Hallie Dozier, Coolman, Denise
Winter is the perfect time to prune trees so they will be healthy and better able to resist storm damage, according to experts with the LSU AgCenter.
Dr. Hallie Dozier of the LSU AgCenter’s School of Renewable Natural Resources says pruning is something a person should start when trees are young and that it’s an important part of keeping trees healthy.
"The best time to improve a tree’s overall structure and growth is before the tree is 25-30 years old," Dozier says, adding, however, that many times "people don’t prune because they don’t know what to do.
"They don’t know how much to prune, how often to prune or even why to prune. Pruning is an important step to take if a person wants trees that are healthy and structurally sound."
Most trees can be pruned from December through March, according to Dozier, who says the main objectives of pruning are to:
Homeowners can prune their own small trees, but for larger trees, Dozier recommends calling an arborist licensed to do tree care in Louisiana. Arborists can be found in the telephone book’s business listings or Yellow Pages. Information on local arborists also can be obtained by contacting your parish’s LSU AgCenter extension office or by calling the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry at (225) 952-8100.
After selecting an arborist, Dozier recommends asking for certificates of insurance, including proof of liability insurance for personal and property damage and workers’ compensation insurance. She also says to ask for the phone number of the insurance company and to call the company to make sure the policy is current. In addition, Dozier says to ask the arborist to provide a copy of his or her arborist license.
People also can ask for personal references to ensure they are hiring a reputable arborist, according to Dozier.
"Make sure you check credentials," she says. "And beware of ‘door knockers’ or ‘storm chasers.’ Most qualified arborists have enough work and do not need to solicit work door to door.
"A tree is an important investment in your landscape, and a homeowner should hire a reputable arborist to do the job to protect that investment."
Before deciding who to hire for the job, Dozier recommends having more than one arborist look at the job and give estimates – adding that homeowners may be required to pay a small fee for these estimates. Unless you just want a tree removed, choose a company that offers a wide variety of services such as pruning, fertilizing, pest control and so forth.
"Beware of someone who just encourages total tree removal," Dozier says.
Another important element is a contract. No matter how large or small the project is, Dozier said it is important to have a contract. Such a contract should be signed by all parties involved to be sure the work is done properly. The contract should include the dates when the work will start and finish, what cleanup work will be done and the total dollar amount that will be charged.
Finally, Dozier recommends homeowners be present while the work is being done.
"Don’t be afraid to ask questions," she says. "You need to understand what is being done and why it is being done. This way, you won’t have any surprises."
Homeowners should also be sure the arborist adheres to pruning guidelines as set forth by the American National Standard Institute or ANSI.
"Homeowners should familiarize themselves with pruning techniques so they will know if the job is being done correctly," Dozier said. "These techniques can be found in pruning and gardening books and publications."
The guidelines also can be found in the publication ANSI A300.
For more information on this and other topics related to agriculture and natural resources, as well as lawn and garden topics, finances, health and more, go to www.lsuagcenter.com.
Contact: Hallie Dozier at (225) 578-7219
Writer: A. Denise Coolman at (318) 547-0921 or E-mail