Monday, February 18, 2013

The trick to trimming part 1: branches.

Apparently summer’s decided that going out gracefully is for cowards, and is throwing all kinds of tantrums in these final weeks of its reign. We’re getting record-breaking heat one day and frigid winds the next, a week of constant drizzle followed by seven days of perfect sunshine.

It’s actually pretty good growing weather for the young ones; the heavy rain gets the water deep down around the roots, then the hot sun draws the water up before it can cause rot or fungal issues (plus it has something to do with the whole photosynthesis bit I believe).

What it’s not so good for is the older growth, particularly on trees. Any branch that was even the tiniest bit brittle has now turned to fine bone china, due to the bouncing temperature and moisture levels. The next decent gust of wind is going to rip this weaker wood clean off the trunk, and anything it can’t tear off the tree will probably abandon on its own (do the Google for “Summer Branch Drop”; pretty interesting). This is almost always bad news, and so a pre-emptive strike during weather like this is a mighty fine idea. Just as a stitch in time saves nine, so a well timed trim will keep your damage bill thin! That is awful, and I’m sorry.

Anyway the first thing I have to say about trimming tree branches is that if you can’t reach it from the ground with the tools you have then call an arborist. Ladders leaning on branches are ridiculously dangerous. As is climbing a tree with some sort of blade in your hands. Leave this stuff to those who are insured for it.

The next thing I have to say is less condescending and extremely interesting; trees DON’T heal. At all. If a tree takes damage it is there forever, whether you can see it or not. What they do do is “occlude”, which basically means “cover up”. They will grow new tissue over the old wound, making it almost impossible to tell whether or not there is infection in it. A broken branch in 2002 can mean a dead tree in 2013, and few will be able to tell why.

Interesting Mike, yes. But so what?

Well, cheeky, you need to bare this in mind when trimming back dead or dying branches, as what you do now could end up having serious consequences down the track. Cleanliness is the key, for both your tools and how you use them.

Any organic residue on the teeth or blade of your tools can carry bacteria, and as you cut into a branch you’re basically poisoning the tree. Get into the habit of cleaning your tools after using them; a quick wipe, sharpen and dab of oil will not only keep the plants you use them on healthy, it will prolong the life of your tools as well. If you haven’t been doing this, and your tools now look like roman relics, come see us at Four Seasons Nursery; we have an excellent range for sale, for all kinds of budgets.

Now you’ve got clean tools you need to make clean cuts. A straight, square cut, on a slight downward angle, will keep the wound dry and minimise its surface area. This makes it extremely difficult for any harmful bacteria to get a foothold, so when the wound is occluded the tree won’t be absorbing its own doom. In terms of where to make the cut, well that depends on how much of the branch is damaged or dying. Normally though you’ll be taking it right back to the trunk, but remember to leave a good few centimetres of branch there so you don’t accidently graze the trunk when cutting (thus opening more door for infections to move in).

If you’ve got a tree with some branches you are unsure about, feel free to bring some photos into us here at the Nursery; we’ll have a look and make the best recommendations we can.



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