Decandling time is a good opportunity to balance vigor between sacrifice branches and the rest of the tree. This is especially true for pines nearing the end of the development phase.
Last year I let the sacrifice branches grow on several pines while decandling the lower branches. As a result, the sacrifice branches became overly strong while the branches I cared about grew weak. My goal this year is to reverse this situation and strengthen the lower part of the tree while reducing the vigor of the sacrifice branches.
Here’s an example of a tree with a sacrifice branch that’s ready for decandling.
Black pine – 15 – 1/2 years old from seed
And here’s the tree after decandling the lower branches.
After decandling the lower part of the tree
This is about what the tree looked like after decandling last year. The top branches were long and the bottom branches were short. To keep the sacrifice branch in check, I decandled it too.
After decandling the sacrifice branch
I then plucked some needles on the sacrifice branch to further slow it down.
After thinning needles on the sacrifice branch
Stopping here would be a good way to encourage the lower branches to grow strong while slowing down the sacrifice branch, but because the lower branches were so dense, I thinned some needles so I could make sure every branch received adequate light.
After thinning needles on the lower part of the tree – 7″ tall
I’d thought about completely removing the sacrifice branch but wanted to leave it to prevent the rest of the tree to grow too strong. By slowing the branch down before removing it, I can reduce the odds that the tree will produce vigorous shoots after I make the cut.
In the next two posts, I’ll provide additional examples of how to balance the vigor between the top and the bottom of similar pines with sacrifice branches.
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