Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Its Trimming Time Again

Pruning trees and shrubs not very more complicated if you follow a few guidelines. You can make cuts that will make your plants grow tall and also provide healthful benefits to them.

The one-third rule is important to successful pruning. Prune less than one-third of a plant,  this includes grasses, shrubs and trees. The photosynthetic process that produces the plant's food occurs in the leaves. Removing more than one-third of them increases plant stress, making the plant more vulnerable to insect attacks or disease. On branches smaller than an inch in diameter, use sharp shears or loppers and cut about 1/4 inch above a node. Choose to cut at a node that will grow away from the center of the plant and into an area where it won't interfere with other branches. If you want to control future growth in a desired direction, prune above a node facing in that direction.

When removing long or heavy branches, making three separate cuts prevents tearing the bark at the base of the branch. Make the first cut an undercut about a foot or more out on the branch and nearly halfway though the branch. Secondly, cut off the weighted end of the branch a few inches farther out and all the way through. Then, remove the remaining stub with the final cut. Be sure to cut just outside the branch collar, which is the swollen joint of the branch where it connects to the trunk. A proper cut outside the branch collar will heal into a symmetrical doughnut shape. The use of pruning paint is not advised.

The four Ds listed below, if followed sequentially, will help ensure pruning success.

- Dead. Remove dead or necrotic material. If it snaps when you bend it, remove it.

- Diseased. Remove branches or leaves that show signs of disease or insect attack, but no more than one-third of the plant. Treat remaining problems in other ways.

- Disfigured. Remove broken or unsightly branches. Remove branches that are rubbing against one another to prevent damage to their bark or plant cells near the surface.

- Dysfunctional. Remove any branches that interfere with the plant's fruiting, flowering, appearance or general health. Remove suckers that appear at the base of the plant as vigorous upright growth, especially those below the graft line on fruit trees. Also remove water sprouts, which appear as strong vertical shoots from the plant's branches. Competing or multiple leads in young trees, as well as narrow crotches with small angles of attachment, should also be eliminated. Pruning to increase flowering and fruiting is very species specific. Do your research before pruning.

Pruning larger trees, especially when it requires a chain saw and a ladder, is best done by a professional.

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