Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
May, 2009
Regional Report

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This example of an improper pruning cut, shows where a heavy branch was allowed to "tear" down the side of the trunk.

Pruning Native Trees

May to early June is an appropriate time to prune native trees if needed because summer is their active growth period and they quickly produce fresh foliage after trimming. However, don't prune just to prune or because your neighbor is wielding loppers! Have a clear goal of what needs to be done. Good reasons to prune include removing broken, crossed, diseased, weak or dead branches.

Trees possess a remarkable ability to heal pruning cuts. Specialized tissue grows over the cut and seals it, preventing pests and diseases from entering. Called "meristematic" tissue, it is located in the notch where branches meet the trunk (or branches and smaller side branches meet). For the tree to successfully close a pruning wound, you must make a good cut that doesn't damage this tissue.

How to Make a Good Pruning Cut
Make a cut in a straight line between the "branch bark ridge"and the "banch collar."The branch bark ridge is a raised furrow of bark on top of the branch where it meets the trunk. The branch collar is a similar raised furrow on the underside of the branch where it meets the trunk. The specialized healing (or meristematic) tissue is located in the collar.

Don' make "flush" cuts deeper into the trunk or "stub" cuts that leave some of the branch behind. The tree can't seal these kinds of cuts.

How to Remove Heavy Limbs
The goal is to prevent the weight of the limb from ripping bark down the length of the trunk when the cut is made and the limb drops. Not only does this create unsightly damage to your beautiful landscape tree, it opens up a gash for pests and diseases. It is very difficult to support the weight of a limb while it's being cut off. However, making three cuts to remove the limb is manageable:

1. Make an undercut only 1/4 of the way through the branch 6 to 12 inches out from where the final cut will be. This undercut stops the bark from tearing when the bulk of the limb is removed.

2. Inches beyond the first undercut, saw completely through the branch. This removes the weight.

3. Make the final cut through the branch bark ridge and collar, as described above.

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