CTMI graduate workshop, young tree pruning

This fall Wisconsin DNR Urban Forestry program hosted the inaugural Wisconsin Community Tree Management Institute (WCTMI) graduate workshop. It was held over two days in mid-October at the Green Lake Conference Center. The workshop included presentations and mini-workshops on many topics. One of the topics was young tree pruning.

Aside from the planting process, pruning young trees may be the next, single thing that influences how well a tree does in its planted place.  Planting a tree and ignoring it, allowing it to grow untrained, typically leads to a significantly shortened tree lifespan, increased maintenance costs and proliferated liability exposure.

Young trees that are trained to have a stronger, more functional form suffer less from storm damage and from the need to remove large, low limbs. By taking a few minutes over the course of a young trees life to structurally prune them, it will save time and money and allow all the promised benefits of a mature street tree to be realized.

Even though some of the CTMI attendees don’t prune trees themselves, it is good that they are aware of what their trees need, what they should look like and the methods that are used to achieve those results.

The pruning workshop covered many topics and allowed attendees to put into practice what you learned in the classroom outdoors. The results of this track went from limbs in trees, to brush on ground and a better structured tree, but prior to the outdoor activity the why, when, how and tools for the job were addressed.

Brian Wahl and Don Kissinger, Regional Urban Forestry Coordinators for the Wisconsin DNR, gave a presentation that showed examples of before and after situations of what will occur if trees are not pruned, improperly pruned or correctly pruned. The presentation emphasized the timing related to age/size of tree, how often to prune, the amount to safely remove (as a young tree is more forgiving than a mature tree) and seasonality and the best weather conditions to reduce potentials for infections.

The presentation also addressed which limbs to prune, this included learning why and how to make a cut to ensure proper, quick and complete wound closure (callusing). Don and Brian emphasized that when determining structure, in many cases, a majority of the limbs will not be present when mature, but will assist in creating proper trunk taper and strong branch unions for the limbs that remain.

The attendees were shown common hand tools, pole saws/loppers and preferred features to make pruning ergonomic and create the best finish cuts. The attendees took out branch samples to discuss and work on pruning cuts by diagraming with a sharpie pen. The diagramming of cuts on samples allowed the instructors to discuss with everyone the whys and wheres of each cut. This pre-activity permitted the class to jump right in when they began pruning the 3”-5” DBH black locust trees.

When in the field, the instructors and attendees first discussed with a sample tree what the central leader should be, where subordination cuts should be made to enhance the central leader, possible lowest permanent limbs, and limbs in-between that should be removed to allow for good radial structure and proper distance between limbs. After the discussion, the attendees were given flagging tape to mark and discuss limbs to remove; when they felt comfortable with their choices, they put it into action by using the assembled tools to give it a go. Seeing the amount of limbs piled up, the attendees enjoyed actually removing limbs and learned that proper pruning is as much an art as it is a science. For more information on tree pruning download the DNR “Proper Tree Pruning” poster or brochure and look at other Division of Forestry publications.


Supplemental materials:


Tree Planting Part 2: Planting Your Tree

FNR-540-WV, Tree Planting Part 2: Planting a Tree 

 Trees, and all forestlands, are a major asset to our cities, towns and communities. They work hard to provide aesthetic, functional and environmental benefits to improve the quality of life. A well-planted and maintained tree will grow faster and live longer than one improperly planted or maintained. Before planting your tree consider selection, placement, and maintenance to ensure an outcome that will meet your needs.


Tree Planting Part 1: Choosing a Tree

FNR-538-WV, Tree Planting Part 1: Choosing a Tree

 Choosing and planting a tree should be a well-informed and planned decision. Proper selection and planting can provide years of enjoyment for you and future generations as well as increased property value, improved environmental quality, and economic benefits. On the other hand, an inappropriate tree for your site or location can be a continual challenge and maintenance problem, or even a potential hazard, especially when there are utilities or other infrastructure nearby. View “Tree Installation: Process and Practices”, FNR-433-W, for a free download of publication.


For more information contact Ellen Clark (EllenA.Clark@Wisconsin.gov), Urban Forestry Communication Specialist, at 608-267-2774.

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