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6 Worst Tree Pruning Mistakes You Can Make

pruning mistakes

Unlike a terrible haircut, badly pruned tree branches won’t grow back. When it comes to tree pruning, “take a little off the top” stresses trees leaving them vulnerable to disease and structurally unsafe.

It doesn’t take a trained tree expert to spot a bad pruning job. Once those branches are gone, they’re gone for good. Here’s a list of the top 6 tree pruning mistakes and how you can avoid making them.

Mistake #1 – Training? I Don’t Need Training!

Tree pruning isn’t for amateurs, although many try. Pruning trees can be hazardous to your health or to the health of the untrained tree worker you hire. Besides the obvious possibility for injury, there’s also the potential for serious and permanent damage to your trees.

Instead of making tree pruning a DIY project, hire a certified arborist to evaluate your trees and to do the work safely and correctly.

Mistake #2 – Just Take A Little Off The Top

Inexperienced tree pruners often cut the tree’s top off in an attempt to reduce the tree’s height. But topping causes more tree problems because it stimulates sucker growth, and suckers are less structurally sound.

The only way to reduce the height of a tree is by pruning a larger branch to a smaller side branch, keeping the tree’s original structure intact.

Mistake #3 – The Bigger The Better

Pruning that cuts large branches — 4 inches in diameter or bigger — increases the potential for internal decay because the tree has a tough time recovering from the cut.

Limit pruning cuts to branches 2-3 inches in diameter or smaller to minimize the possibility of problems in the future.

Mistake #4 – Go Casual, Remove the Collar

The branch collar is the area where the branch attaches to the tree’s trunk. When pruning cuts are too close to the branch collar, it opens the potential for decay that spreads to the tree’s trunk. When pruning cuts are too far from the branch collar, the tissue usually dies and delays the wound closure.

Pruning cuts need to ensure the branch collar isn’t nicked or injured so the cut area can heal quickly.

Mistake #5 – Damaging Bark

When pruning large branches, there’s always the possibility of causing damage to the bark. When large branches are cut and allowed to fall, the bark can rip, injuring the tree.

A three-step pruning method reduces the risk of harming the bark. Before making the pruning cut at the branch collar, two initial pruning cuts reduce the weight of the branch to avoid ripping the bark.

Mistake #6 – More Is Better

Overpruning can lead to problems with suckers that grow from the trunk or branches. Because suckers aren’t structurally stable, they can be easily damaged and cause the tree to become unsafe.

Limit pruning to 5% to 20% pruning cuts on live wood, depending on the age, growth and health of the tree.

Because the goal of tree pruning is to have strong, healthy and good-looking trees, avoid these top 6 tree pruning mistakes that weaken trees and leave them exposed to damage and disease.