Where Do I Cut? A Brief DIY Tree Pruning Guide

Now that we have established that you have a needy tree, the next step is to do something about it. If you are the lucky winner of our Needy Tree contest you are laughing, but there can only be one winner. That leaves a lot of trees still in need of some TLC. So what can you do about that?

You always know that you can contact CLC Tree Services to assist you with your tree’s maintenance, but many of you may want to take care of some of those needs yourself. If pruning your tree is the top of your tree’s needs, then read on for some suggestions of how to go about it.

DIY Tree Pruning

First things first, before you tackle any DIY tree pruning, assemble the proper tools for the job. Grab a pair of gardening or safety gloves and some eye protection. Here are a few tools to consider.

DIY Tree Pruning – Proper Tools for the Job

Hand shears are great for small jobs, but larger branches require larger tools. If you plan to prune your tree yourself, think about investing in a pole pruner. While a ladder adds height, a pole pruner will give you that stretch without leaving the ground. You will be able to safely cut small to medium-sized branches and not have to worry about losing your balance while attempting to reach that last hard to reach branch. A telescoping pole pruner adds that little bit more stretch as well. If you can justify the expense, there are also electric pole trimmers that quickly and easily do the trimming for you. Rope saws and portable buck saws are other helpful tools that make the job easier.

Don’t forget to maintain your tools by properly cleaning them after each use. A clean and sharp tool will help to prevent spreading disease and makes for a better experience.

Where to Cut

Now that you have your tools assembled, examine your tree and decide where to start cutting. The obvious is that dead branches need to go. After that, pruning gets a little trickier. If you are pruning to shape your tree, try to envisage what you want your tree to look like. Cut strategically. Don’t take more than 25 percent of the tree’s crown. This reduces the risk of damage due to disease, shock or weakness that will make your tree more vulnerable in future storms. Realistically, less is always better.

Before you begin hacking away at those straggling branches or thinning twigs out for your idea of what looks best, remember that any cuts you make are permanent. You cannot undo them and your tree will be forever scarred by the cuts you make today. That means you need to know exactly where to place your cut, before you pick up your pruners. While it might seem daunting at first, there is plenty that you can do yourself. Don’t be afraid and let it go until you have a bigger problem, where you have to call in an arborist.

  • Cut branches at nodes (the place where two branches or twigs connect). Select V-shaped nodes, versus U-shaped nodes.
    • A U-shaped node is shaped like a U (imagine that!) and therefore stronger.
    • V-shaped connections are weaker and more prone to damage.
  • Always cut on the branch side of stem collars (ie. the connection point where smaller branches attach to larger ones). That way you give the tree a better chance to recover and thrive from you pruning. You want your tree to have a long and healthy life and pruning goes a long way to help achieving that.

Once you have finished cutting, don’t forget to clean up the area around the tree, as well as your tools. A solution of bleach to water (1:9) is sufficient to sanitize your tools when soaked for 1-2 minutes. Now step back and admire your newly pruned tree. With proper pruning techniques, you will find new and stronger growth before you know it.

If you need more information, or would like to talk to an arborist personally about your tree please contact us at CLC Tree services. We are happy to speak with you about how to properly prune your trees or to do the job for you.

Other helpful websites for more information on pruning trees:


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Published by
April 12, 2011 11:17 pm