Why, When and How to Prune Your Trees

How to Prune Your Trees

Established garden trees require minimal maintenance, but a little annual pruning will make sure your trees stay healthy and in good shape.

Our guide shows you why, when and how to prune the trees in your garden.

Why should I prune my trees?

Common reasons for pruning garden trees include:

  • To remove dead, diseased or damaged branches
  • To shape the tree for aesthetic reasons
  • To reduce the tree’s height
  • To increase light and air penetration to the tree’s crown or the landscape below
  • To remove obstructing lower branches
  • To thin the crown to allow new growth

Most of the time, mature trees are pruned as a preventive or corrective measure.

Whilst proper pruning can help to maintain tree health and structure and enhance trees’ aesthetic value, it’s important not to prune too much.

A tree’s foliage is responsible for manufacturing the sugar it uses for growth and development. Excessive removal of this foliage can reduce growth and deplete energy stores, creating a significant health stress for the tree.

When should I prune my trees?

Deciduous trees are best pruned when dormant, in late autumn or winter. Many trees bleed sap if pruned in early spring. Although not fatal, this bleeding is unsightly and can weaken the tree.

There are some deciduous trees which are excepted from this rule. Horse chestnut, walnut, maple, birch and cherry trees all bleed excessively, even if pruned near the end of their dormant season.

These exceptions are best pruned in mid-summer when new growth has had a chance to mature.

Evergreen trees rarely need pruning, although dead and diseased branches should be removed in late summer.

What should I do before I prune?

Before you prune, it’s important to establish whether the tree is in a Conservation Area or whether a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is in place. Seek permission from your local council before starting work if either is the case.

Safety is of paramount importance when working with trees. Be honest about your own capabilities – major surgery, chainsaw work and any pruning of high or inaccessible branches should be done by a registered expert.

Always wear protective gloves, and eye and head protection if necessary.

Start by removing dead, diseased or damaged branches, followed by weak branches or rubbing growth.

Step back regularly to assess the overall look of the tree. When shortening or removing branches, always follow the tree’s natural habit. Going against its natural habit will result in an unattractive, ungainly tree.

When cutting stems, cut just above a healthy bud or side shoot. Make your cut 0.5cm above the bud. Cutting too close or far from the bud can result in its death or make it susceptible to infection.

If removing larger limbs, make an undercut 20-30cm from the trunk, followed by an overcut. This should leave a clean stub with no torn bark.

Then remove the stub, again with an undercut followed by an overcut. Avoid cutting the stub flush, as the ‘collar’ that joins it to the trunk provides natural protection.

Angle cuts away from the trunk to produce a sloping edge. This will assist in shedding rain.

Pruning trees will help them stay healthy, safe and attractive

Follow our guide on why, when and how to prune your trees and you should see them flourish for years to come.

For more information on how to prune your trees or if you’re looking for a West London Tree Surgeon don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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