Author Topic: Tree trimming  (Read 4717 times)

Mactrader

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Tree trimming
« on: March 21, 2012, 01:46:45 PM »
I'm shifting quite nicely into the whole 'produce, don't consume' mentality and am looking to apply this toward a Spring project that we've been putting off. We bought our new home last summer and it is in dire need of tree trimming. Originally, my wife got a phone number from her Uncle of a guy that will do it quite reasonably, but now I'm thinking that even if it's $100 I can get some good time outdoors and learn a few things! I'm scouring Craigslist and neighbors for a 12' trimming pole, to avoid buying one new.

My wife does not have much faith in my ability to properly 'shape' the trees while doing the trimming. What do I need to keep in mind while doing this? Should I only be taking the twigs off? Will hacking up a good sized limb (1-2in thick) that is hanging into our play structure and causing spider problems be destructive to the tree? What's the best strategy to knock this job out? How far up the tree do I trim? I have about 5 trees of varying heights to do.

Two9A

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Re: Tree trimming
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2012, 08:57:20 AM »
Trimming a tree is a simple task, if all you're doing is lopping 1-inch branches. Since you talk about one of the branches hanging into your play structure, I assume it's 15ft high or so: losing one branch on a tree of that size won't kill the tree, so you should get rid of that outlier if it's giving you trouble.

For shaping, you might want to stand back and take a photo of the tree, and draw a rough outline of where you'd like the finished shape. When you come in close, the intersection points on your photo should be more obvious.

If your tree is considerably bigger than 15-20ft, and you're performing drastic surgery, get someone in to do it. I tried to cut down the monster 50ft tree in my yard, a limb at a time; after the first cut limb fell through the neighbour's fence, I decided it was unwise to DIY it any further ;)

Mactrader

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Re: Tree trimming
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2012, 01:08:51 PM »
Sweet! This is some great feedback, thanks! I wonder if I should wait until the leaves come in. That seems logical so I can get a better idea of how it'll look when i'm done. I appreciate the post!

spacecoyote

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Re: Tree trimming
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2012, 02:18:01 PM »
A rule of thumb that I learned from my dad about tree trimming is to trim anything that grows back in towards the tree itself. Especially in areas where the limbs would rub against each other. This keeps the bark from wearing down in that spot which allows weakness/disease to affect the area.

Also, it's worthwhile to consult a basic landscaping book for general trimming advice related to the type of tree in question. The previous owners of our home trimmed the apple tree in the backyard in a round shape, like you generally would a decorative shrub. So now I have to deal with an apple tree that has 8 bajillion tiny branches that grew off of those cuts and can't really hold fruit and constantly fight each other for space. Plus it looks horrible when the leaves fall off.

johnnylighthouse

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Re: Tree trimming
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2012, 09:12:56 PM »
You should make cuts at the branch collar  of the limb you're removing, cutting either too close or too far can be bad for the tree. Make sure that you pick junctions where the remaining limb is at least 1/3 the size of the limb you're removing.  Don't remove more than 1/3 of the tree in a year.  Otherwise its mostly a matter of taste.  Be careful not to drop branches onto anyone or anything important.  Don't cut from a ladder or from up in the tree as it's easy to get hurt if you don't know what you're doing.

Tim

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Re: Tree trimming
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2012, 05:27:59 AM »
I'd recommend ID'ing the trees on your yard and looking up specific pruning practices for them. Some trees are sensitive to being pruned at certain times of the year.

It's rather simple science but if a tree breaks dormancy, sprouts leave, and we cut the branches off, that energy is lost. The tree is weakened and might become a target for pests. Some trees are highly resilient and some aren't.

Good luck!

Mactrader

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Re: Tree trimming
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2012, 07:07:28 AM »
I appreciate all of the feedback. I've decided to wait until they come into bloom and pretty much apply all of the advice above. I'm looking forward to manning up and doing it myself instead of just outsourcing my problems. :)

I'll report back with any questions and the result!

shedinator

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Re: Tree trimming
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2012, 07:45:12 AM »
waiting until it has foliage could be a bad move. As Tim mentioned, forcing the tree to expend energy to sprout leaves and THEN removing branches can weaken the tree. It would be better to do it now, or wait until several months after the leaves have been out. Always cut off a branch at its base, and look into what you can do to cover the wound you create- especially in spring when you could be costing it sap. Also, the proper tools are lopping shears and a special saw. For most DIY trimmers, it's a bad idea to climb the tree and use a hand saw, until they REALLY know what they're doing.

Disclaimer: this is mostly knowledge gained from living on a farm. Professional arborists may be laughing at me as they read my country-bumpkin advice... but none of the trees we trimmed have died as a result.
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johnnylighthouse

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Re: Tree trimming
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2012, 08:19:34 PM »
Shedinator, I used to be a professional arborist and your advice is sound.  Except for covering cuts up. I've always been told that's bad.  And unless a tree is seriously hurting already I don't think it would be hurt by responsible pruning just after leafing out or blooming.

James

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Re: Tree trimming
« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2012, 07:42:57 AM »
Cut at the collar like someone already said, make sure you start by cutting up from the bottom about 1/4 of the way, then complete the cut from the top.  I often will cut the branch about 6-12 inches out from the trunk if it's an important tree or large branch.  Once you remove the weight of the branch you can make the closer final cut without having concern for ripping off bark or dealing with the large branch all at the same time.

