Keep your trees properly trimmed at the required intervals to ensure a healthier tree with a great canopy. Don’t attempt to trim trees yourself. It’s not only dangerous, you can severely damage the tree and it will look bad if butchered by an amateur. It always pays to hire tree trimming professionals — particularly a certified arborist — to do or oversee the trimming. Young trees must be trimming frequently to remove the lower limbs to ensure it grows correctly. Larger trees need to be thinned every few years to keep the canopy healthy.
Do-It-Yourself Tree Trimming
Your tree needs trimming, and even though a professional arborist might be the best person for the job, you’ve decided to take the chore of tree trimming on yourself. A few trimming tips are provided here that will, hopefully, ensure your tree receives the healthiest pruning.
Safety First With Sharp Objects
Consider that timeless adage, “Better safe, than sorry.” It’s important that you take precautionary safety steps before attempting any work with loppers and saws.
- If the tree is located near power lines, call the appropriate utility companies about grounding, shielding or de-energizing the power lines.
- Wear a hard hat and protective goggles.
- Start your pruning from the top, and work your way down. Any broken branches above could fall on you.
- Are there any younger trees nearby? The branches you trim could potentially fall onto the young tree’s branches, spring back up and hit you. This is actually a very common error, even among professionals.
Tree Trimming Tools
If the branch is small enough for a hand pruner, make sure it is sharp enough to cut cleanly, without tearing.
Pruning saws are usually designed to cut on the pull-stroke. They are available in a variety of handle styles, blade lengths and shapes, layout and type of teeth. Many styles have replaceable blades.
Pole pruners are used for the out-of-reach branches, and when the branches are a little larger, saw blades can be fastened directly to the pruning head.
Chain saws for much larger branches should only be used by experienced individuals.
The Importance of Timing
An important tree trimming tip is determining the appropriate time of year for the pruning. If it’s a flowering tree, be sure to trim within three weeks after the blooming has finished. Otherwise, you could be preventing next year’s bloom fest.
The oak is another example of the importance of tree trimming timing. If you trim it from April to October, it will become susceptible to Oak Wilt disease.
Pruning conifers during the dormant season could minimize sap and resin flow from the cut branches.
Perform some research on your type of tree to determine appropriate timing.
Protecting the Tree’s Health
If you aren’t careful, your trimming could leave your tree vulnerable to fungi, disease and destructive insects.
If you look at the base of the branch, where it meets the trunk, you’ll notice a “collar.” This is where the tree’s natural defense system is located, so you don’t want to remove this. Be sure to cut just outside the collar.
An inadvertent cause of vulnerability could lie in your failure to keep the blades sanitized and, thereby, transferring disease from one tree to another. Be sure to thoroughly clean your tools with soap and water after each use.
Sawing Off a Tree Branch
“Stub cuts” are when the cut is too far from the stem, leaving a branch stub. As a result, the branch tissue usually dies and wound closure is delayed, because the woundwood (callous) must seal over the stub that was left.
To avoid tearing the branch bark into the trunk as the branch falls away, use the three-step-cut approach:
First Cut: Your saw will get pinched if you cut too far up. Cut 1-2 ‘ away from the trunk, from the bottom of the branch, making an undercut one-third of the way up.
Second Cut: Make a cut from the top of the branch down, about 3″ farther along the branch.
Third Cut: Cut just outside the collar with the saw.
If you have any questions at all, be sure to visit your local nursery and please, please, please, hire a professional arborist if the job is too large. Any injuries you receive will incur medical costs much higher than hiring a professional.