Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Inland Northwest, High Desert
December, 2000
Regional Report

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My beautiful sumac tree will need some corrective pruning this winter.

Pruning Time

The sumac branch was so pretty reaching out to cover that corner of our yard, so even though it should have been pruned, we left it. Unfortunately our car backed out of our snowy driveway right into the branch. Now we have to decide how to correct the injury to our lovely sumac.

Corrective Pruning

one option for correcting the damage is to take a sharp knife and clean up the wound. Tree bark will heal more quickly if the wound is carved into a football shape - pointy on both ends.

On the other hand, this is a big wound for such a little tree. The better solution would be to cut the entire branch back to the trunk. That will take out more tree than we would like, but it's the sensible choice for our tree.

How to Prune

The first step is to take the outer, smaller branches off. That will lessen the pressure on the larger branch that must be cut out. Once those branches are gone, cut the largest, injured branch close to the trunk with a pruning saw. The best place to cut is right is at the base of the branch near the wrinkled bark. We must take care to cut close to those wrinkles, but not past them.

Hormones in those wrinkles signal the bark to close up quickly. By next spring, when the tree begins to grow again, bark will start closing over the wound. We won't apply pruning paint or sealant on the tree because we could inadvertently lock in some bacteria, fungus, or insect. Better to let the tree take care of itself.

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