Even if your home's trees aren’t overgrown or full of dead branches, they can often benefit from periodic trimming. Pruning can boost healthy growth on all types of trees and can encourage flowering on blooming varieties. It can also remove damaged branches that could pose a nuisance or cause damage in storms or high winds. If you’ve wondered how to trim the trees in your home’s landscape, here are a few helpful tips:
When should you trim trees? According to the Arbor Day Foundation, light pruning and trimming to remove a tree’s dead branches can be done anytime. While the timing of tree trimming varies with the different species and varieties, most trees are pruned when they are dormant to encourage hearty spring growth. However, it may be easier to identify dying or dead branches during summer months when the lack of leaves is obvious. To encourage flowering on blooming trees, prune just after the blossoms have faded. If you’re trimming in order to shape a tree, it’s probably easier to see the branches after the leaves have fallen. It’s usually best to avoid trimming trees in the fall, because conditions are right for the spread of fungi and the tree cuts heal more slowly.
Where should you start? To decide where to trim, look at the top of the tree and work down. A good rule of thumb is to avoid removing more than a quarter of a tree’s crown in one season, and to keep the main side branches about a third smaller than the trunk’s diameter. It’s best to trim to enhance a tree’s natural shape.
Make sure your tree cutting tools are sharp. Make clean cuts at slight angles, and don't cut too closely to the trunk. To trim trees that are larger than small ornamental trees, or for pruning jobs that require heavy equipment and large ladders, it’s best to get professional help from a qualified tree specialist or arborist.
How do I know if I’ve made trimming mistakes? If your tree is leaning or looks top-heavy or bottom-heavy, you may not have trimmed it correctly. Or, if you see jagged cuts or cuts that take too long to heal, you might need to change your tools or your technique.
What else do my trees need to stay healthy? To stay healthy, your trees need water and fertilization, just like your lawn does. They can also benefit from mulch around their bases, to help hold in moisture and to protect the roots. You should inspect your trees’ trunks and branches regularly for signs of disease or insect damage, and take steps to remedy any problems as quickly as possible.
Proper pruning can help your trees thrive and can even help you save money and give you safer, more beautiful trees that are easier to maintain. If you want to start trimming your trees but are tentative about tackling the job, start small and wait to see the results. With a little practice, you can become proficient at this rewarding gardening task.