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Pruning & Trimming Trees

Materials List
Tools List (click item to shop)
Hand saw
Two-handed shears
Extended reach pruner
Pruning shears
Safety goggles
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IMPORTANT: Read this before you start

As a home owner, you should pay careful attention to the trees that surround your house. Dead limbs and some smaller "roughage" can pose a danger to you and your family, as well as your home, if your trees are not cared for properly. Essentially, proper pruning is essential for a healthy and aesthetically pleasing tree. Pruning is needed when first planting a tree to control its growth and to help develop its shape. Pruning can help spur growth in foliage, fruit and flowers as well as remove diseased and damaged areas. Late winter and early spring offer good tree and shrub pruning opportunities because it's far easier to see the shape of the tree and the branch patterns without the foliage.

Skill Level & Time To Complete
• Beginner - 20 minutes
• Intermediate - 15 minutes
• Advanced - 10 minutes


Never stand directly under the branch you are cutting.

Make sure to wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from sawdust and other falling debris.

Common Mistakes

Don’t be in a hurry. Take your time and decide which branches need to be removed. Remember, there is no turning back.

Cutting limbs smooth to the main branch. Cuts will heal more quickly when cut just above the branch collar.

Over pruning will stunt the growth of the tree.

1. The timing of your pruning is very important. For example, spring is a great time to prune for overall shape. Summer pruning should be limited to light pruning to force new growth. Fall pruning should be limited to clearing away dead areas. Because of dormancy, winter pruning is the best time to prune deciduous trees, except those that ooze a lot of sap during the winter months, maple trees or apple trees.
2. Regardless of the time of the year, it may be necessary to prune a tree that you are transplanting. It is important to maintain a balance between the growth of the top of the tree and the growth of the root base when transplanting trees. If you are trimming the top portion of the tree, the root base should be trimmed in proportion.
3. Before you start pruning, take time and study the shape of the tree from many views. There are five things to look for: (1) broken branches, (2) low limbs, (3) branches that cross, (4) branches shooting up too close to the main trunk and (5) crowded limbs.
4. Once you have decided what cuts are needed, you can choose the proper tool. There are many types of tools that will make your pruning job easier. Regardless of the tool, it is very important that the blade remains sharp so that all cuts are smooth and not jagged. Handsaws, which come in various shapes, are used on larger limbs. Two-handed shears can be used for branches up to 2” in diameter. Extended reach pruners will help you cut the out-of-reach areas. Pruning shears are used on branches and twigs up to .6” in diameter. Avoid accidents by never standing directly under the cutting area.
5. To avoid tearing the bark and having the blade bind during cutting, follow these tips when using the handsaw: Make the first cut on the bottom of the branch, about half way through and about five inches from the trunk. Second, make another half cut from the top but on the outside of the bottom cut. Finally, make a complete cut where the branch meets the trunk.
6. When making the final cuts with a saw or other types of pruners, cut branches and limbs just above the branch collar. This will help the tree heal faster. More professionals are deciding to not use tree paint to cover newly cut areas as they heal better if done naturally.
7. If your goal is to have a taller but thinner tree, you should trim the branches to the inside bud. If you would like to have a wider spreading tree, trim branches to the outside bud.



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