Tree Trimming Tips

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.

  1. If the tree is located near power lines, call the appropriate utility companies about grounding, shielding or de-energizing the power lines.
  2. Wear a hard hat and protective goggles.
  3. Start your pruning from the top, and work your way down. Any broken branches above could fall on you.
  4. 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.

9 thoughts on “Tree Trimming Tips”

  1. Funny thing that 9 out of 10 home owners believe that trimming is “just for looks” and doesn’t require any skill to do. Thanks for pointing out the not-so-obvious. Tree’s health is a critical issue when it comes to trimming and more people need to do their research, especially when their home is surrounded by trees.

  2. I never considered how power lines would need to be de-energized. We have a lot of trees in our backyard, but we also are stuck in the center of the powerline grid. We’d have to be extremely careful about making sure that everything is trimmed accurately to avoid getting shocked.

  3. I liked that you pointed out that you should take safety seriously if you plan to trim or remove a tree yourself. It is good to know that it would be very smart to check where the power lines are. After all, that would be a very bad thing to end up hitting.

  4. I never knew that if you trim a tree during the wrong time of the year, then you can risk giving your tree a disease. My wife and I have noticed that some of the trees on our property have some older branches, and we don’t know if we should hire a professional to prune them. After reading your article, I will be sure to hire a professional so I don’t give my trees a disease.

  5. One of my trees is beginning to touch my roof with it’s branches so I want to get it trimmed. Thanks for mentioning that I should keep in mind which seasons may leave my trees more susceptible to disease. Because my tree is so tall, I may need a professional to help me. Do you have any tips for hiring a professional tree trimmer in my area?

  6. Hi 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.

  7. I have a lot of oaks in my backyard, so I appreciate how you mentioned that if it’s trimmed between April and October, it can get the Oak Wilt disease. My oaks have grown a lot in the past couple of years, and my husband and I are worried that some branches could fall down in a storm. We will have to contact a professional to help us trim them to avoid any accidents in the future.

  8. I was not aware that trees had to be trimmed at a certain period during the year because the tree could catch a disease. My neighbor and |I have been thinking of pruning our trees this spring. I better let him know so we can hire a tree trimming company instead so we don’t hurt the trees.


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