Tree Tips




Deciduous Trees  Including such trees as Maples, Oaks, Redbuds, Crabapples, Pears and other trees that lose their leaves in winter. These trees are grown for their colorful leaves, as a larger shade tree, or a nice flowering specimen.  They should be pruned as they grow to create a central leader (main trunk).  This is best done in late winter before buds brake.  One should remove any other vertical branches taking them down to the main trunk.  After developing a central leader one should select strong scaffold (side) branches.  These should have a wide crotch between 60 and 90 degrees and be evenly positioned around the central leader.  Remove those that you do not wish to leave on the tree.  The scaffold branches may be thinned to help open up the canopy. One should also take care to remove any crossing or dead branches, as well as water sprouts.  These can and should be removed at any time of the year.  

It is advisable to never remove more that 20% of a trees branches at one time. Trees should never be topped; topping trees weakens the structure, making it more vulnerable to insect and disease damage.  It also reduces the life expectancy and destroys the appearance.  Some trees bleed sap when pruned in early spring such as birch, maple, elm, walnut, poplar, willow, and linden and should only be pruned after the leaves have opened in spring.  This makes them less likely to bleed sap.  Trees in the Rosacea family such as crabapples, hawthorns, and ash should only be pruned in spring - if pruned too late in the year it can interfere with the trees ability to harden off in readiness for the upcoming winter.  Dead, diseased, broken or damaged branches along with water sprouts and suckers can be removed at any time.  It is advisable to fertilize deciduous trees in late April or early may.  A fertilizer with a 2-1-1 or 3-1-1 ratio is advisable such as Espoma Tree Tone.  Mature and established trees may not need fertilizer every year and can be harmed by excessive fertilization. 


Japanese Maples  There are many types of Japanese maples from the smaller laceleaf types to the larger upright forms.  All Japanese maples require about the same kind of pruning.  If one has enough space, Japanese maples can be left to grow in a natural state and they are naturally self pruning and will shape themselves. It is advisable if you wish to keep the tree a smaller size or open up the structure, regular thinning should be done. This species should not be pruned as a hedge but rather methodically shaped by carefully removing select branches.  You should remove branches that are crossing, dead, or those that are too dense to see the form of the tree.  You can remove up to a third of the branches at one time.  This can be done from early spring into the fall. Trees heal quickly after pruning and need no aftercare.  Japanese Maples don’t require a lot of fertilization, but a low level in late winter or early spring is good to promote healthy growth.  It is recommended to use a balanced low level, fertilizer such as Espoma Plant Tone.  Avoid fertilizing at other times of the year as it can promote new growth too late in the season and could be damaged by winter cold, snow and ice.