Tree Pruning to ANSI Standards– Winter and Whenever

Winter is an excellent time to prune dead and hazardous branches out of trees. Why? It is easier for qualified tree care providers to spot potential hazards such as cracks and defects when the trees are leafless. Plus, the view of the entire tree’s architecture allows tree care providers to perform a clear and thorough check. They would look for changes in branch color, the appearance of fungus growth, cracks, and other symptoms help to determine if branches are no longer viable to the tree and should be pruned.

“Certain pruning operations are easier to do in the winter, especially if the ground is frozen or the tree is not actively growing,” says Tchukki Andersen, BCMA, CTSP* and staff arborist for the Tree Care Industry Association. “However, most trees can be pruned year-round, if pruned properly”.
There is much more to proper tree pruning than simply sawing off limbs. At the most basic level, pruning involves removing damaged, dead or structurally weak limbs to improve tree health and reduce damage caused by falling limbs. More advanced pruning methods improving the tree’s structure and long-term health. Pruning at the right time and in the right way is critical since it is possible to kill a tree by neglect or over-pruning. All pruning leaves cutting wounds on the tree. The best time to prune for tree health would be in early spring when wound closure is fastest due to new growth.

Pruning Standards

All pruning projects should follow industry standards for proper tree pruning. Written specifications are key to good pruning because they communicate what is to be done. Photo credit: Joseph OBrien, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
“Ask your tree care provider if they prune according to the American National Standards Institute standard for tree pruning, which is called ANSI A300,” says Andersen. “This standard recommends, and in some cases requires, that the use of certain tools, cutting techniques, and pruning methods be followed, and it sets the standard definitions for terms your arborist will use in your estimate. Properly written work estimates for tree pruning should be written in accordance with ANSI A300 standards.” Your tree care provider should offer you the written estimate of work and procedures to be agreed on before they begin work.
ANSI A300 sets some guidelines for writing pruning specifications that arborists might include on your written estimate:

• Identification of the type of branches to reduce or remove (such as dead, overextended, interfering, needing clearance) and location (such as over the house, under the wires)
• Number of branches to be removed or reduced (number, diameter, or percentage)
• Types of cuts to use (branch removal, reduction, heading or shearing)
• The amount of reduction (shear hedge 4”, reduce overhanging limb by two feet back to next closest branch union, etc)

Specifications protect both the client and the arborist by ensuring that everyone clearly understands the objectives and the scope of the work.

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