With the extensive drought we are having, pruning your trees is going to be especially important this year. The Forest Service estimates we have lost ten percent of our trees in Texas. Many more trees have had die-backs and extensive damage. Removing the dead trees and pruning the living trees should be a priority for the health of the trees and your safety. No one wants a tree to fall through their roof!
Pruning needs to accomplish three things: remove dead, diseased, and damaged limbs, open up the canopy to air and light to prevent disease, and improve the appearance of the tree. Sometimes limbs must be removed for safety reasons, as well, such as when a limb threatens a structure or pedestrian walk way.
Generally the first cuts are too remove the three ds: dead, damaged, and diseased limbs. These should be cut back to the first joint of living, healthy, tissue. Be aware that cutting large limbs is dangerous and should only be done by a professional. The only thing worse than having a limb drop off and fall through you roof is cutting one off and having it do so.
This year, the bulk of the pruning you do will be of these limbs. In places such as Austin where there were severe watering restirctions, even the native trees died back or died entirely. Young trees were especially vulnerable as they did not have extensive root systems in place to reach what little water their was. This has lead to a need for a lot of tree removal in Round Rock, TX, and surrounding communities that are growing rapidly and have lots of new trees planted.
Often, by the time all the dead and diseased limbs are removed, no further pruning is necessary. However, if the canopy is still crowded, prune all branches pointing down and encourage those growing up. Pick two or three main branches and remove competitors. You want a shapely tree with space inside for air to flow. Otherwise, you run the risk of fungal and bacterial diseases hitting your weakened trees and killing them.
Finally, if there are limbs that just look bad, or destroy the symmetry of the tree, remove them. By the time you have finished pruning, the tree should be pleasing to look at, have all dead and damaged branches removed, and have air flow and light into the canopy. Proper pruning can really help our trees survive this drought. Don’t neglect your trees this winter.
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