Heartwood Tree Care LLC – Tree Service, Tree Care, Tree Removal, Pruning, Tree Planting Caldwell, Nampa, Boise, Kuna, Eagle

“Proper pruning is one of the best things that can be done for a tree: improper pruning is one of the worst things that can be done to a tree.” -Dr. Alex Shigo

What is the difference between proper and improper pruning? That is a good question. There is probably more than one acceptable answer, but the full answer is not going to be rote and formulaic. It will be situationally dependent and borne out of a correct mindset. It will involve more than just proper technique. It will begin with a solid answer to the question “why does this tree need pruned”; an answer that goes beyond vague generalizations (e.g., “it needs opened up”, “it’s too thick”, “it needs a haircut”, etc.) Unfortunately, there are many “professionals” who routinely prescribe and perform improper pruning. It’s the sad truth. Just because someone has shiny equipment, and “thirty years of experience” does not mean you can always count on them to do proper pruning. What is proper can depend on the circumstances, but it should never ignore what’s best for the tree. Knowing how to “make a proper cut” is worthless if the branch should not be removed in the first place. Sometimes no pruning at all, or very little pruning is what’s best. Or, when a tree is young, proper pruning will proactively correct defects in the branching structure. In this case, “what’s best” may not look that convincing. But if good structure is being developed, this kind of pruning will be one of the main differences between a tree that lasts 10 years and a tree that lasts for many generations. Sadly, in our culture of hyper mobilization and globalization, there are fewer people who are rooted enough to care about particular places and multi- generational connectedness, but that’s another conversation.

A good starting point to proper pruning is an awareness of the national industry standards. These standards are known as the ANSI A300 Standards. (Pronounced An’ zee.) Part one of these standards covers pruning practices.

Before hiring someone to prune your trees, ask if their pruning will follow these standards. You don’t need to know the ins and outs of these standards, but realize that they completely guide the pruning process, including the “why” and the “how”. They reinforce the importance of specifying the objective or objectives before pruning. No one should start pruning before they identify their objectives and can specify how those objectives will be met. Sounds trite but it really is important. For example, orchardists prune their fruit trees every year. A general awareness of the occurrence of orchard pruning might lead some homeowners to believe that are neglecting their yard trees if they don’t get them pruned regularly, or that when they do prune their trees, they should mimic orchard pruning (i.e., cut them back to size and open them up). Orchard pruning, however, is performed to meet a specific objective: large, tasty fruit. Orchard pruning is not for the long-term benefit of the trees; it is primarily for developing good, easily picked fruit.

If you read this far and are still interested, wonderful. We’d be happy to hear from you if want to talk trees. Or if you have any questions, feel free to reach out. If you want to learn more about pruning (and are willing to invest a little money) you might want to get this book: An Illustrated Guide to Pruning by Edward F. Gilman.