Pruning means removing or reducing the length of certain branches to achieve a desired effect. This could be to remove diseased branches, maintain or reduce the shape of the tree or to just make the surrounding area safer (getting rid of branches that could fall into a road for example). Whichever reason it is, there are certain things to remember to make sure that you do the job safely and don’t cause unnecessary damage to the tree.

First of all, it is important to think about when you will prune the tree. If you are pruning to get rid of dead or diseased branches then do it as soon as possible. Otherwise, it is best to avoid the spring time as this is when all the sap is rising and there a lot of hormonal changes occurring in the tree.

Most of the time you will be able to complete the task with a pruning saw (be careful these can be very sharp), hand pruners and loppers.

Making the Cut

A lot of people just start cutting from the base of the branch when deciding how to prune a tree; however this will lead to problems such as the branch splitting and ripping. To do it properly, start by cutting a third of the way through the branch from underneath, about 1 foot away from the trunk, then cut just in front of the first cut on the top of the branch until the branch breaks off. The branch should then break off cleanly with no ripping and tearing of the bark. If the first cut wasn’t there and the bark was ripped away from the trunk creating an open wound, it could possibly lead to pests and diseases entering the tree and would certainly prevent the tree from sealing the wound.

With the final cut (the removal of the 1 foot stub you have created), you want to prevent cutting into the branch bark collar. This is where the sealing cells of the branch are. If this area is damaged then the tree will not be able to seal the wound and thus allow pests and diseases to enter.

There is a British Standard for this sort of work. It is called BS 3998 and is very helpful for people who wish to prune a tree correctly. All good tree surgeons should have a copy.

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