Should Homeowners Prune Their Own Trees?

While homeowners and property managers can certainly perform minor pruning tasks, significant pruning jobs should always be left to professionals.

Tree pruning is not only incredibly dangerous, but it requires considerable expertise and skill to ensure the tree has the best chance of recovering and thriving. Because few amateurs are equipped to mitigate the dangers involved or sufficiently educated in tree care to avoid harming the tree, it is generally wisest to have a certified arborist carryout this type of maintenance.

Consider the following guidelines when trying to determine if a given task requires professional assistance:

Can you access the target branches from the ground?

Amateur tree pruners should never leave the ground when working. Climbing a tree requires a variety of tools and equipment that few homeowners have, and it also requires a wealth of knowledge regarding safe tree-climbing practices.

It is also important that you do not use a ladder to access high branches. Ladders and pruning are a dangerous combination, which leads to dozens of serious injuries each year. Contact an arborist any time you must access branches more than about 6 or 7 feet above the ground.

How large are the target branches?

Generally speaking, large branches are more dangerous to remove than small branches, and their removal represents a greater threat to the tree than the removal of small branches. Accordingly, you’ll probably want to contact a certified arborist if you need a branch removed that has a diameter in excess of an inch or two.

Are you trained in the proper operation of a chainsaw?

Chainsaws are incredibly effective and helpful, yet dangerous tools, which cause life-changing accidents each year. And while chainsaws are typically treated as standard household tools, they require far more respect than many people give them. If you plan to use a chainsaw to prune your trees, be sure to enroll in a chainsaw safety course first to avoid potentially deadly accidents.

Is the tree healthy or are you removing the branches in response to stress or disease?

Pruning a diseased tree requires more care and expertise than routine pruning. So, while you may be capable of pruning your fruit trees to improve their form, you should probably contact a tree-care expert if you are trying to remove a diseased, mushroom-ridden or pest-infested branch. Only by doing so can you be reasonably sure you won’t make the problem worse.

Do you have the necessary safety gear?

Minimally, you’ll need a hard hat and safety goggles or glasses to prune a tree. However, you’ll also need steel-toed boots, ear protection, and protective chaps if you will be using a chainsaw. You may also want a pair of thick gloves, to help prevent splinters and cuts.

Do you know the proper cutting techniques to use when pruning?

Improper cutting techniques can create jagged wounds, which will take the tree longer to seal up. In some cases, it can even cause the removed limb to strip bark from the trunk, thereby exposing a large portion of the tree to pests and pathogens.

To avoid creating these types of wounds, arborists typically use the three-cut method to remove large limbs. The three-cut technique requires that the pruner cuts halfway through the target branch from the bottom (about 1 foot away from the trunk or parent branch) first. Then, another cut is made about 6 inches inside the first cut, but this time it is made from the top to the bottom. The first cut severs the fibers from the bottom of the branch, preventing them from stripping the trunk bark, and the second cut releases the limb. The third and final cut is placed about 1 to 2 inches outside the branch collar and serves to remove the remaining stump.

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If you need help pruning the trees in your yard, contact your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants. One of our trained tree-care experts will visit your property, assess the trees in question and recommend a proper course of action. And, if pruning is the right course of action, we’ll already be on hand to carry out the work.