published Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Lea: Low-hanging branches can be cut in summer

By Pat Lea

Q. I have several trees with branches growing very low over the lawn. They make mowing hard and the grass is thin beneath them. Can I prune now?

A. August is definitely a dangerous month for our lawns. High temperatures, lack of rain or too much rain, hatching insects, all can create problems for your sod. And low-hanging branches are just another problem for mid-summer lawns.

Most local lawns are evergreen fescues or bermuda grass. Bermuda and zoysia lawns require almost full sun and they will die out quickly in the shade of trees. Evergreen fescues and shade-grass mixes will tolerate some light shade but, as branches droop over the sod and create deep shade, the grasses will thin. Shade-tolerant weeds will take over or the grass will die out and leave bare ground or moss.

Trees can definitely be trimmed in mid-summer. The easiest time to trim, of course, is mid-winter, when there are no leaves on the trees. However, as temperatures rise and growth on deciduous trees stops, they have all the leaves they need. The trees are in their summer dormancy. They will not bleed sap profusely, as they would in spring, and so they can be safely pruned.

You should make a cut halfway back on the stem to reduce the weight when you are removing a larger branch. You do not want to rip away bark when you cut your branch. Then make a final cut that leaves about 2 to 3 inches of the branch on the tree.

Trees have natural defenses that will heal around this little stub and seal it off. The cut should be vertical so there is no area to catch rain and rot the stub. No need to cut too close to the tree and risk introducing problems into the main trunk.

Currently arborists are against using sealant products on cut limbs. No tree paint or creosote sealants are prescribed by experts; they now trust natural tree processes to seal off cuts.

Get ready to overseed and fertilize your grass area in September. Cool-season grasses will thrive in the rainy fall and your new grass will be ready for fertilizing again in February.

Contact Pat Lea at lea.pat@gmail.com.

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