of the beginning items to discuss is the equipment. Most pruning can be done with three pieces of equipment. The
most used piece is a pair of bypass pruning shears. These shears
will cut up to about three-eighths inch comfortably and make
sharp cuts that don't tear or crush. There are still anvil-type
shears available, but their use is mainly in vineyards, to
girdle grapevine ends. The second piece of equipment is a bypass
lopper. Loppers can cut up to about 1.5 inch wood, depending on
the type and size. If you have the money, a good set of
compound-action loppers would be a good investment. The third
piece of equipment is a pruning saw. These can come in several
shapes, sizes and price ranges. For smaller limbs, a folding or
straight pruning saw is a good buy. For larger limbs, a bow saw
may be needed. The maneuverability and ease of use are key
points when selecting a saw.
The time of year we prune various trees and shrubs is
important. Most trees and shrubs that aren't flowering in nature
should be pruned between December and mid-March. Flowering trees
and shrubs should be done after they flower. Evergreens are best
pruned in late June. With oak wilt in the area, oaks should be
pruned in December to lessen sap flow, which attracts
virus-carrying beetles. And, any branch that hits you in the
face when you are mowing should be cut off immediately (except
on those oak trees)!
Basic pruning should serve to remove poor branches, keep the
plant growing aggressively and do a little bit with shaping a
plant. Poor branches mean bad angles from a trunk or main
branch, dead branches, branches that rub together, or multiple
leaders. As far as keeping a plant growing aggressively,
remember that pruning is a rejuvenation process. Regular pruning
also produces more 2-year-old wood that produces fruit on fruit
trees and flowers on flowering trees and shrubs. Minor shaping
and sizing are possible, but major changes probably mean a
different plant should be selected.
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When making a pruning cut, the key is to cut back to something.
Branch tips can be cut back to a bud, and entire branches can be cut
back to another branch or the main trunk. When making the cut to a
branch or trunk, cut to the edge of the collar (about one-sixteenth
of an inch from the other branch). Cutting too close to the other
branch destroys the water-carrying tissue, and leaving a stub will
guarantee a rotten branch stub (that will eventually rot into the
main branch or trunk). If you are making cuts on large branches, it
is best to cut once about 18 inches from the main branch, then make
a second cut to leave the one-sixteenth-inch collar. This will help
prevent the cut branch from tearing other branches.
Topping a tree lessens weight and reduces size for a short period
of time. Within five years of topping, you will generally have more
weight and growth than you would have had without topping.
Hopefully these basic pruning hints will help you get started on
the right foot. Remember the golden rule of pruning: "If you think
you've cut out too much, you're probably about right."
University of Illinois Extension, Logan County]