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How to Prune Your Tree Correctly

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

Removal of a limb needs to be carefully considered and executed properly. Future growth and overall health will be affected by every limb removed. Incorrect pruning can lead to undesirable dangerous growth or even death of the tree. Our professionals are trained to make proper limb cuts and leave your tree healthy for many years to come! In the event you cannot hire a professional arborist, we recommend following the guidelines below:

Worksite Prep

  1. If possible make sure to remove any objects in the drop zone.

  2. Sterilize your hand saw (prevent cross contamination between trees)

* As a rule of thumb, if you need to use a ladder, it's best to hire a professional to avoid any injury

What Limb to Cut/Remove

  1. Remove competing leaders

  2. Branches that area too low

  3. Branches that are broken or diseased

  4. Branches that are overcrowded or rubbing against each other

  5. Branches that have weak unions. Remove limbs that have a crotch union of less than 30 degrees. Optimal angle for a strong crotch is 45-60 degrees

  6. Branches growing towards the center of tree(Trunk)

Illustration  of Reasons to Prune Trees (red branches are to be removed)

Types of Tree Limb Cuts

Reduction Cut

A reduction cut is primarily used when reducing canopy size or re-directing growth pattern. It is recommended to make cut back to a lateral branch equal to or at least 1/3 the size of the limb being removed.

Removal Cut

The removal of a limb to a lateral branch that is bigger, not smaller, is called a removal cut. An example would be the elimination of a limb by cutting it back to the stem (trunk of tree).

How to Make an Appropriate Cut

A correct cut will minimize the impact on the tree's overall health. It will minimize the open wound and allow for correct healing. It is important to recognize and were the final cut should be done on a limb to allow correct healing.

Most tree unions have clear visual marks that will guide in making the pruning cut. A branch union is composed of the bark ridge and branch collar; this area has healing compounds that help the tree heal after a cut.

The cut should be done at a 45 degree angle just outside the branch collar.

To achieve a clean cut it's important to follow the Three Step Pruning Method.

  1. First, make an undercut about 1/4 the branch thickness at about 6 inches to 1 foot from the final cut.

  2. Make a full cut successfully dropping the lateral part of the limb

  3. Make a clean cut outside the branch collar to remove the short stump left behind.

If done correctly, the Three Step Pruning Method will prevent bark from back peeling into the trunk if otherwise removed in one single cut.

If a limb is removed in a single cut vs Three Step Pruning Method the bark peeled will expose the tree's cambium leaving it susceptible to pathogens and disease.


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1 Comment

Brenda Tran
Brenda Tran
Oct 28, 2020

My dad tried trimming a tree with a meat cleaver and from a bad angle. It almost fell on him and it still looked bad! Next time, we're coming to Arbolero.

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