Tree and shrub pruning needn't be scary. However beginners at landscaping should know some
basics to keep both you and the plant safe from harm, as more trees are killed or ruined each
year from improper pruning than by pests. Let’s look at the three main reasons to prune a tree.
Tree limbs are heavy and when they fall or are torn off by bad weather, they can cause serious
injury or major damage to property. It's bad enough if it's you or your property that gets hit. But
if a falling limb strikes a neighbor or passerby, the results can be very expensive!
Removing dead, broken, diseased or insect-infested limbs can save a tree's life and restore it to
health. By thinning the "crown" (the upper part of the tree which includes the branches and
leaves) you can also increase airflow through and around your tree, and a healthy tree is less
likely to lose limbs during bouts of bad weather.
When you prune with aesthetics as your priority, you're doing so to create a more pleasing shape
or to stimulate flower production. The best times to prune a tree is during while the trees are still
dormant, just before the buds break. This is usually in late March through to April. Make sure the
weather is dry, as rain can spread certain diseases from tree to tree.
To prune a live limb you need to first make an undercut to prevent bark from tearing as the
weight of the branch starts to fall. Next locate the "branch collar" that grows from the stem
tissue at the underside of the base of the branch. On the upper surface, there is usually a
branch bark ridge that runs (more or less) parallel to the branch angle, along the stem of the
tree. Begin the cut just outside the branch bark ridge and angle it down and away from the
stem of the tree. When you follow this basic step, you ensure a fairly rapid wound closure,
maintaining a healthy tree.
As with any landscaping job, the right tools are essential if you expect to carry out a
successful pruning. Sterilize all blades to prevent spreading disease.
On smaller limbs you can use pruning loppers. There are two basic designs you can choose
from: by-pass action and anvil action. The main difference is that with by-pass action, a thin,
sharp blade slides closely past a thicker but also sharp blade, whereas with anvil action, a
sharpened blade cuts against a broad, flat blade. In either case, it is essential that blades
that are meant to be sharp really ARE sharp, or you'll simply end up tearing and shredding
the limb instead of making a clean cut.
A pruning saw can be effective as well, especially on thicker limbs. Just remember that the
cutting action occurs on the draw back of the blade.
Higher and heavier limbs can be pruned using a pole-saw pruner. This basically consists of a
hooked blade above and a cutting blade beneath. The cutter is on a pole and is operated by
pulling a rope downward. I have to say that this can be risky! Cut limbs have a habit of falling
suddenly and can strike whatever is below... including you! Wear a hard hat and eye
protection at all times. Or talk to a landscape professional let them worry about falling limbs!