Growing Healthy Trees: The Role of Crown Thinning in Nashville’s Urban Forest

Pruning trees is an important practice in urban areas where environmental and man-made factors can adversely affect a tree’s health. Read on to learn more about what crown thinning is, what it does, and how it’s important to trees in Nashville.

What to Know About Crown Thinning

Defining Crown Thinning

A tree crown refers to the leaves, branches, and fruit that extend off from the trunk. A crown is perhaps more commonly referred to as the canopy of a tree, but the terms are interchangeable. A tree’s crown is the structure through which the tree gathers many of its nutrients. Leaves absorb sunlight and carbon dioxide, producing nourishment for the tree and “exhaling” oxygen. A crown also includes the fruit or nuts of a tree. Crown thinning is the practice of removing branches and limbs from the tree’s crown. This is a common pruning method in cities and suburban areas where trees need some help with pollutants, man-made structures impacting their sun exposure, and other urban environmental factors. Crown thinning is often necessary in urban areas because of how a tree may interfere with city infrastructure.

The Importance of Crown Thinning

There are many upsides to crown thinning trees in urban areas, and this practice can equally benefit the tree and the people around it if done with care. Consider crown thinning a tree haircut. It’s not a drastic act; in fact, removing too many limbs can be harmful to a tree. When thinning a tree’s crown, the canopy is thinned methodically and with purpose. Some of the main reasons for thinning a tree’s crown include improving views, reducing a tree’s wind resistance, and allowing sunlight to better reach the ground. Sometimes, a tree grows too big and blocks a landmark or a stellar view, and pruning it a bit can help restore the vista without harming the tree. Whenever an arborist is confronted with an aesthetic concern like this, their first priority is saving the tree if it’s healthy (and not a threat to its surroundings). Crown thinning is a big part of maintaining a city’s greenery while ensuring residents are safe and happy with their sightlines.

Crown thinning is practiced more in areas that are subjected to severe weather like thunderstorms, snow and ice storms, and high winds. Nashville is no stranger to any of these weather events, so it’s no surprise that crown thinning is a part of the city’s tree maintenance strategy. Crown thinning can allow wind to blow through a tree so it doesn’t get pushed over. This prevents homes and infrastructure from sustaining damage in storms and also ensures that the tree will live longer. Crown thinning can also give smaller trees and plants in the shade of a tree a fair chance to thrive. Trees can shade garden beds, plants, and developing trees and prevent their development and growth. By thinning the crown of a tree, you can effectively produce a greener space from the ground up.

One common practice in cities is a slightly more involved form of thinning called crown raising. What does raising the crown of a tree mean? To put it simply, it’s the act of removing lower branches from a tree. This is usually done to prevent the tree’s limbs from interfering with traffic, visibility, power and utility lines, and to prevent storm damage to city structures and homes. Chances are you’ve seen utility companies and arborists raising the crown of a tree before, but you may not have realized it. While it looks similar to general pruning, crown raising can drastically change the appearance of a tree over time. Fortunately, if done properly, this won’t harm the tree, and it can live on instead of being removed for impacting city living.

Proper Pruning

Crown thinning should be done in a controlled way to ensure the tree remains healthy. Improper pruning and thinning can allow disease and pests to damage the tree and eventually cause the tree to die. Effectively pruning a tree canopy is an involved process that requires the eyes and hands of a professional. The crown of a tree is critical to its health, and there are many things that can go wrong in the pruning process. The first pruning mistake that many people make when trying it on their own is over-pruning. Crown thinning should only account for a small percentage of the tree’s overall structure. Removing too much can greatly inhibit a tree’s ability to produce the nutrients it needs to survive.

The actual cuts a person makes when pruning a tree also matter. Remember: each cut on a tree is a wound, and it’s important to ensure that the wound is able to heal on its own. Improper cutting, whether from a bad angle or attempting to cut a branch that’s too thick, can allow diseases to enter a tree’s structure and kill it.

The time of year also matters to pruning. Winter is the best time to prune because trees lie dormant in the winter. Since the tree doesn’t have to focus on producing fruit or new leaves, it can focus its resources on healing the cuts from pruning. When raising the crown of a tree specifically, another mistake that you can make is pruning too quickly. Raising the crown of a tree can’t be done overnight. It can’t even all be done in a single season. Instead, getting a crown raised to the desired position can take many years. This prevents the tree from being traumatized too extensively. Much like people, trees can go into shock if their injuries are severe enough. Thinning the crown of a tree is best left to the professionals, so it’s important to consult an arborist when looking to prune your trees. If you’re looking for crown thinning in Nashville, you need to work with the experts.

Get It Right With Parke

The Parke Company has decades of experience pruning trees, and our arborists are ready to help you. If you’re ready to explore your crown thinning options, call us today for a free consultation and estimate. Your trees will be in good hands.