Following a few simple basics will greatly benefit your trees

Trimming trees at the right time

You may have heard the old saying about tree trimming that goes something like this: "Trim trees anytime your saw is sharp."  This may be true when it comes to removing broken and dead branches, but in many cases, the correct timing is very important.

Trimming flowering trees: "Timing, timing, timing!"

Most flowering trees set their blossoms the year before they bloom. Therefore, they won't bloom if these flower buds are trimmed off the tree. The best rule is to always trim flowering trees within 3 weeks of when they finish blooming. That should prevent you from inadvertently removing buds containing next year's flower show.

Trimming a branch off a Weeping Cherry
Removing this Weeping Cherry branch in the Fall of the year removes the branch AND the 'flower show' for next Spring

A few other trees that shouldn't be pruned at certain times of the year are listed below: 

  • MAPLES - Maples trimmed at certain times of the year will "bleed" or drip from the pruning cuts. Bleeding is most likely to occur when Maples are prunied in the seasons just before and right after winter. Studies indicate that "bleeding" doesn't hurt the tree, so it becomes more of a cosmetic issue. If you want to prune Maples without bleeding, it must be pruned when it is fully dormant in the middle of wwinter, or during late spring or summer when it's in full leaf.
  • DOGWOODS - If you trim Dogwoods in April or May, it will make them more susceptible to the dogwood borer. This insect severely damages the vascular system of the tree after boring into the trunk.
  • OAKS - Oaks should be not be trimmed from April thru October, due to the prevalence of Oak Wilt disease pathogens during that time frame. 


Crabapple cutback hard

Severely cutting back major branches causes weak growth in the form of multiple branches that grow straight up, ruining the natural structure of the tree. These fast growing shoots are known as 'water sprouts.' Similar shoots, called 'suckers,' grow from the roots of some trees, especially Crabapples

water sprouts on a flowering crabapple tree

Silver Maples

Water sprouts on a Silver Maple
This Silver Maple was 'Topped' a few years ago

AVOID Topping: Our number one choice of "trees not to plant" is Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum). Their rapid growth may be desirable to some for the first 20 years, but after that most homeowners are forced to make a decision; trim-it or remove-it. Unfortunately, the decision is usually to trim-it using a method known as "topping." Topping creates a "hat rack" appearance and forever ruins the branching structure of the tree. A profusion of weak growth known as "water sprouts" is created at each cut. Where there was once a well-formed branch, there are soon 5 or 10 sprouts that grow straight up, faster than ever. Homeowners are then forced into the vicious cycle of topping the tree again, every few years.

TREEBOSS SOLUTION: Remove overgrown silver maple trees and plant a more desirable tree species.

Trimming trees in the right place

One of the biggest pruning mistakes is cutting off branches in the wrong place. Amateurs tend to leave too much of a stub when removing branches. Once the stub dies off, it creates an entry point for disease pathogens and destructive insects.
Unlike human beings, trees don't regenerate tissue. While our skin replaces itself, trees grow new tissue around wounds and compartmentalizes them. Once a a tree compartmentalizes an old wound, it has a much better chance of survival.
Efforts should also be made not to wound tree trunks with lawnmowers, tractors and other machines. Trunk wounds create opportunities for destructive fungi.
A natural defense system is built into trees, in the swollen area at the base of branches, known as the "collar" -- right where the trunk intersects the branch. Flush cuts are important to make, provided you don't remove the collar. Proper pruning cuts should be made just beyond the collar, without leaving a stub, but still leaving the swollen area.

Callus can't form over this tree branch stub
Two branch cuts (bottom of photo) are already walled off with callus tissue, while the long branch stub (top left in photo) is preventing callus tissue from closing over the wound

Removing a tree branch

Steps for sawing-off a tree branch:

  • About one or two feet from the trunk, make an undercut one-third of the way up through the bottom of the branch. Your saw will get pinched if you cut too far up.
  • Make your second cut completely through the branch from the top side, about three inches out the branch from your first.
  • This should allow the branch to fall away without tearing the branch bark into the trunk.
  • Keep it Safe - Never do tree trimming or removal work that should be done by a professional. Heavy tree branches can seriously injure you in a split-second!
  • More safety tips:
    • Never use a ladder for trimming trees. This is asking to get hurt!
    • Tie into the tree in 2 places, using professional grade equipment and techniques:
      1) Use a safety line through a strong crotch in the top of the tree 
      2) The strap on your saddle (designed for tree climbing).
    • Be sure to properly "notch" a tree trunk when you are felling it. Kickback can kill you! 
    • Take a class in chain saw safety and operation. Wear safety chaps lined with material that will protect your legs.
    • Eye protection and a hardhat should be worn (also wear ear protection).
    • False economy -- Hire a professional for jobs you can't handle -- it's really not worth getting seriously hurt, or damaging expensive property, just to "save money."

Branch stubs
While these branch stubs might make good steps up to a tree house, they should be removed for the health of the tree. However, leave the swollen area at the base of the branch (known as the "collar") and don't paint the cut.


Black Walnut Trees and Juglone

Dealing with Crabapple sprouts

Growing bigger Apples


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