Jun 042012

The first step to proper pruning is determining the type of tree to be pruned. This is important because knowing the species of tree you are pruning will dictate when the best time to prune the tree will be. Read my previous post for more information on when to prune. Next, determine your reason or desired outcome for pruning the tree. Are you just removing dead branches, trying to reduce the size of the crown, trying to let more light through a tree or get a better view? One of the biggest reasons for pruning is to correct the growth form of the tree or shrub. It is also important to keep in mind that you do not want to remove more than 25% of the live canopy of a mature tree. Removing too much of the tree’s leaves will reduce its photosynthetic capacity and therefore hinder the tree’s ability to make food for itself. Dead limbs can be removed all at once and at any time without compromising the tree.

After determining the desired outcome, you’ll want to make a plan as to which limbs to remove. I like to start with removing any dead limbs. Often with the conifers in the Tahoe area, just removing the dead and broken limbs is enough to dramatically impove the aesthetics of a tree. Do this on all of the trees on your property and it will look like a park. Next, I look for limbs with poor growth form or structure. Poor growth structure can be codominant leaders, especially if the union or crotch of the limbs forms a “V” instead of a “U” shape. “V” shaped unions often break as a result of included bark.

Read more about codominant leaders and included bark here: http://www.treedictionary.com/DICT2003/tree_pruning/codom_leaders/index.html

Another form of poor growth structure are limbs that originate from a limb on the outside of a tree, but grow towards the middle or trunk of the tree. These limbs often get tangled together with other limbs or rub against each other. Removing limbs that rub against each other is important, whether the limbs originate from the outside or inside of the tree. When limbs rub together, the bark usually falls off and leaves the wood open to decay or invasion from parasites.

After you have made a plan, it’s time to start cutting. Knowing how to make proper pruning cuts is essential to the health of your tree. When pruning a limb, you will always want to make you cut just outside of the branch collar. Cutting into the branch collar itself will inhibit the tree’s ability to compartmentalize or heal the pruning cut. Cutting too far outside the branch collar will leave ugly stubs on your tree. You always want to make sure your cuts are clean, so make sure your handsaw or chainsaw is sharp before you start cutting. On large or heavy limbs, you will need to make 3 cuts to remove the branch. The first one should be about 6” from the branch collar and on the bottom of the limb. Make your cut only about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way into the limb or your saw will get pinched in the kerf or cut. This will keep the bark from tearing when you make your next cut directly above it. Now you will be left with a stub which you can cut flush to the branch collar.

pruning branch

This picture shows the proper way to remove a heavy branch from the trunk of the tree.

When removing the leader of a branch or the main leader of a tree, you will not have a branch collar to cut flush against. In this case, you will want to look for the branch bark ridge. This is where the bark is pushed into a ridge where the union of the 2 limbs comes together. Now imagine that you have a line perpendicular to the leader that you are removing that touches the branch bark ridge on one side. For your final cut, you will want to bisect the angle between the imaginary line and the branch bark ridge.

pruning leader

This picture shows the proper way to remove the leader from a branch or the main leader of a tree.

It is never recommended to remove the leader of a conifer.  This is called topping and essentially leaves a conifer with poor growth form.  You can read more about topping here. http://www.treesaregood.com/treecare/topping.aspx

With proper cuts, most deciduous trees can have their crown height reduced.  You always want to make sure you cut back to a lateral branch when doing this.  The following urls have some great information on how to prune trees.



Feel free to call Alpen Tree Experts with any pruning questions or if you would like an estimate for pruning the trees on your property.

May 012012

Customers often ask me when is the best time to prune their trees. The answer depends on the type of trees that need to be pruned and what needs to be removed from the tree. If you are just simply removing dead growth, then any time of the year is acceptable, as long as you make proper pruning cuts. If you are removing live growth from a tree, this is where knowing what kind of tree you are dealing with is important.
As a general rule, typically the best time to prune is when trees are dormant. In deciduous trees, this is after the leaves have fallen off the trees, but before bud break in the spring. The most common deciduous tree in Tahoe is the aspen. Aspens that are in a landscaped area and are irrigated are much more likely to survive the winter with less damage from snow loads if they are properly pruned in the fall. Aspens are a fast growing tree, especially with irrigation, so their cell structure is naturally weaker, making the wood of aspens more brittle. Reducing their growth in the fall creates a better growth pattern and reduces the amount of leverage that extra snow can create on the tree and it’s limbs. When new growth begins in the spring, the pruning wounds will begin to close.
The best time to prune conifers is late winter or early spring. Conifers make up the majority of the flora in the Truckee and Tahoe areas. The most common are jeffrey pine, sugar pine, western white pine, mountain hemlock, white fir, red fir, lodgepole pine, and incense cedar.
The main exception to pruning during dormancy would be for fruiting trees. This is because these trees typically bloom on the previous season’s growth. Therefore, they are typically pruned just after bloom, but can also be bloomed during dormancy. The most common fruiting trees in Tahoe and Truckee are apple trees. These are very common in the downtown Truckee area. They were planted heavily during prohibition to make hard apple cider. Even after prohibition, many of them were left standing and are still around today.

Apr 232012

It’s looking like an early spring here in Truckee and North Lake Tahoe. Most tree and landscape companies are taking advantage of the nice weather and getting a head start on spring cleanups. A typical spring cleanup involves removing tree stakes and tree tape, turning the irrigation back on, and raking the leaves and pine needles that have fallen throughout the winter.
After a few spring cleanups, you may notice that your mulched areas are starting to show some age. This is due to the area being raked several times, as well as decomposition of the mulch itself. Spring is a great time to apply new mulch and get your landscape looking like new again.
Aside from aesthetic appeal, mulching has several benefits. Mulch helps prevent weeds from growing, allows for better moisture retention in the soil, maintains the soil’s biological balance, improves soil aeration, minimizes erosion, and keeps the soil cooler in the summer time and warmer in the winter. Adding a mulch bed around trees where you have a lawn will also help reduce the damage to trees caused by lawn mowers and weed whackers. This is especially helpful with thin bark trees such as aspens. Just be sure not to pile the mulch up against the base of the tree as this can cause collar rot.
Apply a new 2″ layer of mulch to your beds every couple of years and not only will it keep your landscape looking new, but your plants will be be much happier and you will have to irrigate them less, saving you water and money.

Mar 242012


Effective April 1, 2012, Cease Fire Defensible Space and Tree Service , will now be operating under the name Alpen Tree Experts.  The name change was the best way to convey to the public that the company has evolved and grown since it’s inception in 2008.  Cease Fire started off primarily as a defensible space company.  Since then, Cease Fire has been able to grow into a full service tree care company, offering everything from removal of hazardous trees and tree pruning, while still offering the defensible space services that we became more widely known for.  Alpen Tree Experts is still founded on customer service, professionalism, safety, and quality.   Word of mouth from our clients has built this company from the ground up and Alpen Tree Experts will continue to grow by making sure every one of our clients is happy with our finished product.  Please give us a call to learn more about how we can help you manage the trees on your property.




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