While there are no exact statistics on the number of Americans hurt (or worse) by falling trees, we know it’s a frightening number. Just a quick search online will show you many case studies and personal stories of falling trees and their branches.
Whether it’s through a storm or just a freak accident, dead branches or weak root systems can pose a real danger.
But how do you tell the difference between a young tree that just needs a trim and a more serious issue? Trees require occasional maintenance, and not just for safety reasons. Let’s dive into why exactly your trees may need a trim, when you should do it, and the steps you should take to get the job done.
Why Do Your Trees Need a Trim?
When trees grow too large, block sunlight, obstruct outdoor recreational activities, or intrude on your neighbor’s property, trimming and pruning become increasingly necessary.
Regardless of the season, if your tree is threatening your property or proving to be a safety hazard, prune it.
It’s About More Than Tree Care
You can prevent dead, damaged, or broken branches and limbs from falling and injuring someone or causing damage to the tree or surrounding property by removing them.
Proper pruning will improve the tree’s overall health by eliminating insect-infested or diseased limbs or tree branches. More nutrients will be accessible for the rest of the tree because of eliminating these small branches, resulting in better leaves, blooms, and fruit trees.
Finally, if your land is highly wooded, cutting lower limbs or branches can allow more sunlight to enter, stimulating wildflower development and improving the tree’s overall environment.
It’s All About Timing
Many people believe that fall is the best time to trim their trees, but this could not be further from the truth. Cuts take longer to heal as trees go dormant, fungal illnesses become more widespread, and the danger of infection rises dramatically.
Trimming is best done between early winter and early spring, after a tree’s leaves have dropped and before its blooms appear. It’s advisable to put off cutting your tree if you spot any birds nesting in it during the nesting season.
Let’s look at some of the dominant tree types and when the ideal time to trim them actually is.
Trimming young trees is necessary to ensure that they continue to grow into a healthy, sturdy shape and size. Because they are about to begin their development cycle, the optimal time to trim young trees is late winter or early spring. Trimming young trees throughout their formative years means you won’t have to perform as much trimming later on.
Some people don’t count hedges as trees, but they’re an important part of many gardens, especially as pseudo privacy screens. They can also get unruly, so it’s best to keep them looking sharp and under control.
Spring and summer are the best times to prune hedges, but it’s important to determine which hedge exactly you have growing on your property. Trimming some varieties too soon or too late could be detrimental to the plant’s health. Talk to an arborist to get help with this.
Evergreens, such as pine, fir, and hollies, have distinct shapes and sizes that require little to no maintenance. Trimming an evergreen tree is mostly done to promote denser and bushier growth.
Most evergreens are dormant until fresh growth begins in early spring, so this is also the best time to trim them. Evergreens also become dormant in the middle of the summer, but it’s not the best time to prune them.
As the cold season approaches, deciduous trees such as oak, ash, willow, and aspen shed their leaves. You’ll want to trim these trees when they are completely dormant, so late winter or very early spring, just before they flower.
It’s also important to avoid cutting or trimming deciduous trees in the early winter. Because the outer bark offers necessary protection, exposure at such a delicate time of the year could lead to a pest infection.
How to Trim a Tree
First, you’ll want to think about why the tree needs a prune. Do you want your landscape trees to provide shade or grow to a certain height? Take a few moments to assess the tree before trimming and learn some new pruning techniques.
When you’re ready to prune your trees, identify the “skeleton” of the tree. These are its principal branches (usually the biggest ones in the middle). Leave these alone unless you’re a certified arborist.
Let’s take a quick look at some tree trimming tips before we start actually cutting:
- Check the tree’s dormancy period
- Only cut branches that are less than 5cm in diameter
- Only trim branches with weak, V-shaped angles
- Try to prune junior branches only
- Don’t trim too close or too long
With that in mind, we should be ready to make the first cut; use your pruning tools and make a cut on the underside of the branch. This cut shouldn’t go all the way through the branch; it simply acts works to prevent the branch from cracking too close to the trunk. Don’t cut flush with the trunk; make sure you’re cutting above the branch collar.
Make a precise cut when ready to remove the branch, a little further from your initial cut. After this, you should be left with a stub. You can then trim it down further, so it’s almost against the stem collar. This will give your tree the best chance of healing.
Finally, as much as it can be tempting, don’t over prune. In fact, you want to prune as little as possible. Every cut you make potentially compromises the entire system and opens the tree up to infection and infestation. As a rule of thumb, you never want to remove over 25% of a tree’s branches in one go.
When working with anything outdoors, it’s important to take safety measures. When there is the potential for falling branches, and you’re working on a ladder? Those precautions become even more important. You should always:
- Wear the right clothing
- Check your hardware
- Protect your ears and eyes
- Check the environment
- Confirm the health of the tree
- Position your ladder in a sturdy spot
Note: We mention confirming the health of the tree; if it’s rotten or seems diseased all throughout, it’s always best to leave it to the professionals, as the process can quickly become unpredictable and dangerous.
How About Working With a Professional?
Working with trees can be dangerous, but the danger of leaving your tree grows bigger each passing season.
While you can certainly maintain the growth and pruning of your young trees and older ones alike, some jobs are better left to the professionals. A tree service or trimming service can remove dead or bigger branches for you, and a certified professional should assess your plants.
Get in touch with us today, and we’ll give you just that.