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Pruning is the selective removal of tree parts to control growth, promote health, and enhance the appearance of your tree. It should not be delayed until the landscape is overgrown.
The following are tips to help maintain your plants so that they have a long and healthy life providing shade and beauty to your home.
It is important to never attempt pruning near electrical and utility wires. Instead, call Florida Power & Light at 305-442-8770.
Maintenance of your tree
- Pruning should be a regular part of your yard maintenance.
Routine pruning of dead or diseased limbs keeps branches strong and vigorous as well as protects them and you from storm damage and further decay.
Pruning for shape makes your tree stronger and healthier.
There are two main functions of pruning: heading back and thinning.
Pruning young trees
With younger trees, your goal in pruning is to help it develop a true leader, which is a main stem growing straight up that defines the tree's vertical structure.
Your task is to define the strongest, most vertical of the branches and head back (cut short) any others that threaten to extract the leader's food and energy.
On main branches other than the leader branch, you'll also want to define the strongest of growths and head back the smaller branches growing off those. There should be no narrow forks or branches leaving the trunk at an acute angle. Branches stemming from a 45 to 90 degree angle are less likely to split.
Prune lower branches back to about 8 inches from the trunk: do not remove them entirely. Keeping these will allow the tree to grow faster, develop a thicker trunk and be protected from sunburn and vandalism.
Pruning mature trees
- Before you start pruning, look at the tree from a few angles and decide what you'd like to accomplish. That could be to change the shape, control the size or to remove dead branches. Whatever goals you set, select the best-spaced and positioned permanent branches and remove or shorten the others. Permanent branches should be between 6-24 inches apart on the trunk at maturity. All steps followed from here will aid in thinning your tree.
Remove smaller decayed branches along with dead leaves first. They can hinder the tree's growth. Cuts should be close but not too close to a bud (little lump in the branch) since new growth comes from the buds. Make your cuts at a slight angle.
- When removing larger branches (branches too heavy to be held with your hand) it requires three separate cuts to prevent trunk bark stripping.
The first should be about 15 inches away from the trunk, and should be cut about halfway through the branch from the bottom up.
The second cut should be a little further out than the first cut, about halfway through from the top (these two cuts cause the limb to be split cleanly, so its weight doesn't tear the bark). The remaining stump should be easily supported with one hand.
The third cut should begin on the outside of the branch bark ridge and end just outside the branch collar on the lower side of the branch. This should be done at a slight angle, so the bark collar remains intact. Be sure not to cut into the trunk or cut it flush to the trunk. This can cause extensive trunk decay.
- See also: The Do's and Don'ts of Tree Pruning
Other helpful tips
- Think ahead when planting a new tree: avoid planting it near any wires, underground utilities, and buildings or in spots where it will be in danger of blowing over.
- Planting trees in a group or planting species with naturally deep root systems can help prevent trees from blowing down easily. (Call Sunshine State One for more info at 1-800-432-4770).
- Avoid planting delicate types of trees on sites where breakage will cause problems.
- During sidewalk restoration or excavation, avoid tearing or ripping the roots or try to keep root damage to a minimum.
If residents follow these easy tips, the impact from tree damage during a storm can be reduced. Remember: it is very important for residents not to over-prune trees. This ultimately weakens the new growth and creates a potentially more dangerous condition. It is a violation of Chapter 24 of the Miami-Dade County Code to hatrack or excessively prune trees.
A permit is required prior to removing or relocating trees. Many municipalities have additional regulations. Residents can obtain more information by calling 3-1-1 or or call 305-372-6574.
Removing, relocating and trimming trees
Trees growing into power lines
Contact Florida Power & Light at 1-800-Dial-FPL
Trees growing on swales or County property
- Contact the Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department at 305-270-1791.
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