Summer Pruning Tips For Trees

Summer Pruning Tips For Trees

Written by experienced grower: Don Eaton, Founder and CEO of Bower & Branch

Bower & Branch Growers prune their trees all summer long in their landscapes. Here are some of my practical tips for Summer Tree Care. 

This year has been a very good tree-growing year. The long cool spring has resulted in a burst of early summer growth in many areas. With the summer heat, many trees are adding new growth that can be measured in feet and is easily recognized. 

For smaller landscape trees, like Magnolia, Redbuds, Cherries, and even Birch, their new growth can quickly get out of control. Summer pruning for shape and structure is certainly OK.

This past weekend, I spent some time selecting desired branches and removing those branches that were undesirable. When trees are bursting with new growth from April through June or at the peak of spring in your area, you may realize that trees don't always follow your growing plan without some encouragement through summer pruning.

What are summer tree pruning & care objectives for trees in the home landscape? 

1. Remove new growth that may be heading in the wrong direction. 

Select branches that are growing in the right direction - prune back or prune out those branches that will soon become a garden nuisance. 

During the summer, after the spring growth, this is when I prune my garden trees each year to form the spaces I envision for my end-of-day relaxation. My trees serve a purpose well beyond beauty. I prune to shape and form for useful outdoor spaces. Places to sit, relax, enjoy cool mornings & evenings, and gathering places for my grandchildren and me. 

2. Protecting Flower Buds

Flower buds generally form on trees through the summer for the next spring. It is important to complete your summer pruning generally by mid-July to allow your trees ample time to "Bud Up". 

As a general rule, I complete my summer tree pruning by the end of July here in Pennsylvania to ensure proper flower buds set for the next spring. Although for me, my priority is always shape and form, always pruning towards what I hope this tree to become in my garden. 

3. Control Pruning

Early summer is a great time to shape and prune trees that require special attention. These special formed trees might include Trellised Trees or trees you desire to keep smaller than they naturally grow. Now is the time to shape the growth from this spring and maintain your chosen form.

Special consideration should be given to Weeping Cherry trees, by removing all 'suckers and water sprouts from below your graft. Weeping Cherry branches that grow straight up can be missed, and before you know it, they become large branches that are more difficult to remove. A simple annual removal of these undesired suckers & sprouts will save lots of work tomorrow and help your tree remain vibrant and healthy.

This is also a great time to prune your Weeping Cherries aggressively for shape and control. Weeping Cherries can grow all through the year and generally set flower buds later in the summer, even early fall.

4. Long-Term Beneficial Prunes

Most of my pruning decisions are made each summer. Only because this is when I am able to see the results of my efforts last season and all my prior seasons, a simple prune or cut this summer can create wonderful results for next summer.

Trees grow, years pass, and before you know it, your tree has become a major feature in your gardens. I prune each summer primarily because it is at this time of year I spend so much of my time outdoors, which allows me the time to see my trees do what they do best. It is the summer when I make prunes on my trees, large or small, to determine shape and size and form for next year and beyond. Trees grow, time passes, prune away. 

5. Tree Pruning Tools

Perhaps the most important to tree pruning is having the right pruners. 

I have used the same handheld pruners for over 25 years now. I regularly replace blades and parts as needed; all of this is pretty simple to do. What makes for the right tool for tree pruning is the strength of the pruner for larger branches; I can cut a branch well and correctly up to about 2 inches with one hand with a sharp blade and sturdy pruners. My handheld pruner, at the same time, allows me to make smaller and exact cuts along the way, not only the big prunes. 

Gardeners Supply is a wonderful employee-owned company that sells the right pruners. The only pruners you will need for 25 years.

Final Words Of Encouragement:

Summer tree pruning is OK. Bower & Branch always encourage our customers to be bold with pruning, as with any gardening activity. Far more mistakes and errors come from no pruning than from the act of pruning. Generally, the calls we receive about pruning show us that pruning was required years ago - that makes every day a good time to prune trees.

While I fertilize my trees each March or early April, I also apply the second application during my Summer Pruning. I find it very satisfying as a gardener to complete my summer pruning and then providing soil-building fertilizer followed by a deep watering - I know I have prepared my trees for the summer and fall, and this provides a sense of completion and enjoyment for me, knowing the primary features of my landscape are set for the rest of the season.

Click here for Bower & Branch Organic Elements® Starter Plant Food - the same fertilizer I apply to my trees & gardens. 

There are no simple rules to tree pruning; so many different trees in differing gardens and landscapes, serve a wide variety of purposes. Remove wayward branching, guide desired growth and form, and experience the joy of growing generationally.  

I would like to make myself available for one-on-one consulting for Bower & Branch customers by appointment. I have assisted many Bower & Branch customers in the past, and enjoy talking tree pruning. Don't hesitate to get in touch with the Bower & Branch Whisperer Team if you are seeking some practical summer tree pruning encouragement. 

Be bold, and Plant Creatively.