Shelterbelts are a great way to increase the privacy of your property, provide excellent shelter for people and animals, they protect your land from wind and erosion and even hold nutrients in the soil longer. However, without the proper maintenance, they soon lose their good looks and functionality.
In general, shelterbelts should be trimmed every 1 to 2 years. This helps keep your trees and shrubs healthy, it improves the density and ensures that your shelterbelt works effectively. With the right expertise, a professional trim can also encourage more growth and train the hedge into the shape you want it.
It is important that you cut back your shelterbelts evenly and straight. A professional can advise you on the suitability of your shelterbelt, for instance, what species best suit your requirements and how to ensure growth, long-term strength and when it’s best to remove a shelterbelt.
Timing is vital
Your shelterbelt should get the first trim just after the trees have been planted and established (if mature enough). Usually, some of the roots will be lost in the transplanting process, and pruning the plant will compensate for that. It will also begin to ‘train’ the tree how and in which direction to grow. This first prune should not be more than a third of the tree’s total top growth.
Depending on the functionality of your shelterbelt, your trees need to be further trimmed along the trunk. If you want to develop a strong framework to withstand the elements, prune the plants back to a few strong limbs. However, if you need shade rather than wind protection, focus your pruning on the lower branches of the trees.
Deciduous vs evergreens
Deciduous trees and shrubs are best trimmed when they are dormant, preferably in early spring before you can see new growth. Not only is the healing process at this time of the year a lot faster. But pruning deciduous plants in spring also effects their general growth a lot less.
Some trees should only be pruned in certain times of the year to avoid the spread of diseases such as Dutch Elm Disease. However, other species are actually better trimmed in mid-summer when it’s easier to locate dead branches or to avoid the excessive loss of sap.
Trimming is also necessary when you detect weak, sick or dead branches and plants among your shelterbelt. Otherwise, diseases and insects can easily spread between plants and eventually affect your entire shelterbelt to the point where it might have to be completely removed. If you don’t want to start from scratch, I recommend an annual check-up on your shelterbelt to see if and where it might need a tidy up.
Maintaining your shelterbelt is hard work and requires the right gear, equipment and machinery. You have to be especially careful when your shelterbelt is growing near fences, power lines or other health and safety hazards. Doing it yourself might save you money, but can easily put your life and property at risk. A professional will ensure that nobody gets harmed during the trimming process.
Clean up service
After your shelterbelts have been trimmed, a professional should also dispose of the trimmings. However, they can make great firewood and are also perfect for shredding and mulching. So consider your options for the branches if they are suitable and you have the need. I do not recommend you go down the cheap option of having a shelterbelt trimmed (perhaps only a few hundred dollars) and then tidying up yourself. The sheer quantity of branches can be enormous. I once had a 30-metre shelterbelt trimmed professionally and spent the entire weekend tidying up afterwards…. 45 trailer loads!
Shelterbelt Trimming Contractors
www.canopyarborists.co.nz (Waikato & Bay of Plenty)