Prune Trees the Safe and Smart Way

Unless you are an avid gardener or experienced tree surgeon or arborist, the very idea of tree pruning may strike you as risky, grueling work both for yourself and the one or more trees that need attention. You may know the work must be done since careful pruning can enrich and sometimes even save a tree, yet you are reticent to attempt to prune trees without a safe and smart way to proceed.

Here is some help. But take with these instructions any recommendations you can glean from online, print, and expert advice resources for the specific types of tree(s) you will work upon. These savvy suggestions are general purpose; you may require additional information for a diseased tree or a more exotic planting.

To start with, you need to assess the exact nature of the pruning work you must do. This means you must plan your cut before you ever place a blade to a limb or branch. Fail to plan ahead and you risk pruning either too much or too little. In a worst case scenario, you can maim or even kill the very tree you want to have flourish.

Next, you need the proper tool. Trees usually demand a tree pruner device rather than a simple handheld pruner on smaller plants or bushes. A tree pruner tool usually rests at the end of a pole that may allow you to extend the pole to reach high limbs or branches. If you do not have such a tool, you can usually buy one for between $20 and $60, dependent on features and quality. If you don’t want that expense, you may be able to rent one cheaply enough from any well-stocked equipment rental center. But weigh the rental cost against the purchase price.

Yet, if the tree to prune is extremely tall and demands extensive cutting or you have many trees that fall into this category, consider first whether you should instead hire a professional. The advantage with a pro is that he or she will arrive both with expertise and the all-important equipment to do the work effectively and safely. As much as you want to do a good pruning job yourself, one thing you do not bargain for is an operation that requires you to stretch precariously out to a limb from a shaky ladder. In fact, you should avoid using a ladder altogether for optimum safety, even if you have a trusted adult who can help spot you and secure the ladder.

You also do not want to prune trees where electrical or other utility lines run. The voltage alone can severely injure or kill you. Even when you escape death or disability, you could run into huge repair costs that eliminate any savings in doing the job yourself.

Once you have the tree pruner tool – and several models require at least some assembly so follow the instructions carefully – you must adjust the length of the pole for extension units. Your goal is to reach the limb to prune while you keep the bottom of the tool no higher than your shoulder. You may need to lock the adjustment knob into position.

Before you cut, stop and don protective head wear and safety glasses. I’ve had sharp debris fly during pruning and one time got a nasty splinter right in my eye that required professional treatment.

Also warn anyone in your yard of what you are about to do. You do not want anyone, especially pets and children, directly beneath the area where you are cutting. You should not be directly under the limbs or branches either.

If your goal through pruning is to generate healthy new growth of branches or buds, flowers or fruit, you want to trim limbs or branches between Ã?¼” and Ã?½” above any existing buds or fruit. Avoid getting any closer to features of the tree you want to remain. Also, you want to cut at a 45 degree angle so position your tree pruner tool accordingly.

You need to vary your technique if you need to work with a large limb which may require additional steps. Make your first cut in the middle of the bottom part of the limb, with a second cut at the top of the limb and the third several inches beyond the branch undercut. This reduces the chance of splitting the limb where the split may extend well down into the area you plan to keep. Finally, cut the remainder of the limb at an angle to retain the collar of the bark which needs to remain undisturbed. Remember, bark for a tree is like skin for you and me; this protective layer needs to be intact for optimum health.

When you are done, clean up the area where the pruning debris fell. Then clean the tree pruner tool according to the instructions that came with it. A mild detergent-water solution usually works best. Once the tool dries, you likely need to wipe the blade(s) down with a light oil to prevent any rust.

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