The recent storms and storm damage gives me the opportunity to write about one of my favorite topics- trees and the importance of pruning early for the health of the tree. Properly pruning a young tree can save time, funds and the life of the tree.

As a field specialist in horticulture, I receive many questions about trees. Just as there is a proper way to plant a tree there is a proper way to prune a tree. Pruning a tree in the first few years can eliminate some potential problems as the tree matures. If the right tree for the right place is selected, and is properly pruned, the tree may not need pruned again except for damaged or diseased limbs. What often happens is pruning is not considered until a problem occurs.

Pruning should start when planting. When choosing a new tree, pick one with a central leader or single trunk. Multi-trunked trees can and often cause problems as they mature. They are prone to splitting, thus weakening the tree. If a tree has two or more trunks, it is best to choose the strongest one and properly cut the other two off. This begins a strong foundation for a healthy tree. At this time, also remove any broken branches or branches that are crossing over each other causing them to rub together. The goal when pruning a young tree is to create a scaffold effect over the next few years where there is adequate space between branches and an attractive form develops. Time and care spend now will pay off in a strong attractive tree for years to come.

If you inherited trees that have not had the best care, take an opportunity to look them over for

any damage or disease. Look for branches that cross or grow inward. Removing or correcting

them can also save time, money and the life of the tree. For larger trees, it may be best to call a

professional but if you are doing minor pruning yourself there are proper ways and tools for the

job. It is best to prune in early spring before the leaves flush out. There are exceptions to this and there is a link below with more information.

Besides proper pruning - watering, mulching and fertilizing all go a long way in the over-all health of the tree. That’s right, even mature trees need water and fertilizer especially during periods of drought. A healthy tree is a happy tree and a healthy tree has a better defense against insect and disease problems, causing fewer problems for the home or landowner.

I enjoy talking about trees and hearing the stories people share with me about their trees. I

especially like providing information and education about keeping trees healthy whether they are newly planted or a 100-year-old pecan tree. Please contact me at mechamk@missouri.edu or 660- 541-1792 about trees or other horticulture topic.

The MU Extension website has many tree resources from pruning to fertilizing. To learn more about pruning and the care of trees see:

Pruning and Care of Shade Trees https://extension2.missouri.edu/g6866

Pruning Ornamental Trees and Shrubs https://extension2.missouri.edu/mg8.

Kathi Mecham is a field specialist in horticulture for the MU Extension.