By Jessica Weber, Business Developer, Certified Arborist (WE-11779A), Park West Tree Care
More than 325 million people live in the U.S. today, and it’s no surprise that according to the USDA close to 80% of them live in urban areas. Yet these cities and suburbs are home to some of the most overlooked occupants – city trees.
While most city residents pay no heed to their leafy neighbors, a whole tree care industry is working behind the scenes to maintain our urban forests. Many factors contribute to the care and maintenance of city trees, but proper tree pruning is crucial to not only the development of the tree, but the area in which it is planted.
Why Trees Need To Be Maintained
Trees are living organisms that, whether we like it or not, will continue to grow and thrive in the most rugged of environments. In most cases, tree trimming is used as a form of correction, as well as conservation. When assessing city trees for maintenance, three main components are taken into consideration:
Safety: If a tree poses any risk to the residents of the community (broken limbs, severe lean, death of the tree), safety is always the number-one priority.
Health: Identifying underlying issues affecting the current state of a tree is necessary when determining its expected longevity and can help prevent safety hazards in the future.
Aesthetics: A well-pruned tree always stands out in any landscape. By removing unhealthy or dead limbs, diseased areas of the canopy or water sprouts, the tree’s outward appearance will benefit.
Proper Pruning Styles
While the reason for pruning may vary, the techniques used by tree care professionals have stayed consistent. Three of the most common styles used by the industry when tackling street tree maintenance are structural pruning, crown thinning and crown restoration.
Structural pruning: Usually the first step taken when addressing young trees, but appropriate and often necessary on trees of all ages. This type of pruning involves the removal or reduction of stems or branches that are competing with a tree’s main leader, which is the main trunk or vertical stem. This technique aims at developing a strong, natural looking tree structure.
Crown thinning: The process of removing selected branches to reduce the density of the canopy. This style increases light penetration and air movement throughout the canopy, significantly reducing the risk of pests and disease. The intention of crown thinning is to retain the tree’s natural shape, while continuously improving its structure.
Crown restoration: The final component of proper pruning and a potentially tricky process. This type of pruning is typically used when a tree has been damaged by a storm, suffered a broken limb or been topped. Restoration will typically require continuous pruning of a tree over time before recovering to a healthy structure. This process involves cutting the damaged limbs to stimulate new growth, which will then be selectively pruned to produce structurally sound branches.
Contacting a Tree Care Professional
When searching for the right tree care professional, it’s important to find an accredited arborist or tree care company that is affiliated with the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and/or the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) and who follows ANSI A300 industry standards.