How to Trim a Tree Yourself

While some homeowners are not new to trimming their trees, this topic could be intimidating for those who haven’t experienced doing it themselves. It is crucial to give trees the proper care they need for them to flourish for many years. Sure, it is easy to water, fertilize, and mulch, but trimming is a different story. 

Trimming may seem hard at first, but it is definitely manageable, especially if you know the how to’s of it. However, if trimming would involve large trees, power lines, and other hazardous factors, let the professionals handle it for you. But other than that, you can make it happen on your own. 

If you want to learn the basics of tree trimming, read on for a simple, step-by-step guide to DIY pruning. 

When Should You DIY Tree Trimming and When Should You Not 

If you are looking to trim lightweight branches from a small tree, by all means, do it! But if you plan to trim the canopy of a large tree, you may need to step back and let a certified arborist do it. Don’t attempt to trim a tree when you need to use a ladder to reach its branches. Also, it is dangerous to DIY a trimming project if the tree is under a power line or if it’s too large and heavy for you to handle. 

How to Trim Small Tree Branches Yourself 

Let’s talk about how to prune small branches and eventually, a small tree. Make sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Always use sharp and clean pruning tools.
  • Take time to know your tree’s anatomy. We’ll teach you simple terms that can come in handy when you start your pruning project. The branch collar is the visible swelling that is found at the base of the branch that connects it to the tree. It can be easily seen in some species but may not be the case for some. The branch bark ridge, on the other hand, is found between the branch and the trunk, a little higher than the branch. Imagine the branch to be an arm and the collar to be the underarm while the bark ridge is the shoulder. 
  • Locate the exact spot you’ll prune. Make sure not to cut the branch collar itself because this could lead to serious problems in the future. 
  • Cut the branch you wish to eliminate at a 45-60 degree angle to the bark ridge if it is no more than one inch in diameter.
  • Use the three-cut rule when cutting thick branches. Cut the branch 10-15 inches above the branch collar. Cut midway at the base of the branch, then move a little farther from the cut. Saw off into the top of the branch to let it fall. The final cut should be past the branch collar. 

How to Trim a Small Tree

When you know how to cut small branches, pruning a small tree would be much easier, but there are still some factors that can affect how smooth the process can go:

  • Before cutting, determine which branches you would let go and the ones you’ll keep. Make sure to cut the branches that are growing at a wrong angle and keep those that grow at 60 degrees from the trunk. You should also eliminate branches that grow across the interior of the tree. 
  • How much to cut is also essential to know when pruning a tree. Professionals suggest not to prune more than 25% of a tree’s canopy at the same time. Trim dead twigs and branches as well as water sprouts that usually come in clusters. 
  • If you are pruning a young tree, cut away limbs that compete with the leader branch.
  • Use the steps above to prune branches.

How DIY Trimming Can Go Wrong and Kill a Tree

Correct pruning can go a long way for the health of the tree, but incorrect pruning can be detrimental. One wrong cut may not affect the tree seriously, but doing it too often can. A tree under stress can grow weak and eventually die over time. One of the main reasons for a tree’s decline is too much pruning of the canopy, so make sure not to over trim it. 

Further, cutting the branch collar is also a culprit for a tree’s death. It’s important not to hurt the branch collar to make sure the tree heals naturally after being pruned. If it doesn’t heal well, it could get infected by fungi and severely damage the tree. 

Why You Shouldn’t Attempt Dealing with a Large Tree 

There is a reason why we never recommend homeowners or landowners to prune large trees. It is because pruning larger trees should be left to the professionals. It can be dangerous for an amateur to climb a ladder with sharp pruning tools. If you don’t have enough experience and skills to take on the task, you can fall and hurt yourself. Larger branches may also require the use of heavy equipment that can be difficult to handle for a newbie in gardening.

For more information and tree trimming service, call Jim with Thatcher’s Tree Service Gainesville at (352) 269-1972.