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How To Prune Your Trees: An Easy To Follow Guide

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Tree - How To Prune Your Trees: An Easy To Follow Guide

When it comes to backyard maintenance, one thing you’ll most likely have to attempt is tree pruning. While it may seem straightforward when you initially head off with shears in hand, pruning can sometimes prove to be more complicated than first anticipated.

However, it needn’t be a complicated exercise. With a few simple steps, you can be well on your way to having well trimmed trees around your home.

Why do you need to trim your trees

There are a number of reasons you may need to trim trees, including:

  • To remove storm-damaged or diseased branches.
  • To encourage new growth and better air circulation, thinning the crown may be necessary.
  • Keep the tree at a suitable height.
  • To keep lower branches from being obstructive.
  • To shape the tree for design reasons.
  • To alleviate potential hazards from occurring, such as trees touching power lines.

Once you know why you’re pruning the tree, you need to decide if the job is easy enough for you to handle yourself, or whether you need to call a professional in. Some jobs may require special equipment or may require you to be at heights, in which cases it would be better left to the professionals.

When is the best time to prune?

There are certain times of the year and specific climatic conditions during which you should avoid pruning your tree. Doing so may harm your tree and cause it to either stop growing or have growth issues.

  • Avoid pruning in spring time. Trees that leaf out in spring could be weaker if pruned too early. Instead, wait until late summer to commence pruning, to avoid weakening issues.
  • If you’re pruning for improved form and structure it’s best to wait until around autumn, when the leaves have fallen and the branches are clearly visible. This will make it easier to to determine the best places to prune back.
  • If you’re pruning to remove dead branches, wait until the summer. This will be when the dead branches are most visible, as they will contain less leaves and therefore will be more easily spotted.
  • If you’re pruning to clear space because your trees are overgrown, wait until branches are sagging at their lowest point.

How to prune your tree

When pruning your tree, you want to remove unwanted branches whilst protecting the stem or trunk of the tree. Pruning will always take place on the branch side of a stem-branch node. To prevent bark and stem wood from tearing, especially with larger branches, follow these simple steps:

  • On the underside of the branch, make a wedge-shaped cut. This cleanly cuts the bark at this point, so you can avoid tearing or running it along the bark and stem tissue.
  • Starting at the top of the branch, making cuts into the branch that leave a stub end.
  • Make a third cut parallel to the stem collar on the branch side, to reduce the stub as much as possible.

More tree pruning tips

Need some more tips? Make pruning your tree as easy as possible by following this extra advice:

  • Ensure your branch stub is as close to the trunk as possible. Leaving it too far away will provide an easier access point for insects, and the wound won’t be able to properly seal.
  • If you have a tree with a forked trunk, this could mean it is susceptible to leaving a hollow cavity where the trunk separates, where insects can get in and cause the tree to rot. The best way to deal with this is to remove one of the trunks whilst the tree is still young. Left to grow without guidance, one of the trunks will eventually break off and split.
  • Always be sure to thoroughly assess the job before starting. If the branch to be removed is between 5 and 10 centimetres in diameter, you may want to get a professional to work on it. Anything with a diameter over 10 centimetres, you will only want to remove with good reason.
  • When you have completed pruning, your crown to tree ratio should be two-thirds.
  • If possible, prune trees when they are younger. They will be a lot easier to manage, there will be less chance of creating scars, and you can essentially “teach” your tree how to grow as it gets older by shaping it as it forms new branches.
  • Don’t trim a branch too close to the trunk. Having it cut too close to the trunk may weaken the trunk and not allow the cut to heal properly.
  • If pruning diseased branches, dip your tools in bleach between cuts to avoid spreading the disease.
  • Regardless of the reason you’re pruning, it’s almost always a better idea to prune during the tree’s dormant season, as during this stage it is not growing.

Pruning doesn’t have to be a difficult chore. With the right tools and know-how, you can easily trim away at any branches that are unsightly, damaged, dying or causing a hazardous situation. Remember, if you are unsure of anything or the branch is too large, be sure to seek professional help to remove any trees or branches.

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