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Properly trimming trees prevents long branches, hazards

It could cost more money to trim trees if they are not regularly pruned.

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Mike Lacher, owner of Artie's #1 Tree Service of Jamestown, discusses the importance of keeping trees properly trimmed.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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JAMESTOWN – Properly trimming trees when they are smaller will help prevent a costly bill for major work in the future, according to Mike Lacher, owner of Artie's #1 Tree Service.

If trees don't get properly trimmed while they are smaller, it will lead to longer and larger branches known as leaders that run horizontally off the tree, Lacher said. The leaders are prone to breaking from high winds, he said.

“All the weight is way out there and it’s not up in a V,” he said, referring to a large leader branch that he was trimming recently.

He said tree branches will grow toward the sunlight. He said if the lower limbs don’t get trimmed off the tree, they will grow wide because the branches above them are shading them out.

“So they need to go to the light so they keep going horizontally and downward because they are shaded out from above,” he said. “The horizontal low branches are always going to grow down.”

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He said a tree can be trained when it is younger and maturing to grow upward instead of outward by taking the lower branches off the tree. If the lower branches are taken off, it will help the tree grow taller because the roots will force the nutrients into other branches, prominent vertical growth.

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Mike Lacher, owner of Artie's #1 Tree Service of Jamestown, said any dead wood and branches should be trimmed from trees.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

He said if the trees aren’t regularly trimmed, it will end up costing more money.

Lacher said low sprouts – often called suckers – are buds forming off the bark and are not an actual branch. He said when those get larger they break off, creating a hazard.

“Those have to be removed,” he said.

In North Dakota, he said all trees except for fruit trees and American elm can be trimmed all summer long. Fruit trees and American elm should only be trimmed during the dormant season.

Fruit trees should only be trimmed during the dormant season when fungus cannot grow, Lacher said. American elm trees are trimmed during the dormant season because of the borer that gives it Dutch elm disease.

“After the first frost, all those bugs that are flying are dead for the year. They are gone; they are dormant,” he said. “If you trim then, those bugs can’t attack that wound and by springtime when those bugs start getting active they should’ve healed already from that open wound.”

Another good reason to regularly trim your trees is a professional tree trimmer will see branches that could be a hazard to fall on a house or another structure. He said a professional will have the ability to get higher off the ground with his equipment and can check for cavities in a tree or if there is a den for squirrels.

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When an individual wants to trim trees, which branches he or she wants to trim is all preference of the property owner. Lacher said any dead wood and branches should be trimmed.

“You have to get it away from your structure, your roof, your house,” he said. “You don’t want it rubbing against stuff.”

He said some people prefer to have low branches to have some privacy in their yards. Others might prefer to have the low branches cut so they don’t have to duck when mowing around the trees. He said lower branches might be preferred on fruit trees for older people.

According to the city of Jamestown's forestry department, it is the responsibility of homeowners to maintain and care for trees planted on their boulevard, which includes pruning branches over the street and sidewalk. In Jamestown, the branch requirement over residential streets is 13 feet and branches in commercial areas of the city are required to be pruned to a height of 16 feet. Tree branches over sidewalks should be maintained to a height of 8 feet over the middle of the sidewalk.

The city of Jamestown’s website states any tree branches or shrub growth into the alley right of ways — about 20 feet wide or 10 feet from the center line — must be pruned for clearance and safety of public workers and private citizens.

When people get tree branches that are hanging over power lines, they should call their local power company immediately, Lacher said. He said the power line coming from the main service to an individual’s home might be the responsibility of the property owner.

If the local power company doesn’t take care of the issue, he said it won’t hurt to call a tree contractor to see if it is something that can get taken care of immediately.

If a homeowner has a tree with a large branch that could damage a neighbor’s home, it is being neighborly to cut it down to prevent damage to someone’s place. Lacher said the property owner’s and neighbor’s homes are both insured so if the neighbor’s home gets damaged it will still be covered with insurance.

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If other neighbors have their trees trimmed nicely, it is nice for all other homeowners along the block to do the same, he said.

If anybody needs to trim any larger branches, Lacher said do not trim them from a ladder.

"The branch you cut when it hits the ground can bounce and knock the ladder out from underneath you," he said.

He said when calling any tree service contractor, it is important o try to identify what kind of tree is needed to be trimmed. He said not all trees are the same.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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