Q. I planted a shoestring last Spring, and it is doing well. It has five lower limbs off of the main trunk and one of them is all most as long as the tree is tall. I was wondering if I can cut them off this Fall? They are so low they will be removed eventually any way. If I remove them will it help the main trunk to grow faster? Will it hurt the tree to cut them off now?
A. There are several things you can do about this. You will not hurt the tree to remove a few limbs (particularly lower ones) now. When I went to school and studied arboriculture, my professor would say two things I will never forget; the best time to prune is when the pruners are sharp AND if you know how to prune, you can prune using only your thumbnail. I have always strived in learning how to prune, what he meant by that. As time passed, I slowly learned.
In the desert we have to be a bit more careful in pruning because our environment is so harsh but the principles he taught me are still valid.
Remove tree limbs very close to the trunk, making the cut with a sharp, clean and preferably sterilized pruning shears. Make the cut leaving a tiny bump (called the shoulder) intact on the trunk. Don’t cut flush to the tree trunk.
|The shoulder of a limb attached to the trunk and where to make the cut in relation to the shoulder.|
Let me explain better where to cut. If you look at the limb, where it attaches to the trunk, you will see that it flare (become wider) at its base, at a point where it attaches to the trunk. Cut with the smallest cut possible but as close to this flair as you can. Do not leave a stub. Leaving this flair intact on the tree trunk is NOT leaving a stub.This type of cut, not cutting into the flair, will heal much faster than if you cut or remove the flair. You do not need pruning paint.
If limbs are too long, yes, go ahead and cut them back now. Not a problem. You just do not want to make major cuts that change the basic structure of the tree now which opens it up to sunlight that might damage the limbs and trunk through sunburn.
The fewer side branches or limbs you have (within reason), the faster the tree will grow in height. So remove smaller, weaker limbs or branches at the trunk. You can do that now as well.