Training and Pruning

 

Pruning for windy locations

Pruning system for windy locations

What is windthrow?

Overcoming socketing and windthrow

 

Pruning system for windy locations
It is assumed by now that you have selected the right species of Eucalyptus for your windy location and have arrived at the point of wanting to prune it,  to keep it happy.

One suggestion to aid firm establishment and reduce socketing,  is to prune off approximately half the current seasons growth in late Summer-early Autumn (August-September time, prior to the gales) for up to three consecutive years (see hedge pruning).  Avoid pruning late Autumn, as frosts could damage the wounds.

Alternatively, every couple of years,  you could elect to coppice your young tree by cutting it  back hard to around 300-400 mm tall, at around Easter time. This action encourages the tree to build up a very robust thick trunk. The ensuing bushy growth could then be thinned out later in the Summer if required.  Once a firm set of roots has established after a few years of pruning, you could allow the tree to grow up without further pruning, although in very windy situations an annual hair-cut might be prudent!

Both of the above pruning systems reduce the tree’s resistance to the wind (resistance put up by the lush foliage) and further reduces the risk of the tree being rocked around violently, damaging the root system (or worse, the tree being blown over). Now this may seem to be a rather drastic approach, but it is vitally important for the long term health and stability of the tree, when grown in windy locations.  

One school of thought (which we do not promote) to prevent Eucalyptus from falling over in windy locations is to ‘grow them hard’ as they do in Australia.  To ensure the tree does not produce lush top growth: don’t mulch, do allow grass competition around the trunk, don’t water in dry weather.  The problem with this approach is that the young tree could fail to establish at all or  in the worst case scenario, you could simply kill the tree! 
We think plant small and keep it pruned is the best approach when growing in windy locations

If you are yet to purchase your Eucalyptus, make your selection from our list of wind tolerant species  and pruning back will not damage the appearance of your mature tree, but it could help it establish properly and survive.

What is Windthrow?
Windthrow occurs when a top heavy Eucalyptus, with a small rootball is planted, particularly in an exposed location. Sometimes it even happens with smaller stock. It often occurs under stormy conditions in poorly drained ground, such as a boggy clay soils.  This is why it is important to select the right species for your location and if the site is known to be prone to strong winds, plant a small grade of tree from the outset.
See also notes on Choosing where to plant - Exposed and windy growing conditions

Overcoming Socketing and Windthrow
If you possess a young Eucalyptus that has been thrashed around by the wind and it is now flopping around at an unattractive angle (i.e. suffering from windthrow), do not be tempted to secure it to a tree stake; this is the worst possible thing to do.   Strapping the tree to a straight piece of wood is like tying someone up in a straight jacket; over time the ‘muscles’ weaken.  Eucalyptus need to gently sway in the breeze to strengthen their trunks.

Having said that, you need to gently tie the tree (using a soft tree belt or broad fabric strap that will not cut into the bark) in as upright a position as possible,  to a substantial object. This could be a fence post, remote stake etc. a metre or so away from the Eucalyptus, such that the tree can still move and flex with the breeze.   Alternatively, three guy ropes held in place with short ground stakes and secured to the tree using soft tree belts will support the tree and still allow it to sway.

You will also need to check that the root ball is firm in the ground; it may need gently firming down with your feet and the application of a thick mulch of bark chips.  At the same time, it will be necessary to reduce the tree canopy by pruning out some of the branches and lightening the crown.  It is important to carry out this pruning in a balance way so the tree does not take on a lop-sided appearance.

In cases where mature trees have been windthrown to the point where the root plate has been up-ended and the tree is now resting at a peculiar  angle; our advice is to have it professionally felled by a tree surgeon and have the stump ground out.  It is unfortunate, but either the tree was the victim of unusually strong gales, as many species of tree can be or it was the wrong species of Eucalyptus for that location - better to start again with a more robust species.

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