If you are a new gardener, or even an experienced one looking for some advice on pruning and trimming, you have come to the right place. We have prepared a perfect guide for you, filled with useful tips and tricks. Follow the advice and steps below and you will have a perfectly pruned tree.
3 Important Tips to Begin With
#1 – The most important thing to remember is that you should never, under any circumstances cut your trees if they are anywhere near the power lines. Even if you think they are at a safe distance, you shouldn’t take that risk. Professionals should do it, so just give them a call.
#2 – Tree trimming and pruning are usually very straightforward, and some general ways and techniques can be applied to all trees, but just to be sure, we recommend a quick online search. Google the type of trees you have just to be sure that there are no different or special pruning and trimming techniques necessary.
#3 – Although most trees should ideally be pruned during winter, i.e., when the tree is dormant, some types require pruning just after they are done blooming. These are usually fruit and flowering trees, so make sure to remember that. Additionally, if you have evergreen trees, there is usually no need to prune them, so make sure to check that as well.
Why Do Trees Need to Be Pruned?
You may wonder if pruning and trimming are really necessary. And the answer is – yes, definitely. Here are some of the main reasons:
- enhancing the tree’s beauty and shaping it
- increasing the tree’s health
- controlling its growth
- encouraging flower or fruit production
- a storm has damaged some branches
- branches are posing a hazard of some kind
Some people don’t remember to prune their trees until they encounter damage or signs of disease, or until a storm causes damage to some branches. Pruning and trimming can prevent both the damage and the disease. Also, trees will grow more healthy and abundantly, and in the best way possible.
That’s why we recommend making a habit of pruning your trees, ideally once a year during the winter season. Choose a dry, frost-free winter day, one that is not too cold, when the tree will be dormant and ready for trimming.
Important Techniques to Remember
Before you start the pruning process, you should know where to start and how to cut the branches properly. Keep these two techniques in mind:
1. Start at the Bottom
One of the main aspects and probably the most important part of pruning is preserving the tree’s natural shape. Therefore, when you prune, you should start at the bottom of the tree and work your way to the top. Anything that is not part of the tree’s natural shape should be removed. By working with the tree’s natural shape, you actually work with what nature intended, which will increase the tree’s beauty, health, and its structural stability.
2. Three-Cut Method
The first cut should be on the bottom side of the limb, about halfway into the limb. The second cut is just behind the first one, which will actually remove the limb. After those two cuts, and when the limb is removed, there is going to be a stub on your tree. To remove the stub, cut it just above the branch collar, but make sure not to damage the collar itself and not to cut into it because you could damage the healthy tree, and it will not heal properly.
A branch collar is an area where the branch is growing out of the tree, the base of the branch. It is sometimes harder to locate, but there are usually some distinctive marks that designate its location. Look for a circle or ridge at the base of the limb – the area where the collar is located usually has a thicker bark than the rest of the limb.
How to Prune and Trim – A Step-by-Step Guide
1. Gather Your Tools
To get things started, you first need to gather the tools you will need for this pruning project. You probably already have what you need in your garage as this project doesn’t require any big or complicated tools. All you need is:
- hand pruners – they will take care of any small branches
- loppers – for branches that are too big for hand pruners
- handsaw – for anything too large for the loppers
- glasses and gloves – for maximum safety and protection
2. Trim off the Suckers
Locate the suckers at the base of the trunk of your tree and make sure to remove all of them. Suckers are a kind of weed – they are week branches that grow out of the base of the tree. They are not needed and will never become nice, big branches – they only steal the energy that healthy branches need for growing. Whenever you see them growing again, feel free to prune them.
3. Remove the Dead Branches
You will recognize the dead branches if they lose their leaves during spring or summer. They are more prone to disease, and they steal energy or grow too big, they can fall off and are therefore a risk. To trim them off, always follow the branch back and cut through healthy wood to ensure you have cut out all the disease.
4. Prune the Hazardous Branches
Next in line are all the branches that pose some kind of risk, that have grown too big, are hanging too low, and decreasing visibility. If they are not damaged or diseased, they only need to be trimmed to raise the height of the canopy and remove the obstructions. Cutting off the smaller branches that are hanging low should be enough.
5. Remove the Damaged Branches
Branches that have been damaged in a storm, or in any other way, and if they are broken, should be removed even if they are alive because they can rot and attract pests and disease.
6. Trim off the Crossing Branches
The last step are the crossing branches, which will now be more visible. They rub in the wind causing damage to each other and the tree, which can let in disease. Cut them out at the base, or at an outward facing branch.
Now that you’ve gone through all the steps and removed all the unwanted, unnecessary, and diseased branches, take a step back and look at your tree. Now you can add some finishing touches to the shape of the tree. If there are some branches still sticking out, prune them out.
Always make sure that you are safe, and try not to get carried away and trim off too many branches – the upper limit should always be ¼ of the living branches, so make sure not to cut more than that.