Definitely agree with trimming branches growing back toward the trunk as was said, and always trim as close to the trunk as possible.  Trimming a bunch of branches out toward the end just causes more problems long term.  Make careful and thoughtful decisions and then cut what needs to be cut, don't be quick or haphazard.  If it's an important tree I suggest putting something like string on the branches you are going to cut and then thinking about it for another day or two, looking at it from all angle and imagining what it will look like without the branches you have selected.  By far most people trim too little, not too much.

Timing isn't extremely important unless it's a fruit tree or a fragile tree for your zone.  There are better times, but by far the type of cut and choosing the right branches is much more important than timing.  And don't put anything on the cut.

Good luck!  I love the look of a freshly pruned tree, to me it's like fresh paint in the house...  :)
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nubbs180

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Re: Tree trimming
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2012, 12:33:57 PM »
I'm a little late to the conversation, but in case others come back to consult this I thought I'd throw in my bit:

Consult with extension services about particular care you may need to pay to the type of tree you're working on.  Pages detailing this care can be found on extension websites.

Always start by removing dead branches.  After that branches that cross, and/or are weakly attached.  Then prune for shape/shade/fruit.

Cut just to the outside of the branch collar, running perpendicular to the branch, and keep cuts as smooth as possible, these things make it easier for the tree to seal the cuts back within the bark.

Never remove more than 1/3 of the tree's volume at a time.

At the finish, your tree shouldn't look a far cry different, just more open.

Covering cuts tends to seal bacteria/fungus/water in instead of keeping it out, in case you're wondering about that.

And spacecoyote, if you need help dealing with the watersprouts on your apple trees here it is:  take 1/3 of them off and cut 1/3 of them half-way down the length (to just above a bud); next year do it again, and the year after that, until they're all gone.

One last thing:  If it is tangled in power lines, let someone else do it!

gavint

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Re: Tree trimming
« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2018, 06:05:51 AM »
There are some good points made by others in this forum, and some wrong ones too.  I do this stuff for a living, I'm a master arborist, so I know a thing or two about pruning trees.

Figure out what kind of tree you're dealing with first, this will determine your strategy.  Some trees are better pruned in winter, some in summer, some can take a hard prune, some will react badly to being pruned at all. 

Figure out how old and vital your tree is, you can tell by how much growth it put on the previous year by looking up into the crown to see how much the end twigs grew.  Good growth means good healing potential, not so much means not very good healing potential.  How vital it is determines how much you can prune without damaging the tree.

First rule of thumb:  Trees HATE being pruned!   so with that in mind, every pruning action should be viewed as a minimization of damage and stress for the tree, while accomplishing whatever goals you have for it - it's a compromise.  One person said that most people cut too little - NOT true, most cut way too much.

Second rule of thumb:  Crown reductions don't work (i.e. making your tree smaller), at least not for long.  I always try to advise my customers away from this action.  The tree can't provide enough food for itself so it has to dip into its savings account to survive and bud out the following year.. This is hugely stressful, which sends out a signal for all wood destroying insects in the area that the buffet is open.  Plus, the tree tries as fast as possible to replace the lost leaf mass, and does so by sending up loads of water sprouts.    These sprouts then grow rapidly to the same height the tree was before, but are all in competition with each other, poorly connected with the main branch, provide more shade then before, and are more prone to breaking out, all while making the tree look totally shitty.  Meanwhile, the wood destroying fungi are at work munching away at all of the new pruning cuts....  Don't do it!

Third rule of thumb:  1/3 of the leaf mass may be removed from the tree or any given branch, NOT 1/3 of the height.  Remember, leaves are how the tree makes food, and a loss of 1/3 of them is about as much as a tree can take without reacting too badly.  That means thumb-thick branches can be drop-crotched for a reduction. 

Fourth rule of thumb:  Crown maintenance - dead wood first (cut, don't tear it out), then diseased or dying branches, then crossing branches and water sprouts.  That's it!  This action makes a lot of sense, and can correct failures before they become an expensive issue in the future.

Fifth rule of thumb:  'Thinning out' is harmful.  Other than the above maintenance, the crown should not be opened up, it allows sunlight and wind to get in, causing sunscald, water sprouts, and breakage of branches.

Sixth rule of thumb:  There are two groups of trees categorised according to their resistance to wood destroying fungi.  Trees with weak defences should never have wounds greater than 5 cm (Birch, Horsechestnut, Poplar, Willow), stronger trees can be pruned up to 10 cm (oak, hard maples, conifers, beech).  If you need to cut a branch bigger than this, there should be a good reason for it, because it will cost the tree in the long run.

Seventh rule of thumb:  Proper pruning cuts have been well described in this thread, first take the weight off, then make a finishing cut at the branch collar.  When reducing a branch, find an appropriate side branch no less than 1/3 the diameter of the main one, growing in about the same direction, to form the new branch tip.

Eighth rule of thumb:  Leave enough terminal twigs on the tree.  Terminal buds contain a hormone that suppresses side growth, and keeps dormant buds dormant.  Not only does it preserve the natural beauty and form of the tree, but it reduces the amount of water sprouts that will grow back.

That's enough for now, but there's way more to it, I'd be happy to answer any specific questions that are out there!