Pruning Trees and Protecting with Dormant Spray
As the sun begins it’s annual pilgrimage Northward and our daylight hours increase, buds on tree branches begin to swell, hailing the return of spring. This is prime time for pruning trees. When pruning fruit or shade trees, still dormant from their winter sleep, there are a few important rules that need to be followed.
To start off, pruning cuts should be made with clean, sharp tools that are well matched for the job, to help minimize the spread of disease and prevent unnecessary damage. Clean, sharp tools make clean, healthy cuts, and when properly made heal quickly, with little risk of disease or insect damage. Trees should be pruned to remove dead and damaged branches, encourage proper shaping and spacing of branches, and to allow for better airflow, and sun penetration.
Larger branches (those 3” in diameter and larger) require a larger saw and are best removed using the “three-cut” method, rather than making a single, bark-tearing cut. The first cut is made 6" to 12” further from the trunk from the final desired cut. This first cut is made by cutting underneath the branch to a depth of one or two inches, making sure to cut completely through the outer bark layer. The second cut is made just outside the first cut, from the top of the branch downward. As the cut is nearly completed, the branch will fall and tear back to the first cut on the underside of the branch, leaving a short (6-12 inch) stump. The third cut removes the stump left from the previous cuts and is made just outside the branch collar (rough ridge of circular bark around base of branch). Cutting too close to or into trunk will scar the tree, and prevent proper compartmentalization of wound wood to seal the wound. Leaving too long of a stump will invite disease and insect damage. Pruning smaller branches (less than 2” in diameter) can be accomplished with smaller saws, loppers or hand pruners, using a single cut.
After trees have been pruned it is recommended to spray them with a dormant oil spray. Spraying should be done while trees are still dormant, but may be delayed until just before trees bloom if desired. This treatment helps to control the first wave of insects for the season. Dormant oil sprays will not only suffocate and kill insects and their eggs that have overwintered on the tree, they also coat pruning cuts, to help seal out moisture, and prevent disease and insects from entering those cuts until they dry and heal. This dormant spray is recommended regardless of whether or not trees have been pruned. Spraying with dormant oil also helps repel insect infestations until post-bloom sprays can be applied.
Steve Regan Company promotes the correct and timely pruning and spraying of trees and shrubs, and carries both professional and residential pruning tools and dormant spray options to facilitate these practices. We carry Bahco, Corona and Wolf Garten pruning tools as well as many dormant sprays for insect and disease control. Contact us today for recommendations specific to your needs.
By Darren Hall