Tips for Tree Pruning

Written by Brad Bateman

I love this time of year. LOVE IT. Football season is over so I have Sundays free, college basketball season is quickly approaching March Madness, The Masters is just around the corner, but most of all, IT’S TREE PRUNING SEASON!

There are several reasons to prune a tree. They include but are not limited to: promote fruit growth, teach the tree how to grow the way you want, and to maintain the health of the tree. If a tree is growing too low, it can be difficult to mow under. Trees that are growing too tall, obstructing a view, or rubbing against a building should get pruned as well. Pruning young trees has many benefits and doesn’t take a lot of time.

The two major factors to consider when pruning trees is the time of year and where the cut is made on the branch. When pruning deciduous trees, it is best for the tree to get pruned during the dormant season (November-March). The cut itself is also extremely important. You never want to cut into the branch collar (see diagram). The biggest mistake I see homeowners make when pruning their own tree is making a flush cut, or cutting flush with the trunk of the tree. This damages the tree and limits its ability to heal from the wound. Instead, you want to make the cut flush with the branch collar. The best way to make this cut is to use the three cut method. This is done by making the first cut about one-third of the way through the branch from the bottom about eight inches from the trunk. Second, cut through the entire branch a few inches above the first cut. Finally, cut back to the branch collar. Once the trees are pruned in early spring, prepare to see a huge difference in the appearance of the tree once the growing season begins.

When pruning small branches or twigs it is vital that the cut is made at its point of origin from the main stem, a branch intersection, or a lateral side branch. One major aspect of trimming small branches is selecting the right bud to cut back to. You want to make sure that the new bud selected is pointing in a direction that has room to grow. The main rule with cutting the smaller branches is that the angle of the new branch should be no more than 45 degrees with the diameter of at least half of the branch to be removed.

Proper pruning during the late winter is extremely important and can help maintain the health, appearance, and safety of your trees. Just make sure you know the correct way to make cuts and know which branches need to be pruned. If you aren’t sure then don’t hesitate to contact All-Terrain and we can save you time and do the pruning for you!

As an ISA Certified Arborist, one of my favorite times of year in Fargo is spring. I’ll soon be able to drive down 45th Street and seeing the flowering crabapple trees at Scheels. In April they will be in full bloom and the sight can be breath taking. I have been pruning the trees at Scheels for the past five years and it is so fun to see the progress of the trees as they grow. I’m excited for you to enjoy your trees as well.