Exactly How to Make Pruning Cuts

So, you have decided to go ahead and prune a tree or shrub yourself. If you have not read my pruning deciduous trees article I suggest you do so, in order to gain the knowledge on different pruning techniques alongside the required tools to do the job.
Pruning ranges from pinching off buds with your fingertips to removing large branches with a chainsaw. Although the scale may be different, the fundamental principles are the same.
Pruning cuts should be made so that only branch tissue is removed and stem tissue is not damaged. To find the proper place to cut a branch, look for the branch collar that grows from the stem tissue. The cut should be made just outside of this point. In general, it is beneficial to angle the cut down away from the stem, avoiding cutting the collar itself.
When pruning cuts are made in the correct place, the healing time becomes shorter and the tree or shrub is less vulnerable to disease and infection.
Trees that are columnar in shape often have a dominant central trunk, called a leader. Oaks, Pines and Spruces are good examples. If these trees have two leaders when young, its good practice to trim the second leader back to its base so the trees energy can be used on just one single strong leader. This can stop structural problems later on with two competing leaders.
Do not cut branches randomly halfway down a branch, this practice is called topping and is extremely bad for a tree. It has been proven that topping will majorly disrupt a trees ability to recover. For more information on this subject you can read my article topping hurts trees. Sadly, this method is often carried out by power and utility companies who claim they have Ďprunedí a tree away from power lines.

Large Branch Pruning Cuts

Occasionally, you may want to remove a larger branch, perhaps to create space or headroom beneath the tree (called a crown raise or lift). To do this you should make a sequence of cuts.
The first cut is below a branch, this stops the bark from peeling back and the branch hanging on when it falls to the ground. Bark is the outer protective skin for a tree helping to stop disease getting in, itís therefore important to remember this first cut.
The second cut is down from the top, an inch or two further out from the stem and outside of the first cut. The branch should then fall down to the floor. Beware of heavy branches falling down, they are often a lot heavier than they look so all items below should be moved out of the way.
The third cut is the most important one. By doing so correctly, it allows the tree to recover in the quickest possible time. Ensure you cut the remainder of the stub off neatly and donít cut into the branch collar but just outside it. Make the cut nice and neat as this is the cut that will show until the tree starts to compartmentalise around the wound.
As mentioned in my pruning deciduous trees article, research has shown that wound dressings cause just as much problems as they prevent. If the cut is made properly, the wound will recover on its own without assistance.
The same principles of pruning apply to any sized branch, whether using shears on a twig or a chainsaw on larger branches. Obviously on a small twig, there is no need to conduct the sequence of cuts and you can go directly to the third cut.
If you need any further advice donít hesitate to drop me an email by clicking here.
Remember that pruning is an ongoing process and not an end project. Done in the correct manor using the above system, you will not go far wrong.
Thanks for reading
Sam Clark
Tree Surgeon
SPC Tree Services

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