Trees are one of the most beautiful creations in the plant world. Unfortunately we human beings have a way of pruning the bee geebies out of them on a regular basis. What is it about us that makes us think we need to prune (think massacre) all the life out of our trees? Especially trees lining our city and county streets.
I drive from north of Poulsbo in to Bremerton to the Extension Office Monday through Friday and all along Kitsap Way and 11th Street I see trees that have all their limbs whacked back. None of these trees is under, near or in the way of power lines, nor are they blocking any views, but still every year some “landscape” company, and I use the term very sceptically, comes in and prunes off all the trees branches and limbs until the tree looks like a coat rack.
Why do they do that? Why do businesses hire them to do that? There are so many reputable companies in the landscape and arborist business who would do the proper job. What makes it even worse is these poor brutalized trees were fine as they were and there was no reason to prune them at all.
In a minute we’ll talk a bit about proper pruning techniques but first while we’re on the subject of trees my other pet peeve is trees that have been planted and staked. The stakes and wires are left on for years, compromising the tree’s ability to grow strong and be anchored. Quite often the wires are so tightly wrapped around the tree that the tree’s bark grows around the wire and eventually the tree dies because it’s natural circulation of water and nutrients from the soil can no longer travel up through it’s vascular system. The tree is essentially strangled for lack of a better way to describe what happens.
I’ve often thought we should start a group called “Release the Trees” and we could go around the county in the dark of night pulling out the wooden stakes and removing all the wires around tree trunks of all the staked trees. Don’t get me wrong, it’s sometimes ok to stake a tree but no longer than 6 months tops.
When a tree is planted without stakes the action of the wind and weather moves the tree back and forth. In response to this, the tree anchors itself firmly into the soil. The tree’s roots grow properly and the structure of the tree becomes healthy and strong. Proper staking (when necessary) is only used as a gentle support and the braces and wires are removed within a few months.
This is also the time of year when many people decide to prune trees. Fruit trees do need pruning and the months for that are indeed from now through early March. Here’s a helpful free fruit tree pruning publication to download http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pdf/pnw/pnw400.pdf
Pruning is used to remove diseased, dying or dead plant material. It’s best done on a yearly basis before the branches get too large in diameter. Pruning is also a way to train young trees. Visit our local libraries or bookstores to find “Guide to Pruning” a very helpful book by Cass Turnbull, founder of Plant Amnesty. Also check out Plant Amnesty’s website http://plantamnesty.org for information on what, when, where and how to prune woody shrubs and trees. You’ll also see Cass’s hall of shame trees (aka the bad pruning gallery) – images of how no tree or shrub should look.
Also look for “The Pruning of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers” by George E. Brown, edited and enlarged by Tony Kirkman. It’s the second edition of this book which was first published in 1972. Brown was a famous arborist and founder of the Arboriculture Association and many changes have come about in arboriculture since the first edition of this book. Kirkman revised the text to reflect current practices and has added 50 new images. Trees are listed by genus and species with tips on estimated size at maturity, when to prune for the best health of the tree and at what age the tree will flower or fruit.
Copies of a short DVD video tutorial on tree pruning can be purchased at the WSU Kitsap Extension Office for $7.50. Call 360-337-7157 or email email@example.com for details.