Tree trimming is an important responsibility when you’re a property owner, but good and bad pruning practices don’t come naturally to most people. In fact, trimming a tree is just as much science as it is art, and it takes professional arborists years to learn all the dos and don’ts of tree trimming. To help you with your pruning, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of things you should and shouldn’t do to help you out when you’re trimming your trees.
Safety Dos and Don’ts
DO wear long pants, long sleeves, safety glasses, and gloves when you prune. These will protect your body, from head to toe, from injuries as you work.
DO prune outer foliage, but avoid over-pruning inner foliage.
DON’T attempt to climb a tree unless you’re wearing proper climbing spikes.
DON’T prune a tree that’s within 10 feet of a power line or transformer. You could electrocute yourself if you accidentally touch the power lines, and you risk knocking out power to the neighborhood if a branch falls on the lines.
DON’T try to prune branches that are too high for you to reach easily. This is especially true if you’re using a chainsaw: if you have to get on a ladder to reach, stop and call a professional instead.
General Trimming Dos and Don’ts
DO use proper pruning practices, as improper pruning can damage a tree for life. Talk to your arborist about trimming best practices for different trees and different times of year.
DO inspect all your trees after a storm or heavy winds to see if trimming is necessary to remove damaged or broken limbs or branches.
DO prune trees that are overgrown and have overly bushy and wild foliage. It’s also important to prune branches that are too close to your house.
DO prune to encourage flower and fruit production.
DO prune large, broken, dead, or diseased branches that are at risk of falling on a person, on your house, on a car, onto a powerline, or onto a neighboring property.
DON’T prune off more than 25 percent of a tree’s foliage in a single growing season. Trees are living things, and taking too much off at once can cause damage.
DON’T use wound paint or sealer to seal wounds after trimming, as this can lead to moisture retention and rot.
DON’T prune unless you have a good reason to do so. And no, trying out your new pruning shears isn’t a good enough reason!
DON’T trim a new tree (less than a year old) for aesthetic reasons. Only trim a young tree to remove broken or dead branches.
Time of Year Dos and Don’ts
DO prune in winter to promote new growth in spring: prune your tree in winter when the coldest temperatures have passed.
DO prune in summer to help slow the growth of problem branches or limbs.
DON’T prune in fall, when healing takes longer, and there are more fungi in the air. The only exception to this would be if you discover a dead or diseased branch, as this should come off immediately, regardless of the time of year.
DON’T prune a tree in spring until all the blossoms have opened.
The most important do and don’t of tree trimming is this: don’t put yourself or somebody else in danger to trim your tree, and do call a professional arborist for help if you’re not comfortable trimming your tree or can’t reach certain branches that need to come off.
A tree expert can help you assess the health of your tree, show you proper pruning practices, tell you what to look for in terms of disease, and can give you more do and don’t guidelines to ensure proper trimming practices and healthy trees.