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Can pruning cause damage to a tree?

Posted on: March 6th, 2014

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Can pruning cause damage to a tree?
While most of a tree surgeon’s work involves tackling natural disease and decay, tree felling or removal, sadly we’re occasionally called out to deal with the consequences of amateur pruning. Pruning is a useful procedure and helps to prevent insect decay through the removal of dead or damaged branches. Thinning the canopy of a tree is proven to restore health by increasing air penetration and sunlight. However, pruning is only beneficial in the right circumstances and carried out properly. Incorrect pruning can cause irreversible damage which may result in the tree’s premature death.

Trees have a different way of healing than human’s do and will grow over a wound, concealing it internally rather than repairing the cut. Every incision to a tree can have an impact on its future growth which is why many homeowners choose to employ the services of a professional tree surgeon when a tree requires pruning.

The location of pruning is essential to maintaining a tree’s health and vitality. Pruning should only ever take place just outside the branch collar as the branch collar contains trunk tissues which if removed or damaged could result in permanent damage and internal disease. Some people make the mistake of over-pruning the interior of a tree. By removing too much foliage, you run the risk of starving the tree as each branch is required to provide food to grow and feed the trunk and roots. Many experts agree that keeping at least half of the leaves in the lower area of the tree will protect against this.

Another important aspect of pruning is access to the proper tools. When pruning very young trees, hand pruning shears are necessary to limit the incision to no more than absolutely necessary. Tools should always be sharp as the cleaner the cut, the less stress will be caused to the tree and it will be more likely to recover.

Nature has its own way of pruning and trees that lay undisturbed by humans in a forest thrive however it is generally accepted that those in a more urban environment often need a helping hand. Whatever your reasons for pruning, seek advice first about how to perform the procedure correctly and if in doubt, consult the professionals. Working at height, especially with dangerous tools, carries substantial risk of injury and even the professionals who’ve trained for such circumstances cannot escape the hazards. Figures from the Health and Safety Executive reveal 26 tree surgeons have been killed and almost 1,400 suffered an injury through tree work over the past nine years. Are you willing to take the risk?

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