Commercial Pruning Tips and Best Practices
This time of the year we are doing many things on our landscaping sites, but one of the practices that require more skills from our part is the pruning. It doesn’t matter if you are pruning a shrub, a hedge or a tree, knowing how to properly prune your landscape makes a big difference on the curb appeal, plant health, and even in the amount of time that you have to spend on a particular site.
There are several things that we need to keep in mind when we want to do some pruning.
The timing is crucial, since we want to adjust to the customer’s needs but at the same time we also want to protect their investment by promoting plant health and keeping the best aesthetic value.
As a rule of thumb, the best time to prune would be late winter or early spring, right before it starts growing again, although there are exceptions. To determine the best time to prune a tree or shrub, first we need to know about its growth habit. I.E. some plants like forsythia need to be pruned after flowering in spring, so we don’t end up removing flower buds and the shrub can bloom in all its glory until we go and give it a haircut.
Depending on the kind of pruning that we want to perform, we will use different techniques. For example, if we are cutting a large branch with a significant diameter (I recommend anything over one inch in diameter), we should use the three-cut method to remove the majority of the weight of the branch before the final cut close to the trunk or limb. This way we avoid tearing the bark. The final cut must be done close to the trunk or limb, near the origin of the branch, and never leaving a stub, while avoiding flash cuts too close to the trunk or limb. Always follow the line of the cambium.
It is obvious that when pruning hedges things change a bit, since we have to maintain a certain shape. One of the most important things to remember while trimming a hedge is to never trim the base of the hedge narrower than the top. This will result on blocking the sun light available to the lower parts of the hedge. Where possible, trim the top of the hedge a bit narrower than the base. This will allow the sunlight to hit consistently most of the surface.
A common question that I get is about pruning paint. Although the use of pruning paints is still a wide spread practice, research has shown that it does not provide any additional protection to the plant, and its use should be considered mainly cosmetic. If you chose to use paints to blend the cut with the natural color of the tree or shrub, that’s fine, but keep in mind that there is not plant health benefits to it.
Pruning is a complex practice, and we can go as in depth as we would like on this topic. I’m sure that some of you had developed your own set of pruning guidelines over the years in the industry, and you use them to better fit the needs of your customers. I hope that you find some value in this article.
Stay safe and keep it green!