Issue: October 20, 2007
I live in the southeastern part of Albuquerque. I have a redbud tree that is about two years old. It is blocking a walkway and I need it pruned. Is there a website that will describe when and how to prune it?
The NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (CAHE) web site has many publications. A publication that addresses your pruning question is H-156, Tree Pruning Techniques. It is available at http://www.cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h/. You will find many other helpful publications at this web site.
An important concept that you will find in the pruning publication is that of the branch collar. I am glad that you are looking for such information. As you prune, it is important that you do not injure parts of the tree that remain. Pruning outside of the branch collar (swollen area at the base of a branch) minimizes damage to the trunk or branches that remain. The branch or trunk is able to protect itself from disease entry if you do not cut the branch collar. Do not use a pruning cut that tops or leaves branch stubs if the branch is more than two years old. This defeats the protective mechanism that defends the tree against infection by wood-rotting diseases.
You have chosen a good time to prune your tree. From autumn until the buds begin to swell in the spring is the best time to do major pruning on trees. However, in instances like this, where the branches are blocking a walkway, you can prune anytime.
As you prune you can remove some branches completely to the trunk if that is appropriate. Another option is to cut them back to another branch or to a bud growing away from the walkway or parallel to the walkway. During the growing season as the tree encroaches on the walkway, this heading-back may be the most appropriate method of pruning. It minimizes the amount of branch removed; you can prune early in the growth of the branch, and this type of pruning maintains clearance for the walkway.
Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.
Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!