Give overgrown trees a makeover with new OSU pruning video series

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Moving into a new house often comes with an intimidating proposition for many homeowners – mature trees thick with branches that need serious pruning.

Knowledge is everything when it comes to pruning mature trees, said Nicole Sanchez, Oregon State University Extension Service horticulturist. But proper, easy-to-understand instructions can be hard to find. To help fill the gap, Sanchez produced 11 short videos covering every aspect of pruning a mature tree,

The video series, called  Pruning With the Pros, begins with necessary tools and ends with advice on when to hire a professional. Choose an arborist with care, Sanchez said, or your tree may end up worse than when pruning started.

In the videos, Tom Ford, a certified arborist who volunteered his time, appeared on screen performing the pruning, John Bellom, urban forester in Klamath Falls, assisted Ford.

Sanchez approached Bellom about working together to create a video series on pruning mature trees. They both serve on the board of the volunteer Klamath Tree League. Bellom, who is the former parks supervisor for Klamath Falls, agreed. With a small grant to help cover part of the cost of a videographer, Sanchez and her team were on their way.

“I realized there is a lot of information out there about pruning young trees, but there’s less available about the problems you might inherit when you buy a house or one is passed down,” Sanchez said. “The idea came when I found out the nonprofit Klamath Falls Arboretum was going to do some pruning demonstrations. It’s helpful to see the process, to walk through it with pros.” 

The videos do just that. Ranging in length from a 50-second introduction to a 10-minute episode on pruning a Thundercloud plum, most of the videos are a manageable four to five minutes long, clear and easy to follow.

Pruning is necessary to maintain the tree’s value. If a tree isn’t pruned properly early on, it will need extensive pruning later. It’s best to establish a structure that will keep the tree beautiful and strong – strong enough to survive a wind or ice storm. Pruning may take longer with an overgrown tree because no more than a third of the branches should be taken out at once.

But when it comes time – or past time – to pick up a tool and approach an overgrown tree, people are intimidated by the idea, Sanchez said. They don’t want to make mistakes that cost the tree in the long run. In that case, it’s time to call an arborist.

“I hope we helped fulfill the role of giving people the opportunity to see what pros are thinking about and what they use as far as tools and technique,” Bellom said. “We wanted to give advice to homeowners about proper pruning practices, how to prune, when and when not to prune.”

For those who want a more in-depth look at the principals of pruning take a look at Pruning Basics for Trees and Shrubs by Amy Jo Detweiler, OSU Extension horticulturist in central Oregon.


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