Thin Your Trees to Improve Your Landscape

by James Florence

Many people think of trees as entities that operate independent of human involvement, but there are many cases where intervention can foster significant improvements, both in the interest of economics and general health. One such method of intervention is called “thinning.” While on the small scale this term refers to the selective removal of branches to improve a tree’s overall health, on a larger scale it denotes a selective removal of whole trees from certain areas of a landscape.


Thinning overcrowded tree populations on your property improves their health and resilience. Photo: Strictly Trees (2013)

Thinning is most often applied in areas where overcrowding intensifies competition between neighboring trees. This strenuous competition can be detrimental to particular “underdog” stands of trees, especially where environmental factors such as drought, insect infestations or extreme temperature come into play.

Thinning can help remedy the negative effects of intense competition between trees, but there are other benefits offered as well. Giving your trees more space means they’ll be able to add growth faster and be more resilient against harmful insects and disease. In many cases, thinning involves removing less desirable species (as well as deformed and ailing trees) in order to give more room for healthy trees to prosper.

Before thinning a tree on your property, it’s important to first consult a professional and put together a detailed plan that includes a description of your property, your goals and management recommendations, and other items. In some cases, there may even be financial incentives available, so contact your local forester’s office or the Natural Resources Conservation Service if you want more information.

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