Pruning trees

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by lawnkid, Feb 28, 2002.

  1. lawnkid

    lawnkid LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 935

    I don't currently provide pruning services but on of my customers asked if I could trim one of her trees. I was wondering since I've never done this before how far down the branch to trim it. I plan on using a hand saw because I don't own a chain saw or pruning saw. Try to give me your best input on what to do?
  2. PAPS

    PAPS LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 404

    It all depends on what type of tree and what your trying to accomplish by pruning the tree...When our tree guys prune, they prune the limbs right to the trunk of the tree. Sometimes clients don't want to lose the whole limb and may just ask for it to be cut back. Again, it all depends... but generally, the limb should be pruned pretty much right to the trunk of the tree.
  3. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    This is a pretty open ended question and without know what kind of tree you are talking about, how large it is, etc. it's difficult to answer. But I'll try.

    First of all, most large tree pruning should be left to professional Arborists. But we landscapers and maintenance guys can safely do some light pruning to the bottom parts of trees. There are a few concepts that are important to be familiar with when pruning trees;

    Raising the crown; this is when you lop off all of the lower branches or the lowest "ring" of branches to create room under the tree. This is done sometimes because the tree branches are starting to invade the lawn. Other times because people want to be able to walk underneath the tree (e.g. when it's by a sidewalk), etc. When you raise the crown you lop the limbs off at the trunk but typically just the lower ring of limbs. Be careful not to do this on too small of a tree or it will look awkward.

    For raising the crown, I refered to the lower "ring" of branches. That's mostly found in everygreen trees. For deciduous trees, you just have to lop off some of the lowest branches, even though they may not form a ring.

    Thinning; On smaller trees where you can reach most of the branches by hand or with a small 6' ladder you can begin thinning the branches of a tree by first eliminating branches that are criss-crossing other branches. You lop off the branch back to the next main branch or even back to the trunk sometimes until the offending branch (the one that's going the wrong way and criss-crossing another) is corrected.

    Topping; cutting off the top branches of a tree to keep it's height down. You RARELY want to do this. There are a few exceptions where it's okay but learn what you are doing before you begin toping any trees. It's usually a very bad idea and messes up the natural form of the tree for years.
    Again, my pat advice on pruning is to read Ortho's "All About Pruning" several times until all of this makes sense to you.
  4. GarPA

    GarPA LawnSite Silver Member
    from PA
    Messages: 2,585

    I can keep straight in my head when and how to prune deciduos trees but no matter how many times I read the books on pruning I can't keep straight in my feeble head the rules on shrubs and flowering ornamentals like barberry, ornamental pines, spirea(sp?)and other foundation plantings that right now I can't even remember the names of...dah. I know not to prune too close to fall so plant can heal and not die back and about pruning after there a 'general' guidline on these perennials that is realtively ez to remember? I realize some plants mat require a tweak on the process...thanks think my problem is that I'm afraid of killing somones prized specimen that took years to grow...
  5. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    First of all, don't worry too much about killing plants. As long as you don't cut the plant back too much (e.g. 30% is about the most for many plants) then you're not gonna kill it.

    If you will leave the hedge trimmers behind (except for things that are supposed to be hedges, like boxwood, etc.) and prune these guys by hand, you'll already be going in the right direction.

    For ornamentals like barberries, nandinas, spirea, etc. just keep in mind the natural structure of the plant and use the pruning basics and don't ruin it's natural look. What's a normal, healthy, well pruned version of this plant look like? If you're not sure, spend more time walking around nurseries and taking it in how plants look.

    Most of the time I run across a barberry or something like that I just use the common pruning methods; Keep it away from the house and other plants, remove all dead or diseased branches, thin it out, if it's too big, I try to take back the longer branches and leave the shorter ones, I will often remove the longer branches all together and the remaining shorter branches will keep the natural look.
    and on many plants I am raising the crown slightly so it's branches aren't hanging on the ground.
    It's also a good idea to know which things you can cut back far without damaging them and which plants you can't. But until you figure that out, just assume you need to be cutting no more than 30%. You're not likely to kill anything that way.

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