Pruning Shade Trees
Pruning a tree properly sets up the framework for a lifetime of enjoyment. For a large shade tree like this bur oak, the rule of thumb is the first branches should start about seven feet high off the ground. That means all this material here, all these branches are actually temporary branches. Now we don’t want to get in a hurry and remove these all in the same year. Two years ago, I removed three or four of these lower branches, and now we’ll remove these other three branches this year. So, we’ll gradually raise the crown of the tree. This allows you to get under it for mowing and maintenance.
This is a folding pruning saw. It works excellent for branches from ½” to 3” in diameter. It has a narrow, curved blade that you can easily reach into the crown of a tree and just take off the one branch you want to remove. This is a temporary branch we’re going to remove today. You can see a little bit of a ridge of flaky bark set up between the trunk and the branch. That’s one point you look for. At the base of the branch there’s usually a little swelling called the branch collar. What you’re trying to do is remove that branch just outside of the branch bark ridge and the branch collar – basically removing all the branch tissue, and leaving the trunk tissue intact.
This is the site of one of the branches we removed last year, and it’s about halfway healed. In one more season, that calloused tissue will have completely sealed over the old pruning wound.
If you’re cutting off smaller branches, a hand clipper like this one works well on anything up to about ½” in diameter.
Lopping shears work great on the in between sized branches – between about ½” in diameter up to about 1” or 1 ½” depending on how strong the wood is.
This is a pole pruner. With a pruner like this, you can do some top working of the tree. You can reach way up to the upper branches without using a ladder – keeping yourself safely planted on the ground to remove the given branch you need to prune.
This feature story prepared with Charles Barden, Kansas State University Research and Extension, Forestry. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.