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Janet Laminack: Effective ways to trim trees

Some of you out there make yard work way too hard. For example, leaves don’t have to be raked and bagged. You can mow them into tiny bits and let them break down in the lawn. Or you can rake them into your flowerbeds as a mulch. But they can be messy and ill-behaved and blow around places, so I know that some people really need to rake and bag leaves and that is OK.

Did you know that trees don’t have to be trimmed? That’s a real shocker, isn’t it? The three primary reasons a tree should be pruned or trimmed is if they have branches that are dead, diseased or damaged. There are many other reasons that people trim and prune their shade trees, but not all of them are very effective or recommended, such as pruning to control size. Find a tree or shrub with a mature size within your desired limits. Removing more than a third of a plant at a time is not recommended ever, so bear that in mind when charging about with your loppers and chainsaws.

Trees will need to be trimmed if branches are crossing and rubbing, or if a tree is touching your house or other structures, then pruning is appropriate.

Sometimes trees are thinned out in the canopy. This is primarily done to allow more sunlight in for growing grass under the tree. Trees and turfgrass don’t actually mix too well. But a tree adds so much more value to your home that I tend to always side with the tree over lawn health. Planting a groundcover or other shade-loving plants under a tree is an option if it’s too shady for grass but you want something green. Trees don’t need to be thinned out because they are too heavy or thick.

Trees are also trimmed up to open up a view or sight line. This is sometimes necessary and advisable. Removal of a few of the lower branches so that you don’t clothesline yourself while mowing is reasonable. However, be mindful not to overdo it creating a lion’s tail. This can leave a tree less structurally sound.

Crape myrtles are commonly trimmed back severely or topped in the winter to encourage blooming. They do flower on new growth, but pruning is not necessary in order for them to put on a spectacular show the next summer. Topping can cause the tree to lose its wonderful branching structure.

Yard work can be tough, but maybe not as hard as you have been making it all these years. If you have questions about how to care for your trees or landscape, give us a call at 940.349.2892, e-mail master.gardener@dentoncounty.com or visit www.dcmga.com.

JANET LAMINACK is the horticulture county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2883 or jelaminack@ag.tamu.edu.