We get a lot of great questions from our customers. We like inquisitive shoppers. It tells us that they’re open to learning about plants and how to care for them, which makes them good ‘plant parents’. Occasionally we get questions that might make us chuckle, like, “Does a tree need to face the same direction in my yard that it’s currently facing at the farm where it’s grown?’ Short answer, no. Long answer, also no. We also get recurring questions; things that are old wives tales, things they heard from their neighbor next door. Some even stem from miss-information they’ve received from professionals in the arboriculture, horticulture, and landscaping fields. Today’s blog post is to shed light on a couple common false assumptions about the manner in which trees grow and pruning myths.
To preface this topic, trees grow from the top up. Meaning, the branches that you see on a tree will always be located at that height on the trunk where they first originated. The branches don’t magically get higher and higher as the tree gets taller, instead, the tree will sprout new branches from the top (usually) as it grows. For some, this may seem like a no brainer, but you would be surprised how little some people pay attention to nature. These people get confused when they see our young trees at the farm. They say they want a tree that has branches that that start out higher up the trunk, you know, for ease of mowing. Well how can that be? The tree is only 8 feet tall, so you wouldn’t have hardly any canopy left if you didn’t have those low branches. As the tree grows taller you can prune them out, silly! But don’t get antsy about limbing up your tree too quickly. We encourage waiting a few years before removing lower branches…the next paragraph will explain why.
A false assumption about limbing-up is that if you cut off lower branches, it will stimulate the top of the tree to grow faster. We have also heard that removing branches will reduce competition for nutrients in other parts of the tree. (Insert game show wrong answer buzzer noise) There may be a shred of truth to this but the main point missing here is that branches have leaves, and leaves are where a plant gets its energy from. Remember biology class and photosynthesis? The more leaves you remove, the less potential for gathering energy. By removing too many branches, you can actually stunt growth. This is especially true of young trees. Put the loppers down and let the tree grow! The things you want to focus on early are crossing/rubbing branches or double leaders.
One of the most untrue sayings is, "Tree roots mirror the size and shape of a tree's canopy." This would incur that a tree's roots go as deep as the tree is tall. In actuality, most tree roots grow no deeper than 2 feet below the soil surface and can grow much much wider than the width of the canopy, Some tree species do have deeper tap roots, but the saying is mostly false
We are not trying to belittle our customers here and say they are clueless, just that we are amused by some of things we hear. Hey, if we weren’t tree experts, we would assume the same things too!
Since there so many more myths to debunk, we will most likely re-visit this topic in future blog posts. If you have an old wives tale or a question about plants you’ve been trying to solve, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or post it on our facebook page. We will try to answer them all.
Horticulturist, Bentley Ridge Tree Farm