Trees are the dominant features in the home landscape. They have a profound effect on almost all aspect of aesthetics, and even our moods. They also effect our pest control and pest prevention efforts.
Trees and pestsGood pest prevention practices apply to trees as well as the rest of your landscape. Proper maintenance will repel insects and weeds, poor practices will attract them like a lawyer to an ambulance. If they are pruned carefully, they will provide shade, protection, cooling and improved air quality. If improperly pruned, they can become an insect and rodent attraction, and a highway into your home!
Tree choicesProper maintenance and care should begin when the tree is planted, with the choice of the tree. In most cases, you will have little to do with that part. It is probable that the trees in your landscape have been there for many years, perhaps, even many decades. It will be up tyo you to do the best you can with what you inherited. If you do have the choice, always choose something that is native to your area, and suited to your situation.
Tree careAside from the choice of trees, other factors related to pest prevention have to do with the care and feeding of the trees. Make sure that they receive appropriate water and nutrients in the appropriate amounts, and proper pruning when needed. Tree branches which touch the home provide a roadway for insects and rodents. Such branches should be removed. You may also need to prune a tree to keep limbs and branches from damaging your home, or to remove damaged limbs. When doing so, keep these things in mind:
Tree care safetySafety should be your priority!
- If a tree falls in the woods and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? I am not sure. But if a tree limb falls on your head and knocks you off a ladder, and there is no one around to call for an ambulance, you could die! Make sure that someone is nearby and aware of what you are doing before you do any major tree pruning.
- Know the location of all overhead power and communication lines and avoid them. If you have a situation that looks like it could be dangerous, call a professional.
- Watch for people and pets in the fall zone.
- Make sure you have the proper equipment, and that it is in good repair.
- Wear personal protective gear. This may include gloves, safety glasses, and other equipment specific to the job.
Don't topNever top or pollard a tree! Just don't do it. There is always a better way. Just set the chain saw and the pruners down, take a knee, and give me your attention for a few minutes. I know you want to make it perfect in shape and form, but what you are about to do will eliminate that possibility. Besides that, there is no reason you have to do it to get that just right shape for your tree.
Why not top?If you top a tree, you will notice a sudden burst of young tender growth in the spring. Some people think this indicates a healthy tree. In actuality, it is the trees last ditch effort at survival. It is a mode similar to a human being gasping for air. The new growth will be poorly connected, and will be easy prey to insects, fungus, and disease. If you have any doubts about the truth of what I am saying, just walk around your neighborhood for a while with what I have said implanted in your mind. You will immediately see the truth of what I am saying. It is self evident.
Find the tree's natural shapeTrees are genetically predisposed to certain shapes. finding your trees natural shape will give you a lot to go by. If it is naturally conical, it will continue to grow into that shape, no matter what you do. If the tree has a rounded habit, it will grow rounded. Find out what shape the tree has in it's natural setting and let that be your guide.
Cut to a lateral branchIf you need to thin the branches a little, that is no problem. Find the base of the unruly branch. You will notice some callous at the base of the connection. make your cut just outside of this. This area of your tree contains a lot of growth producing cells. When you remove the branch, the cells will kick in quickly to start the recovery process. This will be seen in the form of more callous. Make a clean cut. Ragged edges slow healing and invite disease. Never cut part of a branch off and leave the rest sticking out. If you do, it will allow the remaining part of the branch to die back inviting disease and insects into the tree. Eventually it will rot away, leaving a knot hole which will allow water inside to further degrade the infrastructure of the tree. Always cut back to a base or a lateral branch.
Support heavy branchesAs you prune, make sure the branch you are taking off is supported, so that it won't peel away the bark. If it is to heavy, tie it off, or use a three cut method. That is, make your first cut several inches away from the lateral branch, so that the majority of the weight is removed before you make the final cut. You should also make a cut underneath and closer to the tree than the first, so that if it starts to peel bark, it will stop when it reaches this cut.
Do not use pruning paintDo not use pruning paint! I know you have always been told to, but don't do it. The materials in the paint will not allow for the proper healing of the wound. the callous will only develop where the paint isn't. Remember:
- Know your trees natural growth habit.
- When you prune, prune to a lateral branch.
- Make a clean cut.
- Cut just outside the callous of the limb or branch connection.
- Never leave stubs or nubs of branches.
- Support the branch being removed. Make three cuts if needed.
- Do not use pruning paint.