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Tree, heal thyself

by Timber Press on July 12, 2012

in Gardening

In the latest Garden Problem Solver question, Annie from Sacramento asks, “Is there a way to patch cuts in the bark on my apricot trees to prevent disease?” Although it doesn’t deal specifically with apricot trees, Jeff Gillman and Meleah Maynard have this to say about dressing tree wounds, excerpted from their book, Decoding Gardening Advice.

Dressing tree wounds was long ago dismissed as a bad idea, yet homeowners still do it because some people are still promoting this strategy—often those selling the dressing products. There are even some eco-conscious companies offering natural healing products for this purpose. None of these products have been shown to be much better than doing nothing.

What Happens if You Dress Tree Wounds?

Wound dressings are touted as necessary after pruning to protect trees from opportunistic insects and fungal pathogens that would take advantage of fresh cuts [such as those created by pruning]. But why would plants need help with the process of healing? They have been handling it on their own for millions of years. To be clear, though, trees do not actually heal. When they are wounded, they isolate and compartmentalize the damage. Wound wood develops over the damaged area to protect it, and eventually the tree grows around the damage.

Dressing a tree wound with paint, tar, or some other product can actually seal in moisture, thus promoting decay, and prevent wound wood from forming.

A Better Way

Do not use any type of dressing to cover tree wounds. The best way to avoid wound infections is to prune when pathogen problems are at their lowest, which is during the winter and early spring.

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