Summer Tree Trimming

It’s July, it’s really hot outside, so now is the ideal time to trim those low hanging tree branches.  Yes now, while is it too hot to really be working outside, is the ideal time to do that trimming you’ve been wanting to do since springtime.  According to our local forestry specialist, our winters here are typically not cold enough for winter trimming, and heavy pruning of live tissue just after the spring growth flush should be avoided, especially on weak trees.

Because each cut has the potential to change the growth of the tree, no branch should be removed without a reason.  Specific types of pruning may help maintain a mature tree in a healthy, safe, and attractive condition.  Cleaning is the removal of dead, dying, diseased, weakly attached, and low-vigor branches from the crown of a tree.  Thinning is selective branch removal to improve structure and to increase light penetration and air movement through the crown.  Proper thinning opens the foliage of a tree, reduces weight on heavy limbs, and helps retain the tree’s natural shape.  Raising removes the lower branches from a tree to provide clearance for buildings, vehicles, pedestrians, and vistas. Reduction reduces the size of a tree, often for utility line clearance.  Reducing a tree’s height or spread is best accomplished by pruning back the leaders and branches to secondary branches large enough to assume the terminal roles (at least one-third the diameter of the cut stem).  Reduction helps maintain the form and structural integrity of the tree and is a healthy alternative to topping.

How Much Should Be Pruned?  The amount of live tissue that should be removed depends on the tree’s size, species, and age, as well as the pruning objectives.  Younger trees tolerate the removal of a higher percentage of living tissue better than mature trees do.  Generally, no more than 25% of the crown should be removed at once, and less for mature trees.  Removing even a single, large-diameter limb can result in significant canopy loss and can create a wound that the tree may not be able to close.  Care should be taken to achieve pruning objectives while minimizing live branch loss and wound size.

Research has shown that wound dressings do not reduce decay or speed wound closure, and rarely prevent insect or disease infestations.  Most experts recommend that wound dressings not be used unless you are pruning an oak in an area where oak wilt is present (like Bosque County).

A few tree diseases, such as oak wilt, can be spread when pruning wounds provide access to pathogens. The best time to prune an oak is when a contaminated beetle is least likely to find your tree.  If you trim an oak, IMMEDIATELY seal off the fresh cut with latex paint or wound paint.  This stops the pheromone attraction of the beetles.

If you are concerned with the health of your trees you may call me out for a site visit, the Texas Forestry Service is here to help as well, or you can hire an arborist.  When hiring someone to trim your trees or doing it yourself, please be mindful of proper sanitation of the equipment as to decrease spread of pathogens as well.

For more information contact Chelsea Dorward at chelsea.dorward@ag.tamu.edu or call 254-435-2331

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