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5 Steps to Pruning Like a Pro

Part of home ownership is caring for the leafy residents outside. Sometimes they get a little too big for their own good. Whether it’s dead limbs, large size or general aesthetics, occasionally a homeowner needs to get down and dirty with their trees. To the uninitiated, pruning can seem like a dark and mysterious art. But with just a few simple pointers, you can go tackle your own tree pruning, and now’s the time to make it happen.

saw photoBefore we get into the nitty-gritty, a common sense warning: if you need to prune large branches, or branches particularly high off the ground, call a professional. Professional arborists, who do this kind of work for a living, have a fatal accident rate 10 times the average for other industries. If that’s what happens to professionals, you don’t want to be a novice tackling an expert level job.

The steps:

1) Figure out why you’re pruning.

The three main reasons to prune your tree are for safety, the tree’s health or just to make it look better. Dead branches hanging over your house or the children’s play area could cause damage and should be removed. Any diseased or insect-infested branches should be removed as soon as possible. In addition, clearing out the crown of a tree to allow better air movement and to keep the branches from rubbing together can also contribute to overall tree health. And, finally, sometimes your tree is too tall, too close to the ground or just plain funny looking.

2) Wait for the right time.

winter tree photoTrees are most safely pruned when they’re dormant. For deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in the winter) that’s after the leaves have fallen, but before the new buds have started. In our area, this lasts from approximately November through March. For evergreen trees, they can be pruned anytime, but will lose less sap and have less stress if they’re also pruned during the colder months. Sick or insect-infested branches, however, should be removed immediately, no matter the time of year.

3) Decide what you need to remove.

Dead and sick branches are easy to pick out. In addition, consider removing branches that are:

  • rubbing against or almost rubbing against other branches
  • growing back towards the inside of the tree
  • nearing obstructions like your house or power lines
  • too close to the ground
  • suckers sprouting from the base of the tree
  • growing straight up
  • competing with the main trunk

4) Make the cut.

pruning photoYou want to cut the branches near where they connect to the main branch or trunk. Look for the branch collar, a raised area of bark where the branch connects to the tree. You want to make your cut without damaging this collar. In the case of smaller branches, just clip or saw the branch just beyond the branch collar, that’s the line between D and C in the illustration. For larger branches, first make a couple of safety cuts. Start cutting the branch several inches to a foot away from where you want the final cut to be. Make a vertical cut, starting from the bottom of the branch about 25% of the way up through the branch (marked A in the illustration), followed by a complete cut just beyond that (marked B). This will remove most of the weight of the branch and prevent the falling branch from tearing the bark off the healthy part of the tree as it falls. After these first cuts are made, make the final cut (the C-D line on the illustration).

5) Don’t remove too much.

You should never remove more than 25% of the tree crown at any one time. If your tree is in need of more serious pruning, space out the job over several years to avoid damaging the tree. A weakened tree is more susceptible to disease and insect damage, and more likely to succumb to those stresses. In addition, at least 2/3 of the entire height of the tree should be crown, so be careful not to trim too many lower branches on smaller trees.

With just a few simple steps, you can have all your leafy friends looking and feeling their best.



Photo by Internet Archive Book Images

Photo by ronsaunders47

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New Philadelphia, Ohio 44663

Phone: (330) 364-6648

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