Developing healthy trees with good structure should begin soon after a young tree is planted. Like children, trees need good training to develop to their full potential.
In fact, proper tree structure should be developed as a tree is growing in the nursery. Unfortunately, many nursery grown trees have been pruned to fit a misconceived notion of what a tree should look like. Often nursery grown trees have skinny trunks and tops that have been cut off to develop a full canopy. This type of structure is the opposite of optimal. When a tree grows in nature without any help from us, the lower branches remain intact. These low branches help to shade the trunk preventing sunburn and bark damage. They also provide nutrients and increase the growth of the lower trunk. The result is a large trunk with good structure.
When the top of the tree is not cut to make it fuller it has the potential to grow a single dominant trunk that provides the best structure for the tree. Ideally, young trees should be pruned to develop a dominant or central leader (trunk) with horizontal branch attachments that have proper spacing. Branches that grow horizontally from the main trunk are stronger than “V” shaped upright branches.
These “V” shaped branches are also more likely to grow upwards and compete with the central leader. Some tree species are more inclined to develop better structure without much pruning. Sycamore trees and Sourgum (Tupelo) tend to have horizontal branch attachments naturally. Maple and Coast Live Oaks tend to grow multiple trunks with weak attachments that can lead to trunk failures as they mature.
Some tree species are inherently weak with soft wood such as willows and poplars. Other species are more prone to branch failures as they mature, like eucalyptus and redwood trees, especially during strong wind events. Understanding typical failure patterns help the Certified Arborists at TreePro develop the best pruning plan for your home.
The best way to ensure a stronger and healthier tree is to start pruning early and follow the guidelines from the “ANSI A-300 Standards for Tree Pruning.” Another great guide for pruning young trees is a booklet called “Five Steps to Training Young Trees.” Both these publications can be found at the International Society of Arboriculture website at isa-arbor.com.