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Whether useful plants or purely ornamental trees and shrubs, trees and shrubs require a lot of care from the experienced hobby gardener. The pruning of branches, which many tree owners treat with great respect for various reasons, plays a large part in this. One reason for this is the wound closure of the cut branches. Here you will learn seven practical home remedies with which you can easily close open cuts on trees without having to resort to chemical preparations.

wound closure

Necessary or not?

Just a few decades and even years ago, it was undisputed among hobby gardeners and arborists that the interfaces had to be sealed after pruning. Always! In the meantime, this view has at least partially changed based on the research results of the American forest scientist Alex Shigo. Through countless investigations and experiments involving the targeted injury of trees, we now know that wound healing and wound closure in trees and shrubs are very different from those in humans and animals. Where a patch promotes the formation of new cells in humans, it is often ineffective or even disadvantageous in trees.

The mostly airtight seals used in the past did not prevent fungal infestation and bacteria, but also promoted these effects, which should actually be suppressed.

Today we know that the self-healing powers, even when working intensively on the tree, are completely sufficient to cope with a professional pruning and to recover without consequential damage.


When does wound closure actually make sense?

So why do we still deal with the topic of wound closure if we don't do it today? Although there is usually sufficient self-healing, there are various scenarios in which wound closure makes sense:

  • Improper cutting technique
  • Wrong cutting time
  • Extensive tree wounds caused by bark injuries

Wrong cutting technique

This primarily includes unsuitable or blunt cutting tools. These do not create a smooth cut with the smallest possible cut surfaces, but lead to fraying of the conductive paths in the wood. The tree can hardly heal this, so that a far larger proportion of the actually healthy wood dies as a result.

Wrong cutting time

If the pruning takes place during the growth phase of the plant, the pathways carry large amounts of water and nutrients, which can bleed out. However, this high nutrient supply is an optimal prerequisite for the tree to be able to close its wound itself. However, the optimal cutting time for many topiary cuts is outside of this phase, namely in autumn or winter. During this time, the tree lacks the ability to quickly seal wounds. As a result, cold penetrates the wood over the long term, while moisture escapes in the same way. Without support from the hobby gardener, frostbite and dehydration will follow. When pruning branches in winter, emergency measures should therefore be taken.

bark injuries

A special type of damage occurs in the case of large-scale injuries to the tree bark. These are usually caused by friction, for example when a vehicle grazes or when neighboring trees are felled. There are large areas of destruction around the damaged area. Both the lack of smooth cut edges and the size of the damaged area lead to an injury pattern that the tree can hardly cope with. In this special case, only the frayed bast edges along the edge of the wound are smoothly cut off with a sharp tool and treated as a single injury. The actual defect itself, on the other hand, does not require a closure. Since the exposed heartwood is "dead" anyway, protection against dying is not necessary.

7 home remedies

If wound sealing, then like this

If there is actually a case in which you should seal the tree wounds, the obvious choice is to use ready-made products from the garden center. However, that doesn't have to be the case. Many of these products cost money in the first place, but also often leave open the way in which the wound is treated - airtight or breathable, waterproof or not, etc. An assessment of the effectiveness and suitability is therefore not possible for the hobby gardener. Therefore, these home remedies are a sensible and proven alternative:

1. Clay packs

  • with injured bark
  • Clay pack prevents dehydration until self-healing powers are sufficient to close the wound
  • Spread large areas of bark and bark damage with wet clay
  • Cover clay pack tightly with black foil
  • Ideally mask off the edges
  • Remove foil and clay every 10 days and allow wound to breathe for about half an hour
  • Then replace the clay packing
  • When the growth period begins, remove clay and foil, wounds heal through self-healing powers

notice: Never nail or staple foil to the tree to avoid new wounds!

2. Beeswax or tree wax

  • Well suited for winter cuts due to good protection against cold and dehydration (airtight!)
  • Spread on tree wax, sprinkle on candle wax from a burning candle
  • Check regularly for cracks in the brittle closure, since this is a point of attack for bacteria and fungi
  • If necessary, repair or replace the seal

notice: Wax is not suitable for bark injuries, as wax promotes the drying out of the bark!

3. Clay with cow dung

  • Well suited for winter protection
  • Mix clay and cow dung or cow pats in a ratio of 2:1 and spread on, stone flour can be added for optimization
  • Good breathability, therefore low risk of rotting
  • Good protection against cold and dehydration
  • Supporting nutrient supply from the cow manure
  • No need to remove as it degrades by itself over time

4. Charcoal powder

  • Well suited for summer cuts due to the drying effect on weeping cuts
  • Breathable, thus supporting the formation of new cells in the wood tissue
  • Disinfectant effect, therefore well suited as protection against infection
  • Crafted by crushing charcoal in a mortar, grinder, or bag with a hammer
  • Sprinkle the powder on the wound and then press it down with your fingers

notice: Only applicable in dry weather as the charcoal powder is washed away by rain!

5. Tree Tar

  • Suitable for branches with a diameter of about an arm's width
  • open to diffusion and at the same time water-repellent
  • Composition from natural components of the tree, mainly resins and oils
  • Optimum environmental conditions for self-healing of the wood thanks to sealing: protection against UV light, against drying out, as well as against bacteria and fungi
  • Drying time on the tree wound around two weeks, during this time high susceptibility to being washed out by rain or being broken open by insects and other animals

notice: The self-extraction of tree tar is complex and associated with the release of harmful vapors. Protective equipment is mandatory. It is advisable to purchase natural and unaltered tree tar from specialist retailers.

6. Emulsion paint

  • Filling, binding and pore-closing properties
  • At the same time high breathability
  • Well suited for large-area cuts, for example in the immediate trunk area
  • Promotes the drying of the wounds without promoting the drying out of the wood
  • Good protection against the ingress of bacteria and fungi
  • No protection against cold (e.g. winter pruning)

notice: The treatment of cut injuries with emulsion paint should not be confused with the well-known, especially formerly common, liming of trees to prevent excessive heating and insect infestation. Even if emulsion paint has breathable properties, it should not be used to completely cover entire areas of the trunk, but should only be used to cover the injury!

7. Cow dung with lime and water

  • Well suited for wound sealing in winter pruning
  • Good protection against the cold from cow dung, high light reflection from lime, as a result optimal crack prevention from winter changes in cold temperatures and intense sunlight
  • Preparation: Mix 2 kg of slaked lime with 10 l of water and add 1 kg of cow manure or cow dung
  • Alternative to cow dung: wallpaper paste or clay, then use half the amount

notice: If wallpaper paste is used instead of cow dung, the winter protection against the cold is less good, since the paste lacks fibrous ingredients as "heat insulation". In general, however, wounds can be optimally sealed even then.

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