What is Pruning?
Pruning is the process of cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems to promote healthy plant growth. Most plants, including trees, shrubs and garden plants like roses benefit from different methods of pruning and maintenance. Pruning at the wrong time of the year does not necessarily kill your plants, but regular improper pruning may cause damaged or weakened plants.
If you want to provide clearance over streets and paths you may want to perform crown lifting; which is removing the lower branches in the crown. A major benefit is that crown lifting allows more light to pass beneath the crown. This approach is unlikely to alter the tree or harm its top or crown. Lifting means that you are not pruning the more visible higher parts of the crown. When pruning avoid leaving a clear stem that is more than one-third of the tree’s total height, since branches have a significant role to play in controlling the sway of a tree in high winds.
Crown thinning increases both air circulation and light penetration in the crown. The focus of thinning should be removing the branches that are small in diameter; however, removing too many branches from the crown’s center can result in a tree with a poor structure and little ability to prune in future seasons. Be careful to avoid long thin branches and minimal foliage in the lower parts. A tree with these characteristics may be more prone to swaying and may be more vulnerable when it is very windy.
Crown reduction shrinks the overall size of the crown by shortening its branches to boost growth. If you have a tree that has outgrown its space, you might consider crown reduction. When possible, aim to maintain a flowing branch line matching the natural shape of the tree. We rarely recommend crown reduction for trees which take the shape of a pyramid, such as conifers and birches.
With gradual renewal pruning some of the tallest and oldest branches are removed at ground level on an annual basis. Some thinning may be necessary to shorten long branches or maintain a symmetrical shape.
If a shrub is grown for its flowers carefully choose when you prune it to minimize disrupting its blooming. Spring flowering shrubs typically bloom on last season’s growth and should be pruned shortly afterward. Spring blooming trees and shrubs may start to develop new buds as soon as the old buds have fallen. These will need to be pruned shortly after flowering or you may risk pruning off the new buds.
Fruit-bearing plants are best pruned while they are dormant, in late winter through early spring. The primary goal in pruning is to remove old, gray-colored, slow-growing shoots, which are non-fruitful. Removing 40 percent of the peach tree annually stimulates new growth each spring. Also, it opens the center of the tree to increase air circulation, reducing disease pressure while still allowing sunlight into the tree to accelerate fruit color. Finally, pruning is needed to remove diseased or dead shoots, rootstock suckers and any water shoots.