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Editorial: Healthy tree remedies
Mind your pruning, and start first aid soon for trees damaged by winter weather
By Cynthia Orlando
March 2013
 This is a photo of a Silver Maple tree receiving pruning from a certified arborist.
A community’s trees provide its residents with a wide variety of important benefits: clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat, and reduced energy consumption, to name a few.

While it’s true well-cared for trees are attractive, they also contribute sizable economic value to a property.

Certified arborists can help with tasks such as pruning and emergency tree care. Homeowners often wonder if a tree should be removed if it looks sickly, dead or dying, for example, or if it will stand in the way of new construction in the area.

Here are some tips on winter tree care from the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Tree pruning
  • February or early March, before their buds first start to expand, are both great months to prune trees. But be forewarned. If done correctly, pruning can lengthen a tree’s life, increase its value to the landscape, and minimize safety issues. If done improperly, however — especially if trees are over-pruned or “topped” — pruning can lead to numerous problems, including pests, decay, liability issues and ultimately a shorter lifespan.

  • Watch for pruning workshops offered through the Oregon State University Extension Service  (e.g., in Lane County, contact information is 541-344-5859; http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane) or consider hiring a certified arborist.

Young trees
  • Lightly pruning a tree while it’s still young helps ensure it won’t become a hazard later. Begin light pruning once the tree is established (one to three years after planting).

  • With young trees, the objective is to create a dominant leader so the tree will be structurally strong. The leader is the central stem of the tree. Trees with a main stem or trunk that branches into a narrow fork often form a V-crotch with “included” (embedded) bark in it, a structurally weak part of the tree.

  • If competing leaders exist, keep the strongest, most vertical stem and remove the other branch. Remember, don’t cut into the bark ridge of a branch with so-called “flush cuts.” For diagrams, see www.treesaregood.com/treecare/pruning_young.aspx.
Mature trees
  • In older trees, a primary pruning objective is to reduce potential hazards by removing the dead wood, weakly attached limbs, rubbing limbs, or broken branches. Just remember: even 25 percent of live foliage removed on mature trees is too much in many circumstances.

  • An arborist can identify and remove diseased or insect-infested limbs, branches that are too close to overhead wires, or limbs that have been damaged by weather.
In many cases, damage caused by poor tree pruning can never be reversed. Certified arborists not only must pass a comprehensive exam, they also must continue their education to maintain certification and adhere to a code of ethics.

Check for arborist certification, and ask for proof of insurance (the International Society of Arboriculture has a directory of certified arborists at http://pnwisa.org).

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Cynthia Orlando has a degree in forest management and is a certified arborist with the Oregon Department of Forestry.
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Photo Description:  This Silver Maple in Springfield, Oregon, received help from a certified arborist twice in its past: once for a crown restoration to save the tree following a topping by prior property owners, and five years later, to safely remove several large limbs that came down during a 2012 winter snow storm.