Trees: The Innocent Victims of Chainsaw Massacres

There have been such fantastic advances in the medical science that today doctors are doing procedures on an outpatient basis that no one would have even dreamed were possible 50 years ago.

With these new techniques available, I’m sure none of you would go to a doctor that was still doing things the way they did 50 years ago.

There have been advances equally as dramatic in tree care. We now have an understanding of how trees function and the natural systems within the tree. But unfortunately adoption of these new techniques has been very slow. There are still people with a pickup and a chainsaw doing the chop and hack type of pruning from the dark ages of tree care.

If you wouldn’t go to the doctor using 50-year-old procedures, why do you let someone use 50-year-old procedures on your trees? Trees are a major factor in the resale value of your house, they can reduce summer energy consumption by 40 percent, and are the easy solution to global warming.

One of the most common malpractices in tree care is topping. There is no reason to ever cut off the top of  a tree! There is no possible benefit to the tree and once it is topped it will never again function as a normal healthy tree.

There are people running ads of going door-to-door trying to persuade you your trees need to be cut. They will give you various reasons for topping. “It (the tree) was getting too big. Fact: A tree will grow only until it reaches the size predetermined by its DNA. These people think they know more than the Good Lord about how a large tree should be.

“It might blow over if we don’t top it.” Fact: The dense mass of foliage that results from topping increases the chances of a tree blowing over by three to four times.

They will also try to tell you heavy pruning is good for a tree. For years we took the wild burst of growth after heavy pruning as an indication that it was helping the tree. That burst of growth is actually a desperate attempt by the tree to avoid being recycled into compost.

Finally, topping should be avoided if for no other reason than retaining the shape and form that is natural to the tree.

We seem to have an obsession with trimming all of our trees and plants into round balls. There certainly are times and situations when trees need pruning. Most important is the pruning that establishes a good branch structure and corrects any problems on newly planted trees during those first two or three years in your yard.

In older trees, thinning the number of branches may be necessary on some varieties that have dense foliage to allow enough sun to reach under the tree to keep your lawn alive.

It is easy to do some checking first. It is very hard to put the top back on a tree.

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