If you have shade trees on your property that have been neglected for many years, they may appear shaggy and detract from the curb appeal of your home. Trees close to your house generally need regular pruning to keep the lower limbs out of the way and to train the tree to grow in a stable manner. While it's always best to leave limb removal to professionals, you can trim away smaller branches yourself if you're able to reach them safely. Here are a few tips for pruning your shade trees.
Remove Dead Branches First
You should remove dead and injured branches with dead leaves as soon as you see them. Removing damaged branches helps keep your tree healthy and it improves the appearance of the tree too. If part of the limbs were snapped or shredded in a storm, diseases or pests can take hold in the areas of stripped bark. Therefore, you want to remove the damaged branches with a clean cut as close to the tree as you can without cutting into the trunk or main branch. If your tree has a large limb that is damaged, you should get professional assistance for removing it and assessing the health of your tree. Also, if your tree has several dead patches of leaves and you don't know why, it's a good idea to call in an arborist to check for signs of disease.
Go Slow When Removing Live Branches
If you have a big shade tree that has been neglected for many years, its branches may droop to the ground. While it will need a lot of pruning to improve its appearance and make room to walk under it, you want to go slow. If you remove too many living portions of the tree at once, it may shock the tree and cause it to stop growing or become unhealthy. Instead, develop a multi-year plan for removing the lower limbs and thinning out the upper part of the tree. You should limit pruning to about 10 percent of the foliage for a mature tree. You may want to start with what you can trim from the bottom while standing on the ground. That allows you to reclaim the space underneath the tree so you can mow, plant flowers, or put a playset in your yard.
Minimize Damage As You Cut
When you cut a branch from your tree, you leave a wound behind that could potentially allow disease or pests to gain a foothold. To avoid this, you want to avoid damaging your tree as much as possible. Make clean cuts and do not strip the bark or tear off a branch, even a tiny one. Be sure your loppers are sharp. When they get dull, they tend to rip the bark. If you don't want to buy new equipment, you can have the blades on your old loppers sharpened at a home improvement center. When you cut a branch or limb from the tree, cut close to the trunk. Don't leave a stub, but be careful not to cut into the bark on the trunk. Also, keep the overall structure of your tree in mind as you work. As long as you remove small branches, you shouldn't have any problems. However, if you try to remove a larger limb with a chainsaw, you might affect the structural skeleton of the tree and make it more prone to storm damage.
Mature shade trees add beauty and value to your property. While you want to prune them to enhance their visual appeal, you don't want to do anything to risk their health or strength. If you have a tree with very large lower limbs or if it needs a lot of top work too, then hiring a professional (such as one from E & R Landscaping & Trees) is the best choice for the health of the tree and your safety.