Marshall Tree Farm

Training good quality nursery trees

5/21/2003 Edward F. Gilman Professor, Environmental Horticulture Department University of Florida, Gainesville efg@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu

Objectives for first 15 years:

  • Maintain dominant leader by subordinating (shortening) competing leaders
  • Space branches apart by removing or shortening nearby branches
  • Anticipate future form and function – train and prune early to avoid cutting large branches, which often initiates decay in the trunk

Strategies At planting:

  • all branches are temporary
  • do not remove more than about 25% of foliage
  • remove or shorten leaders and branches competing with main leader (see diagram)
Fig. 1. Good quality tree (L) and poor quality tree (R)

Fig. 1. Good quality tree (L) and poor quality tree (R)

Three years:

  • most branches are temporary
  • do not remove more than 35% of foliage
  • remove or shorten leaders competing for dominance
  • shorten or remove large, low branches to improve clearance
  • shorten or remove branches within 12″ of largest diameter branches in top half of tree
  • there should be only one large branch per node (no clustered branches)

Seven years:

  • remove or shorten competing leaders
  • identify lowest permanent branch and shorten any aggressive branches
  • lower than this one (branch)
  • remove or shorten branches within 12-18″ of largest diameter branches
Fig. 2. These branches are removed because the compete with the leader

Fig. 2. These branches are removed because the compete with the leader

Fifteen years:

  • remove or shorten competing leaders
  • identify several permanent branches
  • remove or shorten branches within 18-36″ of permanent branches
  • remove large branches lower than the first permanent branch

What is needed?

Hand pruners, hand saw, chain saw, brain matter

What is not needed?
Loppers (except to cut up branches once they are on the ground), pruning paint

What time of year is best?
When tools are sharp