How To Prune A Tree
An explanation of how to prune a tree with instructions on how to identify branches that need pruning.
Pruning a tree is something that needs to be done for the appearance and health of the tree. With a few simple rules, planning, and the correct tools, this yearly task can become a simple procedure.
Make sure that any clippers you use are clean and freshly sharpened. A ragged cut will leave a wound on the tree that is much harder to heal and can leave some unsightly scars that will defeat the purpose of pruning. Your saw should be as sharp as possible. A wound dressing is a good idea, especially if you are going to have to take off any large branches (larger than 2 inches in diameter).
Look at your tree with an eye to the end result: do you want a tree that is conical or spreading? Are there any branches that are dead or diseased? If you have branches that are hitting your house, do you need to remove them to prevent damage to your house? Do you have power lines near your tree? When you have answered the questions look at the branches you have decided to leave, do any cross over and rub on others? Do you have any that are growing down towards the ground? Decide which branches are going to have to be removed. Marking them with strips of tape or a can of spray paint can make your job a little easier.
Always think safety. Starting at the top, work your way down; make sure your ladder is secure; and if you have to climb the tree itself, ensure you have plenty of support and the branches will hold your weight. When cutting larger branches, it is a good idea to tie them and then lower them to the ground; it will help avoid breaking branches that you want left and injury to anyone on the ground. You can also trim smaller branches off the branch you are planning to remove to make it easier to get to the ground.
Make your first cut on the underside of the branch as close to the main branch as possible. This helps stop the bark from tearing as the weight of the limb pulls down. The top cut should be about two inches farther out from the main branch. When you have removed the branch, you can make the stump neater by cutting it off flush with the main branch.
Use a wound dressing if you are pruning in the spring or summer. Any large branch removals should also have wound dressing applied even if the tree sap is not running. Apply with a small paintbrush, and be generous in application. The wound dressing will deter insects from attacking the wound and help to prevent rot from moisture getting in, much like an antibiotic cream and a bandage on you.
The best time to prune is in early spring, or late winter, before the tree starts budding. If for some reason you need to prune while the tree is actively growing, then you will need to apply more wound dressing. Any time you see a cut that is leaking sap, apply wound dressing.
Now that you have pruned your tree, step back and look at the finished results you have created.