Pruning: Tips and Techniques

Why Tree Pruning Is Necessary

Tree pruning involves cutting off some branches or stems from a tree.  This is usually done for a number of specific reasons, namely:

•          To improve the overall health of the tree.  Any dead, diseased or damaged branches are removed to prevent any diseases or insects from damaging the healthy branches.  Tip – dip the cutting blade in a mild bleach solution to prevent contaminating any other part of the tree.

•          A thick canopy is thinned out to allow more sunlight into the tree.  Branches that cross over each other and rub together causing damage are sorted out. Where there is more than one dominant branch near the top, remove branches so that there is one dominant branch.

•          To prevent multiple dominant branches forming, or branches splitting into a “Y” form which weakens the tree, especially in high winds.

•          To improve the safety of the surrounding environment, for example, branches falling on power lines or passers-by or people getting injured by walking into a low hung branch.  Wind causes problems where the branches may come into contact with a building.

•          For aesthetics to improve the shape of a misshapen tree that has grown haphazardly or to clear around the base of a tree that has low-lying branches preventing access.

•          Pruning can be used to manipulate the growth pattern of the tree by slowing down or speeding up growth as required.

The Best Time for Tree Pruning

Dead, diseased or damaged branches can be removed whenever they are noticed.  The same applies to branches that have the potential to cause danger.  In all other cases, one should not prune whilst the tree is flowering and growing in summer, but rather towards the end of winter just before it starts its growth and flowering cycle again.  The general rule is to avoid extreme temperatures of either too hot or too cold.

How To Prune A Tree

The first thing to do before any cutting is to take a careful look at the tree and decide which branches are best to cut.  Visualize the shape that will be left.  Make sure no damage to healthy parts of the tree or any surrounding property is likely to be caused by cutting.

Remembering that any cutting is going to wound the tree, make a small cut below the branch to be cut in order to prevent it from splitting down the trunk.  Branches cut too far away, or too close to, the stem may result in disease.  Cutting too far away also leaves an unsightly stub that can rot.  The best cut is just inside what’s called the branch collar (the swollen area where the branch meets the trunk).  Cut just right and the tree heals itself quite quickly with no fuss.

A fruit tree should be shaped like a “bowl” with an open center and a few healthy main branches forming “fingers” in a bowl shape. The resultant cut should not be treated with anything as this is now believed to inhibit healing of the cut rather than help, as it allows the branch to trap moisture in.

Tree Pruning Tips

•          Topping or cutting the limbs of a tree removes an essential part of the crown that disturbs trees’ critical crown-to-root ratio. This process will inhibit to a tree to cut down the food source temporarily. Correct pruning will only remove one-third of the crown so that the tree can only produce a limited amount of food temporarily.

•          With fruit trees, after the second or third year, your attention should be directed to shaping your tree and the removal of growth that crowds, competes with or injures the main limbs of the tree.

•          Before Pruning, one should know when the transplant process has taken place for the tree to overcome the transplant effects, once the tree has overcome from transplant stress then pruning is recommended so that the tree can respond correctly to the pruning process.

The Pruning Saw Types Plus Why and When They’re Used

If your garden is an average small size one, you‘ll probably only need one good pruning saw and a pair of clippers.  If you have a bigger property, full of palms trees, oak trees, fruit trees and other types of ornamental shrubs and trees, you will be needing different functioning pruning saw types. You will probably need more than one, depending on the thickness of the branches you’re dealing with.

A good quality Pruning saw might cost you some money, but they will last you for a lifetime, so buying the best quality saws is an investment. Pruning saws need to be properly maintained and serviced from time to time.

Handheld Curved Blade Pruning Saw

When your clippers literally aren’t going to cut it, a handheld pruning saw should get the job done.  My choice is a folding pruning saw that slips into a sheath I wear on a belt, so it’s always at hand.  Larger curved blade pruning saws will usually cut through branches a couple of inches thick with little effort, as long as they’re kept sharp and clean.

Double-Edged Blade Pruning Saws

These pruning saws particularly useful if you have to cut out green branches or wood that contains a lot of sap. They are usually straight with the handle at an angle, rather like a gun, so they are comfortable to use.

Pole Pruning Saw

You can buy pole saws that you use manually or can be powered by gas, battery, or electric.  These are the most dangerous saws on the market and must be used with caution. They are convenient because they will cut through thick wood BUT you must use safety precautions including wearing safety glasses and a hard hat. Never use a pole saw near or around power lines or cut branches that can fall and damage anything underneath (including you!)

Cordless Pole Pruning Saws

Cordless Pruning saws run off nickel-cadmium batteries, which can be recharged.  Press a button and you can cut branches up to 14 inches above you. Again, use safety glasses and extreme caution!

Telescoping Pruning Saw

You can prune branches high up without the need for a ladder with telescopic pruning saw. I use one for removing dead palm fronds. Most people find them slow and labor-intensive, but usually because they don’t clean the blade and keep it sharp!

