A Complete Guide to Pruning and Trimming Trees

Most homeowners dread the thought of having to deal with the mess of falling leaves in the autumn. But, if you try to look on the bright side, you can take this opportunity to assess your tree, especially the canopy. Now that it has shed its dense foliage, you can quickly locate branches that may require removal soon. You can make use of this time to carefully plan to prune and to trim and improve the health of your tree and your entire landscape. 

This blog will tell you:

  • Why it is Important to Prune Trees
  • Proper Way to Prune a Tree Limb
  • Tree Pruning Tips
  • Pruning Thick Tree Branches
  • Best Tools for Pruning Trees

Why is it Important to Prune Trees?

Pruning is done for a number of good reasons, and they all have a goal of making the tree look better and live healthier. Sure, trees grow on their own with or without pruning, but untrimmed trees tend to grow wild in a different direction and often cause hazardous situations down the road. Pruning is a little human intervention to help trees reach their full potential and thrive in the years to come. Like any other task, it is important to know the purpose for which you want to prune a tree for a more desirable result. 

If you want to improve the health of a tree, you should work on removing problematic branches such as dead, dying, and diseased branches. Crossing or branches that rub against another one should also be trimmed away because they can cause damage to one another in the long run. Pruning is also done to open the canopy a bit and allow air to circulate better and light to get into the tree. This will reduce the tree’s vulnerability to diseases and enhance its foliage. 

Pruning is also considered to keep you and your property safe from falling branches. Regularly pruned trees are healthier and have much stronger branches so that you can feel safe under its shade. Make time to check your tree at all angles when pruning to assess if it’s growing at dangerous proximity to power lines or any fixed structure. 

Proper Way to Prune a Tree Limb

Remember that your goal when pruning small branches and limbs is to stimulate new growth. The angle of your cut will determine the direction in which the new growth will emerge. It is best to keep the cuts at a 45-degree edge to prevent water from settling and avoid diseases and rotting. 

Pruning Thick Tree Branches

You know a tree branch has been correctly pruned when you see a healing callus forming around the wound where the branch used to be. The formation of callus is crucial for the natural healing of the pruning wound. It is highly suggested to employ the three-cut principle when cutting the main branch. This method helps prevent injury to the branch. 

Step one: Make the first cut 18 inches above the undersurface of the branch you want to trim away. Don’t cut through the branch yet. Cut only halfway through it. 

Step two: Cut the upper side of the branch. Keep cutting until the branch is free. 

Step three: Locate the branch collar. The branch collar is usually found around the base of the branch and often looks slightly thicker than the rest of the parts. The final cut should be done outside the collar. Be careful not to leave a stub though, when making the last cut. To prevent water damage and aid the formation of healing callus, make sure to cut at a 45-degree angle from the base. 

Tree Pruning Tips

For someone who has never done a pruning job before, it can be a daunting task. If the tree you wish to prune is one that is large and located near a power line, don’t even think of doing the project yourself. Projects like this should be left to the pros to do. It requires training and heavy equipment to prune larger trees, so it is best to save yourself from unwanted accidents by hiring an expert. An excellent way to start learning proper pruning is with fruit and flower-producing trees because they are typically at eye level and don’t need much equipment. 

Start Pruning Trees Early On

It is best to begin pruning in the early stages of the tree’s life. Starting early on trains the tree to have a better shape and structure and reduces the chance of getting infected by diseases. Eliminate dead, diseased, and damaged branches as soon as you see them. Trees that are regularly pruned look better and are more immune to stress. 

When is the Best Time of Year to Prune Trees?

Removing the three Ds or the dead, dying, or damaged branches don’t require proper timing- you can prune them out right away. In general, it would be most beneficial for trees if you prune them in their dormant state, in late winter to early spring. It is easier to spot branches that need to be removed once they shed their foliage by the end of autumn. 

While it is tempting to start pruning in the fall, it is best to wait some more because trees pruned in this season tend to be more vulnerable to diseases. Summer is the least favorite season for pruning, but can also do good to the tree if done cautiously — experts in pruning use this time to stunt the growth of a branch or the entire tree. 

After knowing the best time of the year to prune trees, it’s high time that we discuss flowering trees and the right way to trim them. Blooming trees are categorized into two: early blooming trees and the late-blooming ones. 

Early Blooming Trees

If you see a tree that blooms early in the year, it means that it’s blooming growth from the previous year. It is best to prune once the tree is done blooming, and not during winter. Some early blooming trees are:

  • Apricot
  • Ornamental Cherry
  • Magnolia

Late Blooming Trees

Late-blooming trees bloom between the last leg of spring and the beginning of summer on the same year’s growth. Trees under this group are best pruned in early spring for a desirable result. 

  • Dogwood
  • American Smoke Tree
  • Japanese Tree Lilac

Tree Pruning Methods

Whatever the method used to prune a tree, the goal is always the same: to improve the health and appearance of the tree. With better light and air circulation, a tree would grow stronger and healthier. There are four accepted pruning methods for standard pruning projects. These methods are crown thinning, raising, reduction, and cleaning. If you want a healthier tree, its crown is the best place to start because it produces leaves essential for photosynthesis. A sturdy crown prevents the tree from weakening down the road. 

Crown Thinning

Crown thinning is done with the objective of removing live branches to decrease the tree’s mass. This method is usually performed on older trees to increase light and improve airflow. Crown thinning doesn’t intend to work on the shape of the tree, so there should be consistency when it comes to cutting off branches from all angles of the canopy. Trim away branches that are ¼ to a ½ inch in diameter when thinning smaller ornamental trees. 

Crown Raising

This method of pruning is performed to lift the bottom edge of the tree to clear any obstruction and prevent getting in contact with a building or other structure. Be careful not to remove too many branches at once because it can weaken the tree over time. Plan cutting off just a few limbs when doing your annual pruning. Make a habit of taking a few steps back to check on the different angles of the tree and ensure its balance. 

Crown Reduction

This method of pruning is generally done on matured trees. It stimulates new growth as well as makes the tree stronger. Crown reduction, also known as drop-crotch pruning removes the end of a branch back to a growing lateral branch. This lateral branch will become part of the new crown come the spring season. Crown reduction is the more popular alternative to topping because the result is a natural-looking, stronger tree. This special procedure is performed with the goal of removing old growth while trying to stimulate new ones. 

Crown Cleaning 

This method tackles the removal of dead, diseased, and damaged branches. Crown cleaning should be performed anytime you see problematic branches and should be part of the other pruning methods we mentioned above. Crown cleaning improves the overall structure of the tree and keeps it away from diseases. You can also consider this method as a precautionary measure because no broken branches mean fewer chances of having someone getting injured because of falling branches. 

Best Tools for Pruning Trees 

Sometimes, a high-quality tree pruning tool is all you need to make an intimidating task more manageable and less stressful. Keep your tools sharp and clean to get the most of them. Here are some of your tree trimming essentials:

  • Pruners that can cut stems and branches up to ¾ inches in diameter. 
  • Loppers are especially useful for reaching higher branches because of their longer handles. 
  • Saws can help you cut through wood quickly and efficiently, thanks to its sharp teeth design. 
  • Extendable pole saws and pruners can come in handy when you need to prune branches that are 14 feet high.

Contact Jim with Thatcher’s Tree Service Gainesville at (352) 269-1972 for more information about tree trimming.