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How to Prune a Tree

Pruning helps trees grow strong and look neat and attractive. You would prune a tree to remove damaged branches, allow for new growth or create a distinctive shape. It’s important to do it correctly, so you don’t end up damaging the tree.

1. What time of year should you prune your tree?
Think about why you want to prune. Are you trying to shape a tree for shade or height? Has the tree been pruned recently? Before you begin, you want to consider what you are trying to achieve. You can do light pruning or remove deadwood at any time, but if you have larger goals, you’ll want to plan your pruning around the seasons. pruning in the winter will result in an explosion of growth during the spring. Pruning during the summer will slow the growth of the cut branch, so it’s a good strategy if you’re trying to shape your tree or slow the growth of branches you don’t want.

2. Assess the tree. Spend a few moments looking at the tree’s size and shape and imagining how it should look when you are finished. Proper tree pruning benefits from visualizing the end result. This is also a great time to evaluate other structures and trees that you want to prune the branches away from.

3. Identify the major branches of the tree that make up its “skeleton.” Avoid removal of these branches. These branches are important to both the strength of the tree as well as the look of the canopy.

4. Remove branches that show signs of damage first. Whether they were damaged by a storm or some other event, broken branches should be pruned so that the water and nutrients they’re still taking from the tree get redistributed to healthy branches. It is also important to remove any dead branches for safety reasons. In the event of a storm that involves wind or hail, these dead branches can become major hazards.

5. Thin out areas that are thick with branches. Remove branches that cross, then open the plant so that air might circulate, and light reach all parts of the plant. In order for trees to grow healthy, they need good air circulation through and around the branches. Branches that are close together foster the growth of fungus and attract more insects. Eliminate branches that are growing inward, toward the center of the tree. These cause clutter and are not healthy.

6. Prune branches that act as obstructions. Whether they’re low branches blocking your walkway or higher branches threatening your telephone wires, rubbing your roof, or overhang your house. It’s fine to prune the branches that are causing some type of annoyance.

7. Prune branches to help shape the tree. If you’d like your tree to have a more rounded or neat looking shape, prune a few branches that seem to stick out at odd angles; a few cuts will make a big difference.

8. Prune as little as possible. Each cut you make compromises the tree’s protection system and opens the tree to potential fungus and insect infestation. Prune only as much as you absolutely need to prune, and never remove more than 25 percent of a tree’s branches at a time.
For most deciduous trees, make sure that there are living branches on at least 2/3 of the tree, though this varies by species. Be aware that the trunk alone is not enough to ensure that the tree will survive. Removing all the branches is highly stressful for the plant. Don’t prune heavily more than once per season. Unless a storm breaks more branches, you shouldn’t prune more than once, since the tree needs time to recover.

When in doubt, contact our team of certified arborists. Embark Services specializes in proper pruning techniques for the long-term health of your tree.