Electric Pruning Saws

While many people prune their trees with a chain saw, I find them too heavy, and you have to get up a ladder or climb the tree to use it.  I’m lucky to live in a house that was designed with many electrical outlets around the outside, and I find an electric pruning saw excellent for dealing with the many trees that surround my property. No dragging ladders around or climbing, I find mine the most convenient and quickest of the pruning saw types to deal with high branches.

What is a Pruning Saw?

The quick answer to the question of what a pruning saw is it’s a saw is specifically designed to quickly and cleanly remove or trim unwanted, diseased, or dead wood from trees and shrubs.

There’s not much you can do about dead branches, you can either look at them until they fall down or get out a pruning saw and remove them before they can do any damage.  Pruning is an art, and if you have no idea what you’re doing before you buy any pruning saw, read up on how to properly prune shrubs and trees.

Regularly pruning certain trees and shrubs will keep them looking beautiful and to a size and shape that’s visually pleasing.  Most trees and shrubs can be pruned any time of the year but fall and spring are best for most, as you can clearly see which branches are alive.  Pruning fruit trees is difficult, so before you get out your pruning saw please understand that you can spread disease, lower the yield of the tree, or possibly kill it completely if you don’t know what you’re doing.

A good pruning saw will allow you to deal with any unwanted branches or limbs quickly and with minimum effort.  Many people think a pruning saw is a chain saw. Chain Saws and Pruning saws are entirely different and chain saws should not be used for pruning purposes and on has to be extremely cautious as they needed to be handled with extreme care.

If you have a convenient power supply an electric pole saw is the ideal alternative for the householder, but again they must be used with caution.  There are hundreds of accidents every year because people touch power lines with pole saws, electric or manual.  Ladders are also a source of danger and because most chain saws are so heavy, there is always the danger of over-reaching and falling.

An electric pole saw allows you to reach high branches without the need for a ladder. You will be looking up at falling sawdust, so always wear safety glasses!  Take a good look around to ensure the branch is not going to fall on you, the fence, or the neighbor’s car.

Getting inside a bush to thin it out may only require a gloved arm and a handheld pruning saw. Clippers or secateurs can deal with branches around half an inch thick, any more than that a handheld pruning saw will be your best alternative.  These saws are curved with a cross-cut type blade designed to cut when you pull; a couple of strokes and the branch should saw through, leaving a clean cut. Jagged cuts and tears are not good for a tree; they leave it open to disease or can collect water, which may eventually lead to rotting.

The secret to successful pruning is to keep your blades clean, sharp, and safely stored in a safety guard, away from humidity and small children. Purchase the special file you will need to use to keep your blade sharp when you purchase your pruning saw and if you buy a telescoping or pole saw buy hooks so it can be stored safely when not in use.

What Are The Uses Of A Pruning Saw?

With the move towards a “greener” lifestyle, many people have taken an interest in gardening, either as a hobby or a way of growing their own produce.  A good pruning saw will be an essential tool if you want to keep shrubs, fruit trees and ornamental shrubs healthy, manageable, and attractive.

No serious gardener would be without a good pair of secateurs or clippers.  If you grow roses or cut woody stems and flowers for floral display, a sharp, well-maintained pair of clippers will cut through up to about a half-inch of the woody stem quickly, leaving a clean-cut, which is essential to keep the remaining plant healthy.

If you’re dealing with hedges and shrubs, a handheld pruning saw will become an essential piece of equipment.  Handheld pruning saws are inexpensive, but before you buy, make sure the blade is made from good quality steel and the handle feels in your hand.  You don’t want blisters after cutting just a few branches, and you definitely don’t want to have to replace the blade every time you use it.  That means cleaning the blade after each use and if you purchase a larger curved blade pole pruning saw, you should learn how to sharpen the blade.  It may take you ten or fifteen minutes to clean and sharpen the blade, but it will save you time and effort when you are using your pruning saw.

A handheld pruning saw can be used to remove unwanted growth, deadwood, and small branches from shrubs and trees.  If you have trees that are taller, consider getting a telescoping or pole saw.  Medium-sized trees can be kept healthy and attractive, without the need for a ladder and the use of a heavy and dangerous chain saw.

Some pole saws can reach up to 20 feet and one of the best on the market is the Silky Hayate, 3-Extension Pole Saw. Don’t be alarmed by the price – get a quote from your local tree service and you’ll quickly be ordering yours online!  They are a great investment and will save you money in the long run BUT you must learn how to sharpen the blade. Although I live outside a large city, I have yet to find anyone who sharpens saw blades properly at a reasonable price.  It takes a diamond file, two clamps and 15 minutes to sharpen a Silky blade, less time than driving somewhere to get it done.

If you have palms, a manual or electric pole saw will quickly and cleanly remove unsightly dead fronds. It won’t take long before your palms look as if they’ve been professionally trimmed.

Owning an electric pole pruning saw means you’ll be able to get on the roof and remove overhanging branches way up high before they dump ten tons of leaves into your gutters.  If you live anywhere where fire and/or high winds are a danger, it pays to own a good pruning saw.  Removing dead brush and branches as soon as they appear means less fuel for fires and less debris that can cause damage in high winds.