Gardening with Allen: April snowstorm reminds us to prune trees
Published: May 28, 2022, 6:00am
Could you do a column about keeping trees pruned for health and safety? After the April snow damaged trees, my husband and I went around picking up broken branches for our neighbors. We need to know what else needs to be done.
Many tree branches did break during that April snow. Most people have cleaned up the broken branches, but additional pruning may be needed so that jagged broken branch ends are not left on the trees.
It is usually best to remove broken branches back to their origin from the trunk or a larger branch. In most cases, a pruning saw is the best tool to use. Saw close to the larger branch unless it is larger than 3 inches in diameter. Then it is best to leave a slight shoulder of about a quarter-inch. In larger branches, this shoulder contains the healing tissue needed for wound covering.
While you are pruning, look for other dead branches that have not leafed out and remove them, too. When branches grow so thickly that they overlap and rub together, remove the ones that grow in toward the center of the tree or grow up and leave the ones that grow outward.
Some trees produce a lot of branches referred to as water sprouts, which grow straight up from the trunk or side branches. These are best removed as close to where they originate as possible.
This is the time when many young trees are planted to improve our landscapes. A small amount of yearly pruning can prevent future problems with these young trees.
Even though most trees will have their lowest side branches at the 6- to 8-foot level when they are mature, it is best to shorten but leave the branches below that level on the tree until it becomes more mature. The food made by those side branches is used to make the trunk grow in diameter more quickly.
Most trees are healthiest with a single leader or trunk. If the tip of that leader is damaged or pruned, multiple trunks begin to develop. Keep the straightest one, and shorten or remove the others.
Keep an area around the base of young trees free from grass and weeds, and they will grow faster. Grass has fibrous roots that are very competitive for water and nutrients.
Apply general-purpose or lawn fertilizer each year in the spring. A 2-inch layer of bark dust mulch will suppress 90 percent of new weed sprouts.
Allen Wilson is a Vancouver gardening specialist. firstname.lastname@example.org