Most of us plant trees for shade or aesthetics, or for some other reasons. Trees shelter us during rain or scorching heat, but sometimes, falling twigs and large branches can pose a danger. They could also sometimes block your driving view if their long branches are in the way. Pruning and trimming will help you resolve this problem.
The reason why it is important to prune and trim your trees is to keep them healthy, for your safety and aesthetics. You should follow some of the pruning tips mentioned below, such as crown thinning, crown raising, crown reduction, and crown cleaning.
In this article, we will discuss tree trimming techniques and pruning tips. We will talk about when DIY trimming is not okay, whether or not wrong trimming can kill a tree, and why you should avoid trimming large trees.
Reasons Why It’s Important to Prune or Trim Trees
Trimming trees serves three purposes: health, safety, and aesthetics. Below are each of these aspects’ definitions and reasons why it is important to prune or trim trees.
Trees sometimes contract infections, and to save an infected tree, you should strategically prune its affected limbs and branches. Thinning the crown of a tree improves airflow, which is beneficial to the tree. Sometimes, branches are extending over each other or rubbing and crossing together. To avoid them falling unexpectedly, they should be pruned, trimmed, or removed.
If the branches of a tree block your vision while driving and start threatening to fall off at any time, they must be trimmed right away. Indeed, broken and dead branches that are falling off unexpectedly can pose a serious safety hazard.
They often grow close to utility lines and cover important areas around your yard. To handle this issue, you can contact a utility company that will help resolve this problem.
Pruning and trimming maintain the shape and appearance of trees. However, repeating these processes excessively can result in serious damages. Don’t try to force an unnatural shape or size on a tree unless you are an expert.
Tree Trimming Techniques
Here are some tree trimming techniques you can follow:
- Before cutting a branch, locate the branch collar. It grows from the stem at the bottom base of the branch. Look for the branch ridge that can be found on the upper surface and that is aligned with the branch’s angle at the stem.
- Remember to trim outside the branch bark ridge. Angle your cut downward and away from the branch’s stem. Trim the tree branch correctly to avoid injuring the branch collar.
- Use the same method when pruning dead and living branches.
- Use the three-cut technique if the stem is long. To do so, make an incision or mark on the side of the stem facing away from the branch that is being kept. Do the second incision inside the crotch of the branch and above the branch ridge; the final cut will remove the stub by cutting through the stem aligning to the bark ridge of the branch.
Keep these techniques in mind before trimming your trees to avoid any hazards and killing your tree.
Tree Trimming Tips
Here are some trimming and pruning tips you should keep in mind:
- The dormant season is the best time to trim or prune a tree. Even though you can prune a pine tree at any time, it is still ideal to do so when it is dormant. The only exception to pruning and trimming your tree is when there is a safety hazard.
- Be diligent about the size of the branch that you’re about to trim or prune. If the branch size is at least 5 centimeters in diameter, then you can cut it.
However, if it is between 5 to 10 centimeters in diameter, do not trim or cut it. Finally, if the branch exceeds 10 centimeters in diameter, you should only cut it for a good reason.
- Weak, V-shaped, and narrow angles are the only branches you should trim or prune. Do not cut or retain strong branches that have U-shaped angles.
Lateral branches with a stem’s diameter over ½ to ¾ at the point of attachment should be removed right away.
- Once the pruning process is complete, the ratio of the living crown to the tree height must be ⅔ centimeters in diameter.
- Prune the branches when they are still young. Branches are easier to manage at a younger age, and the risks of leaving a nasty scar or mark on the tree are lower then.
- Avoid trimming branches that are too close or too long. Don’t leave a large stub on the tree or simply remove the branch collar.
Tree Pruning Tips
Here are some tips that will help you prune a tree or that will be good for educational purposes.
- Crown Thinning
The thinning of the crown involves trimming a tree to cut a specific live branch and reduce the tree’s density. It is the most common pruning method, and it is performed on mature trees. Crown thinning increases air circulation and sunlight penetration. It can also reduce stress on the selected limbs from snow, ice, wind, or gravity.
Keep the lateral branches of the tree at even space, especially on young trees. When branches are crossing over each other, prune them right away. However, don’t cut more than one-fourth of a living crown at once.
The goal of crown thinning is not to change the size and shape of the tree, and this process should be consistent throughout the tree. Only cut 10 to 20% of the tree branch from the edge of the canopy.
Large trees benefit from getting the end portions of their limbs cut from 1 to 4 inches in diameter. Small ornamental landscaping trees and fruit trees must be thinned by cutting smaller limbs from ¼ to ½ inch in diameter. Remember, trim trees for crown thinning, so that the tree will still look unpruned.
- Crown Raising
Crown raising is a pruning method that lifts the bottom edge of the tree limbs to clear for traffic. This technique must be applied gradually, over a long period, as cutting off many lower branches all at once can result in a weak tree.
Pruning can be done yearly by removing just a few limbs less than four inches in diameter. Take a few steps back periodically and look at the balance of the tree.
The living crown on a deciduous tree must be 60% of the tree. If the trunk starts to go over 40%, the tree will be weak. Most cone-bearing trees or conifers can be maintained at a 50% crown-50% trunk ratio, making them stay stronger and healthy.
