Tree Pruning: Definition, Cuts, Techniques, & Tools

Genius! Tree Pruning Definition, Cuts, Techniques, Tools

Let’s start with a definition of good pruning: Good pruning gets what you want from your tree or shrub, but in doing so, we maintain or increase the good health, aesthetics, and long-term safety of the trees. So pruning is not something we do for the trees themselves; pruning is something we do because we want to change something for our benefit. Trees do an excellent job by themselves by growing and doing well. Our pruning is for our purposes. The definition of tree pruning includes: Maintaining or increasing the good health of trees, aesthetics, and long-term safety of trees.

Know the Difference Type of Tree Pruning Cuts

There are only three types of cuts in tree and shrub pruning, and if people knew what was going to happen to any of these cuts, all the maple pruning in the world would disappear overnight.

The different types of tree pruning cuts include:

  1. Heading cut.
  2. Selective heading/reduction cut.
  3. Thinning/removal cut.

1. Heading Cut

The heading cut is where the ends of the branches are. Heading means to shorten to no particular place. 

People get into many problems with head trimming, hoping to shorten their tree or bushes, and they go back to the size they liked.

But one of two things will happen, they will die and leave something called a dead stub, or they will experience an explosion of straight, thin sprouts called water shoots, and these grow five times faster than the tree was before.

That’s the bad news because one day, you went out to shorten your maple, and instead, it’s the same size as before, except now it’s a disaster, and our next reaction is usually to hit them again because they didn’t get the message.

However, when you cut them again, they come back, except that they are exponentially larger in each place where you cut the heading and stimulate the thin, straight sprouts, which are called water sprouts. Water shoots are a direct reflection of excessive or incorrect pruning. 

Heading cuts are what get people in trouble. They’re okay if you try to do something bushy like a hedge or make a training cut on something like a trellis fruit tree.

But heading cuts are hard on the plant’s health, it’s harder the more prominent and older and more woody the plant is, or the more it looks like a tree. 

2. Selective Heading/Reduction Cut

The proper way to shorten a branch is called reduction cutting, and it used to be called selective head cutting. 

It is now called reduction cutting, which is a pretty good chance because it reduces the branch’s length.

You find the branch that sticks out over the chimney or over the walkway to do this correctly, you follow it to a side branch that’s big enough, and you cut it there into a fork. 

If that side branch is big enough, you don’t get water sprouts, and you don’t get the dieback; what you get is a briefly shorter branch, and as that branch continues to grow, it does, and it looks natural again. 

If no water sprout is present, branches with a pleasant appearance are achieved. 

How big is big enough? In general, trees, unlike shrubs, need a large side branch for this to work, and what do I mean by work?

The way the A300 pruning rules state this is that you prune backward to a side, which means that the side branch is big enough to assume the terminal role, which means that it becomes the new branch, it does not die, you do not get water sprouts.

The sliding scale of the size of the side branch should go from one-third of the length of the parent stem to as large as possible, probably two-thirds of the size of the parent stem, and I guess right down the middle would be that the side branch is at least half diameter of the parent stem. If you do that, you will not make a terrible mistake in your tree. 

3. Thinning/Removal Cut?

This cut is called a removal cut or a thinning cut, and by removal, meaning obliterating it to where it started as an outbreak. One cut reduces the length of a branch, and the other obliterates it. 

A removal cut would be like removing the lower extremities of a tree when it grows, whether you want a little room for your lawn furniture or your mower or a street tree, whether there is pedestrian or truck traffic.

And it also means thinning, which we do with trees to make them look more delicate or more beautiful; that is, we use a series of cuts to thin them and make them look good. 

All things being equal, an arborist who is a tree person prefers removal reduction cuts because the removal cuts are the most beautiful and kind for your tree. 

And why should we care about the tree been maintained or improved?

Well, your tree lives a long time and looks good, and so as not to repeat too often, you don’t get water sprouts, and most importantly, the tree will always stay happy.

The proper and recommended location to cut a branch is from the branch’s collar, a very distinctive portion near the base of a branch or near where one side separates from a branch. 

There are chemicals inside the tree that allow the tree to classify this new wound correctly.

If you cut a branch in any other place where it cannot heal, it rots backward on the tree’s trunk, and you now have a tree that is rotting from the inside out. 

You have to do it in the correct location. You cannot just cut a branch anywhere; there is only one place on a branch where it can heal.

The 3 Step Process Techniques for Tree Pruning!!

The 3 step process techniques when it comes to tree pruning include: 

  1. Assess technique.
  2. Evaluate bad branches.
  3. Evaluate competing branches.

1. Assess Technique

Look at the tree and try to judge how healthy the tree has been growing at a fast or slow rate. 

Look at the scenarios if the tree is growing in is where people travel frequently or are in a place where we can have a more natural form and then what species of tree we want to maximize to each species’ raw form.

2. Evaluate Bad Branches

An essential step in evaluating the tree as we move around it from side to side would be to find the central leader for the specimen, which is the branch that goes directly up through the center of the tree trying to get to heaven.

Bad branches, and by bad, I mean branches that are dead or damaged somehow or may even be diseased, and you want to focus on those branches first as a priority for the tree pruning cycle.

3. Evaluate Competing Branches

It is also the bad branches that compete with our prominent central leader. These branches may have some dead bark on one side, it has a lousy branch angle, so this is a rotten branch. 

You want to look at other branches competing with that leader, and those become candidates to be eliminated or reduced. 

11 Essential Tree Pruning Tools

After researching, I discovered that it is vital to have the right tree pruning tools. That’s why I’ve made a list of pruning tools that you will need.

Essential tree pruning tools include: 

  1. Little Giant Ladder.
  2. Folding Hand Saw.
  3. Long Hand Saw.
  4. Pruner Shears.
  5. Pruning Gloves.
  6. Safety Glasses.
  7. Chainsaw.
  8. Hard Hat.
  9. Bow Saw.
  10. Pole Saw.
  11. Lopper.

When to Prune a Tree and Why?

The winter months are the most significant benefit to the trees, and here are the three reasons why as follows:

  • Convenience: Most homeowners love pruning in the dormant season because it is often more convenient for them.
  • Enjoy your garden during the summer: They want to spend the summer months enjoying their garden, without worrying about adjusting their schedules because of the trees’ work.
  • Less potential damage to plants: There are possible injuries to understory plants and equipment damage since access is often more comfortable when the ground is frozen.