Trimming and Pruning Your Trees

Having healthy trees on your property is more than just a matter of aesthetics. A tree can often live for generations, which makes them a family legacy. But healthy trees need our help, and part of keeping trees healthy is knowing the best way to trim and prune them to prevent disease, insect invasions, and even deter rot.

When is the best time to trim your trees?

Tree pruning is best in the spring, for many reasons. First, as trees are coming out of the dormant state, they are receiving more sunlight and nutrients in the form of rain. In the winter, they were growing, but much of the energy they were consuming was done without the benefit of leaves, and so the energy the tree was using was not as abundant, certainly not for healing over new cuts or loss of branches.

Early spring gives the tree a chance for new growth to include healing the cuts on the branches, as well as giving you the advantage of knowing where you are cutting without a lot of leaves in the way. It is also an early enough time in the season where insects that could infest your tree at the new cuts aren’t as active as they are during the summertime. By the time they are out, your tree should be well on its way to healing the fresh cuts and keeping insects out.

How to cut out dead branches

When cutting out dead branches or branches that are growing back towards the trunk, anything that can’t be removed with pruners or minimal effort with lobbers should be sawed with a three cut method using a pruning saw.

  1. 6″ to 1ft. from the base of the branch, make a cut into the upper bark. It doesn’t need to go very far (and the weight of the branch will probably bend your saw anyway).
  2. About half an inch further out, begin your downward cut, supporting the branch as you go. It doesn’t need to meet the first cut. The first cut will prevent the second cut from stripping the bark from the underside of the branch when the branch comes down.
  3. The third cut needs to be made just above the branch collar, which is where all the new cells will eventually grow over the cut, keeping your tree healthy, free from rot, insects, and disease. This needs to be one continuous cut with a pair of sharp lobbers, pruners, or a pruning saw.

Following this method will extend the life of your tree as well as promoting its health for years to come.  If you have any questions about trimming or pruning your trees, contact us to to get help from one of our neighborhood arborists. You can also learn about our shrub and tree care programs.

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