Expert Tips
September 20, 2021

Are You Trimming Trees the Wrong Way? Landscape Do's and Don'ts

Trees can be towers of terror. That's why more than 50,000 Americans work as tree trimmers and pruners.

But the high number shouldn't make you believe that trimming trees is easy. Seasoned professionals and amateurs alike commit plenty of tree trimming mistakes.

When is the right month to trim your tree? What sort of cuts should you use to remove a branch? When is cutting down an entire tree necessary?

Answer these questions and you can understand the dos and don'ts of tree trimming. Here is your quick guide.

Don't Pick Any Time to Prune

Trimming trees at the wrong time can kill the trees. It is okay to trim a branch at any time if it may damage a house or lawn. But more advanced trimming efforts should come at a particular time of year.

Never ask to prune or trim a tree in the fall. Plants reduce how much energy they make, so they conserve their resources for the winter. Trimming a tree will cause it to produce more branches, which can drain its energy and cause it to die in the winter.

You should avoid trimming in the late winter and early spring. Buds will begin to appear on your tree, and trimming another branch may cause the buds to fall out.

Avoid trimming during very warm weather, namely in the middle of the summer. This is when pests are most active. They may burrow into the cuts you make in a tree and kill it from within.

Don't Make Flush Cuts

A flush cut occurs when someone cuts a branch off and removes the branch collar around the tree trunk. The branch collar helps form a seal over a cut in the bark. If the collar is cut away, the hole will remain open and rot can set in.

It is okay to cut close to the branch collar, but you should not cut on or against the collar. At the same time, you don't want to leave too much of the branch left. Cut the branch until you can no longer hang objects from it.

Don't Top Your Tree

Topping occurs when someone cuts a tree through its main trunk. They may be trying to reduce the overall height of the tree, so they pick a random point and saw through it.

This usually prompts the tree to create many weak and spindly branches. The branches can cause the tree to tilt over, or they can grow long and fall off. You should always avoid chopping.

Do Understand How to Trim Trees With Three Cuts

The three-cut method is the best way to trim pesky branches. You begin by making one shallow cut on the underside of your branch. This cut should be one to two inches from the branch collar.

The second cut should cut through the branch two to four inches away from the collar. It should remove the branch, leaving a short stub with the first cut in it.

The third cut takes the rest of the stub off. You should cut through the branch right next to the collar.

Do Use the Right Tools

You should have several different tools at your disposal to get rid of branches. Pruning shears are best for thin branches that you can grab ahold of. Though many people use their shears for snipping, you can follow the three-cut method with them.

Loppers are best for thin or medium-width branches. If you can't get a good grip on your shears, you can use the long handles of loppers for added momentum.

Pruning saws are versatile. Some of them contain curved blades, so you can cut through round stubs and branches. Use a saw for thick branches that have crusty bark.

Chainsaws are your best tool for very thick and unwieldy branches. You should be very careful with your chainsaw, wearing goggles and gloves while you operate it. Clear out the area beneath your branch because woodchips will fall to the ground.

Do Learn How to Cut Down a Tree

You should ask someone to cut down an entire tree only if the tree is dead or threatens a piece of property. Look for the signs of a dying tree and call someone to see if there is anything you can do to save your tree.

Cutting an entire tree should be left to professionals. They should start by making a 70-degree cut through the trunk in the direction of where the tree should fall. They should then make a horizontal cut that connects to the first one.

This opens up a notch in the trunk. They should move to the opposite side of the trunk and make a horizontal cut, using a wedge to nudge the tree over.

You can engage in stump grinding in order to remove the leftover stump. This will remove pests from the area and clear the ground for construction.

What to Know About Trimming Trees

Trimming trees requires quite a bit of knowledge. Pruning should occur in the summer, not in the fall or winter.

Flush cuts destroy tree collars and leave gaping holes in trunks. Topping can destroy an entire trunk, allowing branches to shift a tree's weight.

Use the three-cut method to remove a particular branch. Find a tool that matches the width and size of that branch. Cut down a whole tree whenever it starts to die.

Leave big tree projects to the professionals. Canopy Tree and Land Company serves the Gainesville area. Get your free estimate today.

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