With the start of spring, and the beautiful weather underway, the Parks team has gathered some pruning tips and techniques to help residents with their own tree care this season.
1. Make sure you’ve done your research & have the right tools.
Check specific provincial or federal regulations or instructions for pruning your species of trees. There is a provincial ban on pruning elm trees from April 1-September 30 due to Dutch elm disease and the elm bark beetle. Also, inspect the tree to see if there are signs of stress, disease or pests. If so, it may need to be looked at by a tree specialist.
Once you’ve decided you are able to prune, you’ll want to get the right tools for the job. Pruning tools are very specific and there are even some pruning tools that can only be used on certain types of trees. The size of branches is the biggest factor in choosing a tool.
2. Safety first!
Look into and around the canopy of the tree for any hazards that may be present, such as power lines, guide wires, old signs and nails, animal nests or broken branches. Have a look at the ground around the tree for any tripping hazards (gopher holes or raised roots) because most of your time is spent looking up.
Be sure your tools are sharp and your shears are bypassing properly. A dull tool is not only dangerous to the user but also dangerous for the tree. Dull tools can cause the bark to tear or the cuts to be ragged. Both of these issues create sites for infection, for bugs to lay eggs over winter and they also increase the tree’s healing time.
3. Ready to make the cut?
Where you start in the tree is not as important as what you start pruning. The first branches you look to remove are the three D’s: dead or dying, diseased and damaged. These branches must be removed to help maintain the health of the tree.
Keep in mind that trees have a pruning threshold and no more than 30% of the tree should be removed in a season. This keeps enough of the tree to provide energy to heal and grow. It also reduces the number of suckers (long weak branches that sprout from the base of the tree or from large pruning wounds).
4. Creating shape.
After the first branches have been removed, take a look around the tree canopy and notice the symmetry and any holes that were created. Next, you will want to remove any crossing branches. If you still have a large canopy, you may want to consider structural pruning. Once you have determined what shape you’re looking to create, start at the top choosing what the main leader branch will be. This is usually done by following the main trunk up until it reaches a single branch. A good rule of thumb is to choose the healthiest and straightest branch to the main trunk. Then you can begin removing competing branches.
5. Branch bins are available!
Once you’re finished your pruning, you can take your branches to the City’s branch bins, where they will be chipped and made into mulch that is used in community tree and shrub beds. The branch bins are available April 1 until May 31 and in the fall from September 1 until October 31 at the Public Works yard. The City does not accept root balls and branches covered in dirt as they will destroy the blades on the chipper and branches cannot be larger than 6 inches in diameter.
This year the City is doing a pilot project and will make excess mulch available to residents for free. Pick up is available April 8 – May 20 at John Peake Park.