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The Benefits of Pruning: Safety!

Posted on Thursday, October 27, 2016

It's no wonder that we are obsessed with trees! Aside from being a beautiful and peaceful addition to a landscape, trees are critical for our well-being. Here are just a few things that trees do for us:


- Filter air pollutants
- Provide us with oxygen
- Cool the streets and the city
- Help prevent soil erosion and water pollution


And, of course, they provide us with material goods as well. You can read more about the benefits of trees HERE if you like.


On the other hand, our urban trees do come at a special cost. In urban or suburban settings they must be maintained regularly to reduce the risk of a limb or a whole tree failing and possibly injuring a person or damaging property.


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Take a look at your trees, in the company of an arborist if possible, and consider:


If part of this tree fails, where will it land? (Targets)
Are any parts of the tree of special concern? (Hazards)


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How can pruning improve the safety of your tree? If you have time for a coffee break, feel free to take one now as we dig a little deeper into the issue:


1. Prune the canopy for improved structure ("structural prune")


Every species has a different structure that works best for it. The structure of most individual trees will vary slightly depending on the location of sunlight and obstacles that may be in its way, such as a building or another tree. In general, a well-structured tree will have one dominant trunk with well-attached, appropriately sized branches that each have their own space to grow a healthy show of leaves. Poor structure in the form of weak branch attachments, trunks that compete for dominance, and interfering branches can create problems that, in time, lead to serious hazards. Structural pruning is best done when the tree is young and the pruning wounds will be small. 


2. Regularly maintain the canopy through maintenance pruning


It is possible, even in a well-structured canopy, for older branches to die, and for young branches to take advantage of pockets of light and grow in interfering ways. It is also possible for other trees in the area to shed branches that will fall into your tree, creating hazards known as "hangers". Maintenance pruning focuses on cleaning out "deadwood" and "hangers" as well as any diseased or decaying wood and interfering branches that are likely to cause bigger problems in the future. This type of maintenance helps discourage pests from moving in and also removes material that could be thrown out of the canopy in a windstorm. 


3. Reduce long limbs that are holding a lot of weight


Each branch is a lever that is attached to another branch or trunk at one end and holds weight on the other. As it grows, that branch grows strong enough to withstand normal winds, but in an extreme wind event the branch can pick up momentum swaying back and forth until it hits a breaking point. Not every branch is a hazard in this way, but if an arborist finds that a branch is especially long and heavily loaded due to a lack of early structural pruning, reducing its load in the proper manner will also reduce the levering forces that act on that branch. 


Note: It is extremely important that you have the reduction done by an arborist who is properly trained to do so. An improper reduction can create more of a hazard than you had in the first place.


A healthy tree is a safer tree, as well! Adequate water and nutrients will help the tree maintain strong and vigorous branches.


And, of course, sometimes a tree is in such poor health that no amount of pruning will make it safe enough to coexist with us and it must be removed.


Here’s to a healthy and safe urban forest!



Services that we offer:


  • Pruning
  • Risk Assessment
  • Deep Root Fertilization
  • Removal

Call for a free estimate! (905) 827-9103

Tree not pruned
Trees pruned
(Thanks to Madison Tree Care & Landscaping for the pics of Structural Pruning!)

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