As you read in our recent blog “Pruning 101”, pruning trees is essential to their health and growth, and to the safety of you, your loved ones and your property. Correctly pruning trees protects these valuable assets, beautifies your property and doesn’t require a large assortment of tools or exceptional knowledge.
But you do have to know the basics.
So, now that you know what needs to be pruned and why, and assuming you have the correct tools for the work, read on for specifics on how to do the pruning.
Pruning one limb at a time
When you’re pruning, whether you’re thinning, reducing and/or shaping branches and limbs small enough to cut with hand tools, keep in mind that your cuts are going to encourage new growth. Understanding that, cut limbs one-quarter of an inch above a bud that faces the outside of the plant. This will be the direction of the new growth. Keep your cuts at a 45-degree angle, with the sharp end of the cut pointing upward so the cut limb will shed water (in the same way the roof of your house does) to prevent water damage and disease.
Pruning thick branches
Properly pruning a branch results in a callus being formed where the removed branch had been. This callus is natural and essential to the long-term health of the tree. Understand that most tree branches that are cut back to the trunk or a main branch will require three cuts to prevent damage to the bark. The first two cuts remove the weight from the tree branch, while the third cut promotes the best callus growth.
Make the first cut to the underside of the limb you are removing, preferably 12 to 18 inches from the trunk or larger branch. Make the second cut an inch or an inch and-a-half up the branch and away from the trunk or main branch. Keep cutting until the branch breaks free and falls to the ground. With the weight of the branch now eliminated, make the third or finishing cut at the base of the branch you are removing. You’ll likely see a slightly swollen area with rougher bark at the base, this is called the collar. Make this cut clean and angled so it sheds water, preventing water damage and protecting against disease. You may also wish to use tree sealant on pruned areas.
Pruning heavy branches
First, take extreme care if you plan to remove an especially heavy branch. Due to their weight and the leverage they often have, they may break unexpectedly, falling and striking you, a helper or valuable property.
It’s best to trim smaller branches from the large branch you are planning to remove, thereby reducing the weight of the large branch. Once all smaller limbs have been removed safely from the large branch, then it’s usually best to cut the large branch down in sections, starting from a few feet from the end of the branch and working your way to the trunk. This means you’ll be working with smaller, lighter weight branches that are easier to handle and manage than large branch. It also means you’ll have an easier time carrying the pruned sections of the branch away. Finish this process with a cut described in the section above.
Use the correct pruning tool
Depending on the species of the tree you’re pruning and the accessibility of the limbs that need to be pruned, you will likely use a saw, a lopper or pruning shears to make your cuts. Shears are ideal for accessible branches less than a half-inch in diameter. Loppers, depending on their size, work well for branches up to an inch and-a-half in diameter. A pruning saw is best for anything larger. Keep in mind that you want to make the cleanest possible cuts, thereby reducing trauma to the tree and increasing the chances of a quick recovery followed by possible new growth.
Avoid excessive pruning
Removing dead, damaged or diseased limbs encourages healthy new growth in your trees. Trees generally respond well to pruning, so don’t hesitate to prune your trees.
However, there are limits to how much pruning you should do in one session. It’s generally best to prune less than one-third of a tree’s limbs at a time. Too much pruning can shock a tree, harming its growth. Remember, not everything needs to be done at one time and it may be best to finish the work a few months later.
Timing your pruning matters
If a tree has been damaged in a storm or if you notice symptoms of disease, it’s usually best to prune immediately. In cases not involving damage or disease, it’s usually best to prune trees in mid to late winter when they are in a dormancy period. Spring flowering trees generally should be pruned in the spring after they have flowered.
A final word of caution!
Finally, pruning involves using sharp cutting tools, and may also include using ladders. It also may result in heavy branches falling or breaking during the pruning process. This poses the threat of potential property damage, injury or worse. Always exercise extreme care while pruning trees and while handling the tools for the job. Make no mistake, tree care work can be dangerous. On average, two tree care professionals lose their lives every three days in on-the-job accidents in the U.S., making tree care work one of the most dangerous occupations in the country.
Please note we do not recommend using chainsaws or ladders to prune trees. While chainsaws are useful and effective tools for many tree care tasks, they can be extremely dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 36,000 people are treated in U.S. emergency rooms annually for chainsaw injuries. Use them at your own risk. We also strongly advise people not to use ladders for pruning or any other work on or with trees, as the use of ladders presents serious risk for bodily harm or fatal injuries. We recommend pruning only branches that can be reached from the ground.
If you are uncertain as to your ability to prune trees safely or are not certain you can safely handle the tools needed for pruning, reach out to Hansen’s Tree Service and let our insured, experienced professionals do the work for you. Your trees will benefit from professional care and most important you, your loved ones and your property will be safe.
Contact us today to schedule an assessment of or services for your trees!