Basic pruning includes removing suckers, water sprouts, dead, damaged, and crossing branches. Winter is an ideal time to prune a tree as there are fewer insects and bacteria present to attack the tree. The following tips will help maintain healthy and happy trees:

  1. Determine your pruning goals in advance so you will know when to prune and how much canopy you should remove.
  2. Work from the bottom up.
  3. For small material and limbs less than 1” in diameter, use hand bypass pruning pruners.
  4. Loppers may be used for branches from 1” to 3” in diameter.
  5. For larger stock greater than 3” in diameter, a pruning saw is recommended.
  6. Remove any sprouts (epicormic growth), dead growth, crossing branches, and branches growing either straight up or down within the canopy.
  7. Be safe when pruning – always wear: gloves, safety glasses, closed-toed shoes, and a hard hat.
  8. Never stand under the branch you are cutting.
  9. Keep your cutting tools clean and sharp to make clean cuts. Sharpen and oil each at the end of each season.
  10. Torn bark and poorly made cuts can invite pests and disease problems.
  11. Do not make cuts flush with the trunk, make cuts just outside the raised branch collar (branch bark ridge), inline (parallel) with the trunk, stem, branch, and twig.
  12. Never remove more than 25% of the living canopy at one time.
  13. Do not apply tar or other wound dressing to a fresh cut. These substances trap insects, bacteria, or fungi in the wound.
  14. Be sure to collect and dispose of all your cut branches.
  15. Apply antibacterial gel to cutting tools between trees to prevent spreading infection.
  16. Leave difficult and hard to reach work to a Licensed Certified Arborist.

Larger Limbs:

For larger limbs, removing weight helps create clean cuts.  Use the following three-step method (A,B,C,) for heavy thick branches greater than 3”:

  1. “A” is an undercut (from the bottom) 1/3 of the way through several inches from the branch bark ridge/branch collar.
  2. “B” is a top cut inches further out on the limb, all the way through the branch.
  3. “C” is the finish cut just outside the branch bark ridge, all the way through.
pruning1Pruning Basics

Training Trees:

  • Structural pruning increases the strength and longevity of trees.
  • One strong central leader in a tree is the desired form. To encourage this, the smaller of the two co-dominant stems should be removed.
  • Pruning replaces the natural processes that increase the strength and longevity of trees.
  • Never “top” trees. This technique takes too much of the canopy, weakens the tree, and increases undesirable co-dominant stems.

Casey Trees has an excellent series of videos on this subject: