Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How to Prune Large Branches

Below is an image showing two common fruit tree pruning mistakes made by amateurs and professionals alike. These mistakes are both unhealthy and unattractive. We will discuss in this blog post how to avoid stripping bark and the importance of not leaving "stubs".

Common Fruit Tree Pruning Mistakes
When the above cut was made, the weight of the branch pulled a large strip of bark with it. Luckily the bark broke loose and didn't continue splitting further down the trunk. This kind of damage on the sever end of the spectrum could cause the death of your tree. Pruning large heavy branches high in a tree should be done by a professional with the proper equipment and requires a three cut method as shown below. This method may also be used for cutting large branches from a safe height in your backyard orchard.

Step One
Step one: Make a small cut on the bottom of the branch near the trunk. Make the cut just far enough into the branch to stop the bark from splitting down the trunk. Avoid cutting so far into the branch that it begins to pinch and bind your pruning saw.

Step Two
Step two: Cut the branch out from your first cut to alleviate the majority of the weight. In this example, the branch fell and was supported by the ground before the stripped bark reached the first cut made in step one. If the branch was higher in the tree, the bark would have continued to pull away until it reached the first cut and then fallen to the ground. If the first cut was not made the bark could have continued stripping off the tree until it reached the base of the trunk. This is the type of damage that has been known to kill trees or cause irreparable damage resulting in ongoing problems and less productive fruit trees.

Step Three
Step Three: Remove the "stub". This is another common pruning mistake. Many gardeners think that leaving part of the branch will allow it to regenerate, though some tree varieties will send new branches from the cambium tissue near a cut, most trees will forever have this "stub". This detail will make your pruning job look unfinished and unprofessional. Also, by pruning branches back to the trunk, your trees will begin to heal, eventually leaving only a scar where the cut was made.

Properly Cut Branches Will Fully Heal

Proper healing of pruning cuts will only occur if the collar and ridge are left intact. Ridges and collars will be discussed in the following posts.

For more information regarding the pruning terms used in this post, visit our pruning page for a complete outline of how to correctly prune your fruit trees.