Beginners Guide to Trimming Tree Branches

Beginners Guide to Trimming Tree Branches

Tree trimming is probably one of the most overwhelming tasks a homeowner needs to tackle. It can be intimidating for newbies who don’t have any idea how to do the job correctly. We’ve all been there. But the good news is, pruning is more manageable than you thought it could be. There are particular instances when you don’t to worry about paying an expert to the job. 

In this blog post, we will give you the basic (but crucial) information about pruning, as well as provide you with a step-by-step guide to get you ready for that gardening task.   For information about tree trimming, call Roger with Robin’s Tree Service Columbia MO at (573) 212-4370.

Before You Begin

Don’t start just yet. Make sure that you did your homework before getting your pruning essentials. It’s essential that you know if there is a unique pruning technique for the tree species you plan to trim. You might hurt the tree and cause irreversible damage if you carelessly prune its branches. 

For instance, some fruit or flower-bearing trees are best pruned once they are done blooming, while evergreen trees only need minor pruning to get rid of dead or unwanted branches. Also, keep in mind that no matter how much you think you can do the job if the tree is near a power line, let the experts do it. 

Reasons to Prune Trees

It could take us the entire day talking about valid reasons to prune trees. But the bottom line is it is best not only for the health and appearance of the tree but to your safety as well. 

Pruning should be done regularly to reap its full benefits. However, most often than not, homeowners only think about pruning after a storm damages its branches and begin to pose a threat to their safety. This scenario and other unnecessary trouble untrimmed trees can bring can be avoided with proper pruning. 

Further, pruning stimulates flower growth and improves fruit production. It also makes the structure and the shape of your tree look much better. 

When to Prune Trees

In general, the ideal time to prune trees is when they are dormant. It is best to prune some time between the last part of winter and early spring. Winter is the best season for pruning because there is a much lower chance for the tree to get infested by pests. When you live where winter can be frigid, it is best to wait for the coldest part of the season to pass. On the other hand, if you are located in an area with milder climates, it is safe to trim a tree during its dormant state. 

However, if you see dead or dangerous limbs and branches hanging over your tree, don’t wait for its dormant state and feel free to remove the unwanted branches anytime. 

Tree Trimming Tools

Just like going to a war without a gun, starting a pruning project without proper tools is a recipe for defeat. It is crucial to use the appropriate trimming tools to avoid causing damage to the tree and to keep you safe from any accidents. Make sure to use sharp and clean trimming tools for your safety. Unkempt tools will not only damage your trees but could also affect other healthy trees by spreading diseases to open wounds. Hand pruners, safety glasses, and pole pruning saws are some of your pruning essentials.

 Proper Tree Pruning Techniques

One wrong cut can cause severe damage to a tree. That is why it is crucial to know the correct way of pruning to get the best of it and avoid hurting the tree. You would know if the tree has been appropriately pruned because the wound will form a thick callus around the cut which will serve as the tree’s protection while it is naturally healing. 

Follow these steps for a properly trimmed tree:

  • Be familiar with the branch collar and locate it before you start pruning. When you have decided which branch to remove, look for the branch collar right away. It could be easy to locate for some types of trees but could be a different case for some species. Look for the area where the branch emerges or spot an area where the bark is slightly thicker. 
  • Be careful not to cut through the branch collar because it can damage the tree to the point of no recovery. Cut just outside the branch collar to allow natural healing. 
  • Cut at a proper angle. Keep in mind that when you cut the branch, it has to be at a downward angle to avoid water from settling in the wound. If the wound is always wet, it would eventually cause the tree to decay. 
  • Don’t trim branches growing upward. It’s a common mistake for newbies in pruning to cut branches that are growing upward. However, just like what we’ve mentioned earlier, you should avoid letting the water settle in the wound because it can cause the tree to rot over the years. That is what will exactly happen if you cut a branch growing straight up because the wound is facing up. 
  • Don’t prune a branch too long. Make sure that you don’t leave a stub that is too long when you eliminate a branch. An unnecessary long stub will make it hard for the exposed wound to form healing callus. 

Step-By-Step Guide to Trimming Tree Branches

After learning the proper way of trimming tree branches, it’s a must to know the correct techniques to pruning trees. Here is a summary of what needs to be done and a more comprehensive list follows. 

  1. Get rid of suckers emerging at the bottom of the trunk
  2. Trim dead, diseased, and unwanted branches
  3. Remove hazardous branches
  4. Trim damaged or weak branches
  5. Cut crossing branches that rub against each other

Step 1: Prune suckers. In general, suckers are undesirable, vertical branches emerging from the base of the trunk. Just like how they’re named, they are unwanted because they draw off the tree’s energy. Get rid of them as soon as you see them and prevent them from coming back. 

Step 2: Eliminate dying or dead branches.  If you are not sure where to begin in the process of pruning, removing dead or dying branches is an excellent way to start. It will also make the process more comfortable because you will be able to locate branches that you need to cut next. 

Step 3: Prune hazardous branches. Trim branches that are hanging over your house or those that can pose a possible threat to your property and safety. In most cases, trimming small branches to raise the height of the canopy will do the trick. Remember that the goal is to remove any obstruction and it can usually be solved without cutting an entire limb. 

Step 4: Eliminate damaged and weak branches. Trees usually fall victim to high winds and intense storms. If a branch has been damaged or weakened by a storm, there is no reason to keep it there. It would only attract pests and diseases and make the tree hazardous in the long run. 

Step 5: Trim crossing branches. After you have removed most of the unwanted branches, it’s easier to locate crossing branches that rub against other branches. Crossing branches will eventually harm each other and cause for their decay. Check the branches for any damage and remove the ones that are affected. 

More Pruning Tips 

  • As a beginner in pruning jobs, it is important not to overwhelm yourself with big tasks yet. Start with the basics and work your way slowly but surely. Don’t do everything at the same time and wait until next year to do other pruning tasks. 
  • Pause and think before you rid your tree of any large limbs. If done hastily, cutting large limbs can cause harm to your tree, so you better leave them be, unless they are damaged, diseased, or dying, or posing a threat to your safety. 
  • Look at your tree at every angle whenever you’re trimming it. You might be trimming the tree too much enough to make it look unbalanced and unstructured. 
  • The rule of thumb is to never trim off more than ¼ of the healthy branches at one pruning session. You can wait until next year to trim the rest of the unwanted branches. 

It is easy to get carried away when it is your first time to trim a tree and do more than what is needed. That is why we suggest that you start with simple tasks and learn the rest over time. Trimming should be beneficial to trees, but if done excessively, it can cause detriment to the health of your tree. 

If you’ve never done it before, you can start by getting rid of any dead or unwanted branches, then put off the rest for next year. It would only be difficult on your first try, but once you understand the basic principles of tree trimming, you will start to feel at ease and be more confident in doing it the next year.