Once trees mature, they don’t often require routine pruning. However, there will be a time when you may have to consider trimming them.
There are several reasons why you may have to trim a tree. It could be that some of the branches have broken off or are hanging too low, or they’re encroaching the power lines or your home.
Perhaps you’re wanting to promote better health and new growth and encourage fruit or flowers to grow. Or you may simply be looking to tidy up the branches.
Whatever your reason, here’s what you need to know about trimming a tree:
When is the Best Time to Trim a Tree?
If it’s a safety issue, then you should trim the tree as soon as possible. You can cut dead and damaged branches at any time of the year. However, you should avoid doing it on wet and very humid days.
The best time for trimming a tree is during the winter when the trees are dormant. There is less risk of the tree developing diseases and infections where they’ve been cut.
If your aim is to stimulate the growth of branches, flowers or fruit, prune them just before the spring for a better result. If the winter is too rough and cold in your area, consider waiting until late winter.
How Do You Trim a Tree?
While it seems like a scary and troublesome undertaking, there are many ways you can prune your trees on your own or have it done by others.
The Principles of Trimming a Tree
Regardless of the tools or techniques, here some tips and tricks to tree-trimming:
- Spot the collar of the branch you need to cut. The branch collar is the place where the branch started growing from the stem. It won’t always be easy to locate. Look for the area where the bark is thicker, or where there is a ridge or a circle.
Try not to damage the branch collar to ensure the health of your tree. Cut just outside the branch collar so that it can heal well.
- First, cut the lower branches, and then move to the higher ones.
- Start cutting from the edge of the limbs; cut small branches first.
- Trimming branches that are growing upwards can develop rot in the tree. Avoid cutting these branches.
- Don’t chop off more than a quarter of a tree branch unless it’s dead.
- If there are any suckers developing at the foot of the trunk, cut them off too.
Tree Pruning Tools
You can trim trees from the ground or by climbing up to reach the branches, depending on the tools you use.
Tools to Prune Trees Standing on the Ground
A Pole Pruner
Pole pruners are ideal for pruning softwoods like white oak. But if you’re attempting to cut harder wood, like maple or dead wood, this tool is not a good option.
Take note of the diameter. Limbs less then a three-quarter inch in diameter can be easily pruned. However, thicker limbs will require a stronger grip.
Before buying a pole pruner, measure the distance of the branch that you need to prune with the pole. Guessing the distance may fool you. So try to measure it properly with a wide measuring tape.
Pole pruners come in different sizes and styles:
- A Fixed Pole can be six to 12 feet high.
- A Telescopic Pole can be six to 60 feet high.
- A Joint System increases by adding on extra sections.
When the poles are too long, they can be tricky to handle. You’ll need a ‘spotter’ to direct you to the branch you mean to prune. Watch out for the sudden rain of falling branches as you start trimming with your pruner.
A Pole Saw
If the branches you’re trying to cut are about 1.5 to two inches in diameter, you’ll need a pole saw. Pole saws come in two types:
- Manual Pole Saws
- Powered Pole Saws
Manual Pole Saws
Manual pole saws are saw blades that are attached to a pole. To trim a tree using a manual pole saw can be challenging and will require a lot of energy and grip.
Since the branches you’re cutting will be heavy, you have to be very careful about judging the area they’re going to fall in. Make sure it doesn’t fall onto the road, on any objects, or on other people.
Powered Pole Saws
A powered saw can be run from a battery, electricity, or gas. They have a chainsaw chain on a bar at one end, and a motor and trigger on the other. They generally measure six to 18 feet. Like pole pruners, they also come in different types:
- A Fixed Pole
- A Telescopic Pole
- A Joint system
The pruning technique is similar to the manual ones but they’re a lot easier to use.
A Pocket Saw With a Rope
A pocket saw is a chainsaw with a rope tied at both ends. However, the pocket saw chain is narrower which makes it easier to use than the chainsaw chain.
To use it, you’ll need to throw a line perfectly over the branch. Then, to cut the spot, all you have to do is slide the rope back and forth.
Options Without Poles
- Climb the tree to trim the branches with your standard pruning tools. Use ropes and a harness when necessary for big trees like maples.
- Climb up using a ladder and trim the branches using a pruner or pruning saw.
- Hire a bucket lift to reach the right height for pruning your trees.
Finally, Stay Safe
When a branch grows over your electric lines, you should always get a professional in to help. Again, if you have a phobia of heights, vertigo, or lack of strength and grip in your limbs, you should seek help from the professionals.
If you feel able to do it, there are plenty of tools to help you trim your trees yourself. It’s a much faster and more affordable way to maintain your yard.