How to Prune a Tree

You should learn how to prune a tree when it is planted. Once the tree is in the ground, you should look at it with a critical eye. Are there any crossing branches? Is there more than one ‘leader’, a center branch that comes up from the trunk? Do you notice damaged or broken branches? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you should prune your tree.

When it comes to pruning trees, there are some basics you should understand. First of all, if the branch is more like a twig, you can remove it to where it is connected to the branch. Second, make sure the cut is as flush as possible with the branch and keep it at an angle. Third, never cut half a branch off. Not only is it unsightly to do so, but it will cause the branch to grow at an unusual angle, thus distorting its natural shape. Fourth, while you may be tempted to add a coat of paint or tar to the wound, don’t. This treatment may actually be worse for your tree. It can cause the wound to rot instead of heal. Fifth, always clean your tools before pruning a tree. You can wipe down the tools with rubbing alcohol or soak the tools in a solution of soapy water and a capful of bleach. You should let the tools soak in the solution for at least ten minutes, then rinse them and set out in the sun to finish sterilizing. Finally, if your tree is near power lines, you should have a professional like Austin Tree Service prune your tree.

Tree Pruning Schedule

You should set up a tree pruning schedule the day the tree is planted. Once the tree is securely planted, it’s time to take a look at the shape. You’ll want to remove any branches that are crossing or rubbing together and those that are damaged in any way. If left alone, rubbing branches will eventually become grafted together. Once you remove those branches, you can choose the branch leader. A tree branch leader is the branch that is located in the center of the tree. It will grow upward and become the focal point by which all other branches will be pruned. If you have more than one leader, you will need to make a decision as to which one you want to be the tree’s leader branch. After you make that decision, prune your tree accordingly.

Next, you will want to align the branches so that they alternate up the trunk. Once you finish this, you have completed year one’s pruning schedule. The next time you should prune is during year three or four unless you have damaged branches in the meantime. At this point, you will want to remove suckers and unwanted sprouts that grow along the crown. Next, remove any competing leaders as before. You will also want to get rid of branches that are rubbing or growing in undesirable directions. When that is done, you can open up the tree a little bit. This will increase the amount of sunlight that reaches the interior of the tree, increasing air circulation and reducing plant diseases. It will also increase the amount of available water and nutrients for the tree by cutting back competition for these resources. Finally, you should remove a few of the lower branches. Don’t remove all of them. Gradual removal will create a better and stronger trunk than if you remove them all at once.

The next scheduled pruning should occur when a tree is five to seven years old. At this point, you can remove all branches that are lower than human head level. This will aid in the shape of the tree and will also make adding mulch and fertilizer easier. You should examine the tree to see if you need to remove a branch here or there to keep the tree shape and cut back any side branches that extend past the natural drip line.

If you have done your pruning properly, you should have a good looking tree for many years to come. However, you shouldn’t sit on your laurels when it comes to pruning a tree. Constant upkeep of tree is required during their dormant period, which is late fall through winter. If you keep your trees in good shape, you can reduce breakage due to winter winds, ice and snow if it applies to your region.

What happens if you have a broken branch?

First, you need to come up with a plan. Although your first inkling may be to       go out and cut it, this may not be the best course of action. You should look where the breakage occurs and the surrounding environment. Is the break near a power line, house or car? Is it large or small? Can you reach it safely? If the answer to any of these questions is no, you should contact us to remove the branch. We have the experience and know how to remove tree branches safely and securely without causing further damage to your tree.

If you do decide you can go it alone, you will need to get your supplies together. Keep in mind, though, that your supply list should be based on the size of the branch and its location to its surroundings. You may need are a ladder, rope, hand saw and hand pruners. We do not recommend that you use a chain saw on your own. Once you have your equipment ready, you can clean and disinfect it. Then, you will cut the offending limb(s) down. If the branch is very small, simply nip it off at the closest branch or take it off at the trunk. If the branch is larger, you will want to remove it in pieces.

Got questions on how to prune a tree? Feel free to give us a call at 512-341-8888. We’re happy to help you get your trees in tip top shape.


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