How to Trim Trees

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Jan 01, 2011
Trimming
Source: Stefano Lubiana Wines, Flickr.com

Trees are an integral part of almost any yard no matter where in the country you live. They provide shade and add beauty to their surroundings. They give fruit, serve as a home for wildlife, and produce oxygen. Because trees play such a vital role, it’s important to take proper care of them.

Why Trim?

There are three basic reasons for trimming trees: safety, health and aesthetics.

  • Trimming for safety: Bent or breaking branches could fall, causing injury to people or damage to property. Broken tree branches might also fall and damage fences. Also, broken branches might fall on power lines, disrupting the flow of electricity and potentially starting a fire. In cities with lots of trees like Seattle, Washington, for example, landscapers find that branches often grow out into streets, where they obstruct drivers’ line of sight or block pedestrians. If your tree is in danger of falling or poses a threat in any way, be sure to trim the problematic branches. Whenever possible, try to maintain a two-thirds ratio in which there are still branches on at least the upper two-thirds of the tree.
  • Trimming for health: Trimming a tree can be beneficial for its health. If a tree has a diseased or infested limb, you can save the rest of the tree by removing the damaged part. Also, removing broken or damaged limbs helps close tree wounds, and thinning the crown allows better air circulation and promotes new growth.
  • Trimming for aesthetics: Beyond the essential reasons for trimming a tree, you may also just want to make it look better. You can trim a tree to give it a certain shape or to stimulate flower growth. However, no more than one-quarter of the crown should be removed per season.

How to Trim

Trimming trees is not something to take lightly. If it is not done correctly, your tree could be damaged. There are special tools and procedures involved, as well as safety precautions you should take. The correct way to trim a tree is to cut at the node, the point where one branch attaches to another. You should also use proper trimming tools. If you do not, you could cause the bark to rip and injure stem tissue.

When to Trim

The best time to cue live branches is during the dormant season – usually the late fall or winter, preferably within three weeks of when the tree has finished blooming. This will prevent you from accidentally removing the buds of next year’s flowers. You’ll also be able to see what you are cutting. Finally, this helps the wounds close more easily during the growing season that follows and reduces the chance of disease transmission. Dead branches may be removed at any time.

Safety

If you attempt to trim your trees on your own, be sure to wear a safety helmet and secure yourself properly if you’re on a ladder or any other elevated surface. Do not attempt to cut branches that are on or near power lines. This is extremely dangerous and should only be done by your utility company. If you do not have the right tools or are afraid of damaging your tree, contact a local landscaper.

Mark Stevens is a writer from New Jersey who has written over 100 home improvement articles. Want to ask Mark something? Send him a message.

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