Tree Talk: It's time to prune trees in South Dakota

Aaron Kiesz
City Forester, Aberdeen Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department

We are finally entering that time of year where trees will respond best to pruning in South Dakota. Current guidelines recommend the pruning of live branches take place in early spring before the expansion and opening of buds. For the Aberdeen area, this is usually late March through April. The reason this time of year is better for pruning live branches is because the closure of pruning wounds on most trees is faster. Trees will grow over the pruning wounds created in a quicker manner which helps avoid decay and rot and is aesthetically more pleasing.

Making a proper pruning cut also helps promote proper closure of the wound which will help prevent decay and other problems. First, make sure you are using the proper tools for the job. The tools must be sharp and rated for tree work. Most branches have a visible collar or swollen area that forms at the base of each branch where it joins the trunk. The edge of the collar may be one to a couple of inches away from the trunk. The pruning cut must be on the edge, keeping the collar intact. If you are still confused about what a collar looks like, find a dead branch as the collars on those will be very visible.

It is imperative on trees that will grow tall and provide shade to develop a single leader that can be identified from the trunk to the top of the tree. In our open-grown trees, developing a leader is an essential practice that must be done on almost all trees. Other branches that are trying to compete with your identified leader must be pruned back and suppressed. This will promote better growth and much stronger trees that will survive for years to come.

Please contact me for additional information or questions at aaron.kiesz@aberdeen.sd.us or 626-7015

Aaron Kiesz