The Complete Guide to Pruning and Trimming Trees
Each autumn, leaves fall from trees and branches that were once covered with dense foliage are exposed. While many gardeners prefer not to deal with the fall of leaves, I enjoy this time because it allows me to inspect each tree canopy. It is now that I take note of any branches I might need to remove from the trees. I take advantage of the dormant months to plan my pruning and trimming.
Why is pruning trees important?
Pruning tree limbs for multiple reasons can make them look better and perform better. Trees can grow naturally, but regular landscape maintenance will allow them to live long and full lives. Before you can learn how and why to trim trees properly, it is important to understand the reasons.
Pruning to ensure healthy trees
Pruning for plant health involves removing diseased, dead or dying branches, branches that rub together and any branch stubs to ensure the tree continues to grow in a healthy manner. Open the canopy to allow light and air to filter through the tree, increasing the foliage and decreasing the chance of getting a disease.
Water sprouts and suckers at ground level weaken wood and take nutrients from the main tree. You can help a tree to establish one dominant leader and one main tree, which will make it stronger and more resilient to winter storms and high winds.
Landscape maintenance and appearance pruning can be combined to achieve the plant you want. You can control the size of your plants by trimming and pruning trees in a specific way.
Pruning for safer spaces
Pruned trees are not only healthier but also more robust. Although safety concerns aren’t often thought of, they are a reason to prune your trees. Your family and friends will feel safe when you trim your trees.
All branches that are dead, diseased or weak pose a threat to property and people. Take a moment to check if the tree branches are too close to electrical lines, safety lights or blocking traffic views when pruning trees.
It is important to trim trees depending on where you live to remove dead or damaged limbs and branches before hurricane season. Trees that have too much foliage can become heavy and fall over in storms. Falling branches could also cause damage to the house or other plants below.
Pruning a tree limb properly
Remember that new growth will be encouraged by your cuts when you are thinning, shaping, and reducing branches and limbs that are small enough to use hand tools. Keep this in mind when cutting limbs, keep them at 1/4 inch above the bud facing the outside of your plant. This will determine the direction of new growth. To prevent disease and water damage, keep your cuts at 45 degrees.
For thick tree limbs, 3-cut pruning
Callus forms on the former location of a removed branch when it is properly pruned. This callus is vital for the tree’s health. To prevent bark damage, most tree branches must be cut three times to reach the trunk. The first two cuts are to remove any excess weight, while the third cut is for best callus growth.
The first cut is the underside of the branch.
You should travel approximately 18 inches above the branch you wish to remove. This is the ideal place to make your first cut. You should cut the branch about halfway through.
The second cut: Topside.
Move to the top of the branch. Move to a spot one inch farther from the first cut. Cut the branch until it breaks free.
The third cut is outside the collar.
Locate the branch collar on your trunk. This is the stem tissue at the base of the branch. This area is common for most trees. You’ll notice some swelling and rougher bark. Your final cut should be just outside the collar. However, you don’t want to leave a stub. Complete the cut by making a 45-degree angle starting at the base of your tree. This helps prevent water damage and promotes quick formation of the callus.
Tree Pruning Tips
Pruning trees can seem daunting. I advise that you leave large shade trees that are already established to qualified arborists or tree care professionals. They are equipped with the right equipment and have the training necessary to safely remove large branches. The best place to learn how to prune trees is an ornamental or fruit tree. Many are easy to access and require only a few tools.
Get started early with tree pruning
As soon as a tree has been planted, a proactive homeowner will begin pruning. You should remove dead, diseased and broken branches immediately. After planting, pruning for shape is not necessary. Regular pruning reduces the work required and the stress placed on the tree throughout its life. A tree that is pruned every year will grow strong and beautiful from its inception.
What is the best time of year to Pruning and Trimming Trees?
It is never too late to take down diseased, dead or damaged branches. Most trees are best pruned in the middle to late winter. Pruning in dormancy encourages growth once the weather warms. You can easily identify the branches and limbs that need to be removed by not having leaves after autumn.
Pruning maple trees in winter can cause sap to bleed. Pruning maple trees in winter can be a good idea, but it can lead to bleeding. The sap will stop flowing once the tree starts to produce leaves. It’s not dangerous and won’t cause any harm to your tree.
While I prefer to plan my pruning in the fall, it is best to wait until I actually start to prune. Pruning trees in the fall can lead to disease. If it is warm, it can encourage new growth that will be damaged by the cold.
Although summer pruning is not a popular choice, it can sometimes be beneficial. Summer pruning is used by experienced gardeners to slow down branch or tree development and direct growth. This form of pruning should be done after the peak season. You can reduce the nutrients that are sent to the roots by removing all of the leaf surface. This will also affect the overall growth and health of the tree.
Let’s now talk about flowering trees. They don’t always follow the rules. There are two types of flowering trees: early and late bloomers.
Early Blooming Trees
Trees that bloom early in the year set buds for next year’s growth. A tree that blooms in 2018 early is, for example, blooming from 2017’s growth. Your tree will not bloom if you prune it over the winter. Pruning should be done right after the tree has finished blooming. These trees are early blooming:
- Ornamental Cherry
- Flowering Plum
- Late Blooming Trees
The buds of the year’s new growth are set by Pruning and Trimming Trees that bloom from late spring through early summer. A tree that blooms in June is, for example, blooming from the same year’s growth. For best bloom, these trees should be cut in the spring.
- American smoke tree
- Japanese tree lilac
Three Pruning Techniques for Trees
There are many methods to improve the health and shape of trees. Each method has the same goal: to make a tree that is strong, light- and air-conditioned, attractive and sturdy. There are four main methods of general tree pruning: crown thinning (or crown raising), crown reduction (or crown cleaning), and crown cleaning. Each pruning method will involve the crown of your tree, as you may have noticed. The crown is vital for photosynthesis. The crown is the most important part of the tree and it must be strong and healthy. Otherwise, the rest will begin to fall apart.