When to Prune Trees and How Much to Spend on Service
There's no exact time to have all your trees pruned and serviced, since they don't all grow, blossom, and produce fruit at the same time. However, there comes a time when each tree should be pruned, and knowing when to prune can make a big difference. Can you imagine if they trimmed off the blossoms on Washington's cherry trees? Depending on the tree and your circumstances, pruning and crown thinning can be done to encourage growth--or control overgrowth. And pruning at the wrong time can kill off the tree's ability to produce fruit or flowers!
For timing, it's generally best to avoid pruning oaks during April, May, and June to avert disease. Apple trees should be pruned late in winter. A good rule of thumb for pruning trees is that species with early blooms should be trimmed after the blooms. Shrubs and trees that are grown only for foliage should be trimmed in spring, before the emergence of blossoms. Evergreens can be pruned most of the year. If you have storm-damaged or diseased limbs on any of your trees, prune them straight away at any time, cutting back to healthy wood.
The crown of the tree is the combination of branches and folliage above the trunk. The three most common crown pruning tasks performed by a tree service are:
- Crown thinning. Crown thinning of branches on young, growing trees allows more light to penetrate the leaves and fosters good growth.
- Crown reduction. Crown reduction should be a last-resort measure to reduce tree height without leaving stubs.
- Crown raising. Consider crown raising treatments when you need more clearance over a roof, walkway, driveway, or lawn.
Getting Estimates for Pruning Trees
It's wise to get a few estimates before settling on a tree service. The cost is based on your specific situation, which is subject to variables including:
- accessibility and presence of hazards such as power lines
- trees suffering from a long period of neglect
- types and heights of trees for pruning
- time of service (you might pay $250 an hour for emergency calls and weekend service)
- hauling and disposal required
Most quotes come based on a hourly rate, calculated on the number of trees and your exact conditions. Remember, the larger the job, the greater the amount of felled wood to be cut or carried away. Additional costs may be assessed for branch habit training, stump removal, underground root pruning, or tree removal.
Costs can run as low as $75 to prune a mulberry, and upwards of $1000 to prune a troubled Red Oak. That's why you should solicit several bids.
Woodrow Aames has written articles and profiles for Yahoo, Microsoft Network, Microsoft Encarta, and other websites and print magazines around the world. He holds an MFA degree and has taught English abroad.