- Crown Reduction
Crown reduction is a tree pruning method intended to be applied on older and mature trees that aims to remove old growth while encouraging new growth. It is ideal to remove the whole branch if you plan on removing more than half of the foliage from the branch. Only cut down the crown of a tree if it is necessary. Branches that are at least one-third in diameter of the stem need to be prune laterally.
Crown reduction strengthens the tree and encourages new growth. It removes the tree branch back to a growing sideways or lateral branch. When spring starts, the lateral branch will be part of the new tree crown.
It is also a gentler alternative to tree topping that involves smaller incisions, less removal of the crown, and plenty of old growth that remains for structure. Crown thinning is done to reduce limbs and foliage.
- Crown Cleaning
Crown cleaning is a trimming process that focuses on the removal of dead, diseased, cone-bearing, A wrong, and broken branches. It strengthens the tree and prevents future damages both to the tree and its surroundings, while increasing the safety of the landscaping. Crown cleaning can be performed at any time and should be included in part of crown thinning, raising, and reduction.
How to Trim a Tree Branch
Here’s how to trim a branch:
- First, make sure that the pruning tool is sharp and clean.
- Know the following parts of the branch and tree:
- The branch collar is a swelled-up area under the branch that connects the tree to the branch.
- The branch bark ridge is an area between the branch and trunk. It is raised slightly higher than the branch.The branch is like an arm, the bark ridge is the shoulder, and the collar is the underarm.
- Closely look at the spot you will cut. The objective is to cut slightly beyond the branch collar; far enough not to cut the collar itself but close enough not to leave a stub.
- For a skinny branch below 1 inch in diameter, find the perfect spot, far off the branch collar. Then, cut the branch at a 45-60° angle to the bark ridge.
- Use the three-cut rule for a thicker branch: about 10-15 inches up from the branch collar, cut half into the bottom of the branch. Then, move a couple of inches beyond the cut you have just made, and cut it into the top of the branch. Finally, make the final cut beyond the branch’s collar.
How to Trim a Small Tree
When trimming a small tree, the process stays the same. However, some other factors come into play:
- Study and plan which branches you will keep and which ones you’ll cut. You should keep the growing branches at a 2 or 10 o’clock angle from the trunk. Trim the growing branches at a wonky angle. As for the branches growing across the interior of the tree, try to cut them from one side.
- Plan how many branches you’ll cut. Keep in mind that it is not ideal to remove more than 25% of the tree’s canopy at one time.
- Remove any clutter. Trim the growing part that comes from the roots or base of the tree trunk right away. Besides, always prune dead twigs and branches.
- Remove water spouts, the weak, stingy branches that grow in a bunch, and the ones that sit perfectly upright on the tree branches.
- Prune out the limbs of a younger tree that is competing with the leader branch. This will keep the good true of a tree. Lastly, when pruning branches, use the steps mentioned above.
When Shouldn’t You Trim Your Trees Yourself?
You want to trim a small tree in your backyard with lightweight branches and the canopy is at eye level? Do it, however, do not attempt to trim or prune your tree if you’ll have to climb it to reach the branches. It is not okay either to trim the trees located near a power line or the branches that are too big and heavy to handle.
Can Tree Trimming Kill a Tree?
One wrong incision can’t immediately kill a tree, but pruning too often and improperly can kill it as well. If the tree keeps losing its canopy, it will become weak and eventually die because of stress. As previously mentioned, it isn’t recommended to trim more than 25% of the tree’s canopy at once.
A wrong cut on the branch collar can kill a tree as well. Thus, keep the branch collar intact and make sure that the wound is healing properly after pruning it. But, if the branch collar is injured, the wound can get infected by decaying fungi, which will then spread throughout the tree. Also, cutting the top of the tree can kill a tree and represents a deadly mistake.
Why Should You Avoid Trimming a Large Tree?
It is not recommended to prune heavy branches and tall trees. Indeed, climbing up a ladder with sharp pruning tools in hand can be perilous. You might cut or injure yourself, fall from the ladder, and lose your bearings.
It is the same with trimming heavy tree branches. Large and heavy branches could injure you by falling on you if they are not handled properly. Plus, larger pruning tasks might require the use of a chainsaw or another powerful tool. This would call for a huge learning curve and extra precaution. Therefore, avoid trimming and pruning a tree by yourself.
How Much Does Tree Trimming Cost?
If you’re a conscious homeowner and want your landscaping to be attractive, consider having your trees trimmed and pruned. Doing so allows you to remove dead and broken limbs and keeps your tree healthy.
The cost of tree trimming depends on various factors. For instance, if you want to do it yourself and have the proper knowledge and materials to do so, it is free. On the other hand, if you are dependent and want it to be done perfectly, you should hire a professional.
By knowing the basics about tree trimming and pruning, you can confidently handle the majority of the job yourself. As mentioned above, there are plenty of trimming techniques and pruning tips that will help you keep your trees in excellent shape.
With the right knowledge and tools, you can prune your trees and maintain their appearance and health, as well as remove dangerous dead and weak branches. Alternatively, you can hire professionals to do the work for you.