Crown Reduction Pruning

Topping of Trees - Don't Do It!

Don't top treesThe practice of tree topping or the indiscriminate removal of most of a tree's canopy is perhaps the most destructive thing one can do to a tree. If topping is the only "solution," one should consider total tree removal.

When a tree is topped, the diameter of the stems and main trunk eventually decay leaving a hollow from where a once sturdy tree survived. New adventitious sprouts form very quickly as the tree attempts desperately to produce food. The connections of these new sprouts will be very weak and subject to chronic failure.

Tree illustrationTrees that have become too big or have over grown their location can be reduced in size by a method of pruning called crown reduction. With crown reduction, long limbs are shortened by making internodal cuts - cutting the tips of branches back to an interior fork. Shortening long limbs by as much as 6 to 8 feet at a time makes the tree more compact and will force more growth back to the interior of the tree. This method is often used for trees than have been repeatedly stripped of interior foliage by unskilled tree companies. This method of weight reduction doesn't alter the appearance of the tree and serves to make it stronger. Many people with pecan trees find crown reduction pruning can limit or completely prevent major limb loss during heavy pecan producing years.


Illustration of dead branch

Tree Roots

Tree illustrationBack in the 4th grade, many folks were taught that trees somehow mirrored the part above ground below ground. Nothing could be further from the truth. All trees are shallow rooted. Here in Central Texas, that is even truer in that our soils can be extremely shallow. Most trees have 90% or more of their roots in the first few inches of soil. Moreover, most trees do not have a "tap root."

Roots can extend two to three times the height of the tree away from the trunk as the soil conditions allow. With the soils being shallow and most of the roots so very near the surface, soil compaction is one of a tree's worse enemies. Heavy equipment, cars, or even foot traffic can compact the soil reducing or eliminating much of the soil's macro and micro pores, which allow air (oxygen) to get to the roots and carbon dioxide to escape. When soils are compacted, trees roots are smothered and slowly die. Soil compaction is easy to prevent but very hard to reverse.

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