While you may enjoy the lush canopy of your tree, along with the shade and other environmental benefits that those branches provide, there are circumstances in which they need to be removed. While full branches are a welcome respite in parks and pastoral areas, urban settings can be problematic. In urban neighborhoods, tree branches may block sunlight too much, obstruct sightlines and vision or even cause problems on roads with vehicles or sidewalks for pedestrians. We see this commonly here in St. Louis, MO.
One way to remedy that problem is to raise a tree’s canopy through pruning
What is Canopy Raising?
Raising a tree’s canopy is also known as thinning. It is the process of removing the lower limbs of a tree that can block sunlight excessively, interfere with the flow of traffic or inhibit the growth of smaller trees, plants, and bushes. Heavy tree branches also pose a threat of damage to your home and yard in the event of high winds or ice accumulation.
By making these small cuts at regular intervals, you deter the large lower branches from growing up into the tree’s canopy- hence, you are literally raising the height of the tree’s canopy.
In addition to avoiding some of the problems listed above, raising a tree’s canopy has an aesthetic benefit as well because it makes the tree look more manicured.
What Do I Need?
To start, you need a ladder, power saw, and a fine-toothed saw for the best results. We recommend you prune back the canopies of younger trees over time, rather than starting this process with older trees. You run the risk of having large bald spots on the tree or even damaging it. There is a risk of cracking and decay if you cut too deeply and too often.
Have a plan before you start. Decide where the lowest branch on the tree will always be and use that as your guide for this task going forward. You’ve got two objectives when trying to raise the canopy: stunt the growth of lower limbs and remove any limbs on the tree that currently pose problems.
Keep in mind that you don’t want to cut off too much. If you wait until your trees are older and you are required to remove multiple branches at once by necessity, your tree will become over-pruned, which is damaging. Rather than cutting off all the large low branches at once, target specific ones to stunt their growth, by cutting close to the trunk.
Another reason that you should avoid cutting off too many lower limbs at once is that you run the risk of the tree becoming top heavy, which in younger trees could cause it to bow.
Move in a circular motion around the tree, cutting limbs back from ½ to 1/3 of their length. In addition to removing these limbs strategically, inspect the tree for limbs that could pose a problem, are too full or could interfere with other branches. Cut these branches as close to the trunk as you can without actually nicking the trunk. Repeat this process annually.