Tree trimming tips

It’s that time of year again: monsoon season.

Every year, amidst the rain, wind and dust, we see the same thing — trees down on houses, cars and power lines — major branches scatted throughout the street.  The wind load bearing against an unattended tree, coupled with shallow, saturated ground soil and storms leads to substantial damage. Proper care and maintenance go a long way towards preventing this damage…and the insurance claim(s) and expensive repairs that come along with it.

How to prevent damage from trees

Get your snippers ready! Annual tree trimming and thinning  is a responsibility of the property owner.

Typically, the best time to trim is during a tree’s dormant season. When doing so, be conscientious about the size of the branch you’re going to remove. If it’s less than five centimeters in diameter, removing it is fine. But if it’s between five and 10 centimeters in diameter, you may want to pass. If it is more than 10 centimeters in diameter, you should only trim it if completely necessary. Only trim branches that have weak, V-shaped, narrow angles. Retain branches that have strong, U-shaped angles.  Lateral branches should be between one-half and three-quarters the diameter of the stem at point of attachment. Otherwise, they should be removed.

Before making a cut, look for the branch collar, which grows from the stem tissue at the bottom base of the branch. Look for the branch ridge, which is on the upper surface and is parallel to the branch angle at the stem. Always cut outside the branch bark ridge and angle your cut down and away from the stem. Take care not to injure the branch collar.  Use the same technique to prune dead branches and living branches.

If a stem is too long, use the three-cut technique:

  1. Make a notch on the side of the stem that faces away from the branch that’s being retained
  2. Make the second cut inside the crotch of the branch and above the branch ridge
  3. Remove the stub by cutting through the stem parallel to the branch bark ridge

The best time to prune and thin trees is before the plant has begun new growth for the season and is dormant. The reasons for thinning trees go beyond increasing light and air. The practice is also useful to keep a tree in a certain growth habit, prevent it from getting too tall or keep limbs from getting invasive. The goal with tree thinning is to reduce the number and thickness of the tree branches in the crown (canopy).

Crown thinning trees allows more light to come into the core of the branches to enhance the growth of leaves and stems. It also allows more air to circulate, which reduces fungal and pest problems.  Thinning removes branches that are 2 inches thick. Cuts should be at a slight angle to deflect moisture away from the cut surface and must be just outside the parent wood. Never cut into the main leader or trunk, as this can invite disease and rot.

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