cutting Branch Collars
Another common cutting mistake is removing the branch collar that surrounds branches as they leave the trunk or larger branch. This is a bulbous, bumpy area with cells that help to repair wounds to the tree. When you remove the collar entirely, the tree heals much more slowly, and stays open to insects and diseases. Your tree, if it becomes infected, will die.
Topping or Raising
Some branches seem to grow too low to the ground, so homeowners “raise” the tree by cutting the lowest branches off, leaving a “broccoli tree” shape. Other find a tree is growing too tall, so they cut the entire top of the tree off to prevent the tree from growing taller. Both methods are problematic.
Raising the tree increases the danger that the tree will be less sturdy during winds and storms. Cutting lower branches removes the majority of the tree’s balanced shape. Large limbs higher up the tree are more likely to break, especially the leaves and smaller branches have been removed as well to let more sunlight through.
Topping removes the new growth on the top half of the tree’s leaf and branch structure. Not only does it open several branches and the main trunk itself up to disease, but it also weakens the branch structure of the entire tree. It may never recover.
As you can see, pruning and trimming is not a simple landscaping task like planting a flower or mowing a lawn. If you have beautiful trees, Smitty’s Tree Service can keep them beautiful with professional arborist services.