Pruning is easy. You just grab whichever saw or pruning shears you find hanging on the wall in the garage and lop off a dead or dying limb. No problem.
Not so fast.
First, it’s important to remember your trees are valuable assets. A 45-foot oak that has grown for decades is, for all practical purposes, irreplaceable. Even that 12-foot maple sapling you planted three years ago is valuable. Trees of most species, sizes and ages can add to the beauty of your property, provide shade, add to the habitat for wildlife and at the risk of being overly pragmatic, add to the value of your home or other properties.
So sawing, chopping or clipping off limbs and risking the health of your trees requires some knowledge. Take the time to learn at least the basics of pruning before you go to work; pruning incorrectly can damage or even kill a tree.
Why prune a tree?
Broken, sagging, dead or diseased limbs are often easy to spot and in most cases should be removed from trees, as they may well eventually fall, causing further damage to the tree, your home or other property. And a falling limb can cause serious injuries or worse to people.
But there are other reasons to prune a tree:
- Pruning promotes growth. Pruning dead, damaged or struggling limbs, enables the tree to push more resources such as water and nutrients to other, healthier parts of the tree.
- Pruning a tree can slow or stop the progression of various diseases. Powder mildew, for example, and other fungal infections can damage or even kill trees. These diseases can spread within one tree and can infect nearby trees. Eliminating diseased limbs is a must.
- Pruning can improve the shape of a tree. You may have already done this and not known it. Trimming hedges is a form of shaping a bush or shrub, albeit on a different scale than what you would typically see on a large oak, for example.
- Pruning can prevent future damage. Dogwoods are notorious for splitting, which can severely damage or kill a tree. But carefully evaluating existing limbs and determining which are growing in a way (usually approaching horizontal) that puts increased stress on the tree and then either removing those limbs or trimming.
- them to reduce their weight, you can lessen the chances of catastrophic damage in a windstorm, for example.
- Pruning can promote fruit production. As is the case with removing dead, diseased or dying limbs, selective pruning allows the tree to divert water and important nutrients away from unproductive limbs and to those bearing fruit.
- Pruning can inhibit unwanted growth. The little oak tree that looked perfect growing in the front yard may eventually grow to become a giant, with limbs overhanging your house and cars, and roots that grow under and damage sidewalks and driveways. Regular pruning can inhibit the tree’s growth, keeping it to a size that works for its environment.
Use the right tools for pruning
Regardless of the task at hand, using the correct tools is important. Tools for pruning aren’t complex, but they are important and a key to getting good results and not damaging your trees. Tools for pruning include:
- Pruning saws are rough-toothed handsaws, available in various sizes. Many can be folded.
- Loppers are long-handled cutting instruments with short blades. The long handles give the user excellent leverage, enabling most people to cut through limbs as thick as up to two inches.
- Hand shears are similar to small scissors and are the right tool for cleanly cutting small limbs.
- Long-reach pruners come in various types and sizes, including small, pole-mounted chainsaws, all of which are designed to cut limbs several feet above the ground.
- Alcohol can be used to sanitize blades used for cutting diseased limbs, lessening the chances of infecting other limbs.
- Pruning sealants are paste-like substances that help seal a tree’s fresh cuts, which can protect the tree by reducing the chances of infection.
- Protective gloves can “save your skin” when gripping rough bark or handling splintered or broken limbs.
- Hard hats can protect your head from falling limbs. They’re available at most hardware stores and home improvement centers and offer excellent protection to your head and your brain.
These tools are readily available at local hardware, home improvement stores, and lawn and garden centers. It’s best to have them on hand before you start pruning so you can start and finish the job without interruption. Please notice we do not include chainsaws or ladders in our list of pruning tools. While chainsaws are useful and effective tools for many tree care tasks, they can be extremely dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 36,000 people are treated in U.S. emergency rooms annually for chainsaw injuries. Use them at your own risk. We also strongly advise people not to use ladders for pruning or any other work on or with trees, as the use of ladders presents serious risk for bodily harm or fatal injuries. We recommend pruning only branches that can be reached from the ground.
Pruning 102 and a word of caution
See our next blog on pruning, “Pruning 102” for specific information on pruning techniques and tips on how to get the best results.
Finally, pruning involves using sharp cutting tools, and may also include using ladders. It also may result in heavy branches falling or breaking during the pruning process. This poses the threat of potential property damage, injury or worse. Always exercise extreme care while pruning trees and while handling the tools for the job. Make no mistake, tree care work can be dangerous. On average, two tree care professionals lose their lives every three days in on-the-job accidents in the U.S., making tree care work one of the most dangerous occupations in the country.
If you are uncertain as to your ability to prune a tree safely or are not certain you can safely handle the tools needed for pruning, reach out to Hansen’s Tree Service and let our insured, experienced professionals do the work for you. Your trees will benefit from professional care and most important you, your loved ones and your property will be safe.