Friday, February 27, 2015

Pruning up a young tree

   One of the most common misconceptions pecan tree owners have is that pruning off all lower limbs will force the tree to grow faster and produce nuts sooner. In reality, radical lower-limb removal only serves to retard tree growth and delay nut production.  Instead, I recommend that growers remove lower limbs over a period of several years while maintaining a full canopy of leaves. Let me show you an example.
    The photo at right shows a Faith pecan tree I have growing in my back yard. I've posted photos of pruning this tree in a previous post but now, two years later, I'm ready to make few more cuts. This year I'll be pruning out one of the lowest limbs on this tree (pointed out by yellow arrow) and then turn my attention to thinning out one of the branches located a little higher in the tree (area marked by red circle).

    Lets start with the lowest limb (photo at right). If you look carefully at the "before" photo you can see the largely healed pruning scar on the left side of the trunk. Also, you can see a wound on the remaining low limb where I had made a bench cut in an effort to direct the growth of the lateral limb outwards. But now it was time to remove the entire limb. I used a pruning saw to remove the branch just outside the branch collar.

    Next, I moved up the trunk to the cluster of branches I had circled in red in the photo above. In this close up shot (photo at right), you can see that there are four lateral branches arising from the same area on the central leader.  By the time this tree matures, I hope to have a clear, straight 8 foot tall trunk which means all four of these limbs will be gone at sometime in the future. But for now, I will remove just one.  The limb marked by the red arrow has a narrow branch attachment angle and is growing so upright that it might threaten the dominance of the central leader. Pruning out this limb now will improve overall tree form while giving the tree a chance to heal over the wound before I remove another limb in this area.

    The photo at left gives you a better idea of how I pruned out the upright-growing limb. By cutting at an outward sloping angle just outside the branch collar, I left the smallest possible pruning wound. In less than two years this wound should be completely callused over.
     The photo below gives you a before and after look at this year's pruning effort. It's easy to spot where I removed the low limb but harder to spot where I removed the upright branch further up the trunk. And that's exactly why the slow approach to lower branch pruning is best. By just pruning out a  couple of limbs this year,  the tree's overall canopy was left largely intact.