When the trees in your yard start to look scraggly or overgrown, it can be tempting to grab a chainsaw and cut them yourself. While many homeowners decide to do this, it is important to consider the risks and costs of DIY tree pruning. Even if it may not seem like it right away, a DIY tree pruning job can actually cause decay of your tree over time.

What is the purpose or objective of tree pruning?

Each cut you make on a tree has the potential to alter the growth of a tree. Every branch that is removed from a tree should have a purpose. Cutting correct stems and branches is crucial to successfully pruning a tree. Pruning goals must contain long term tree growth and development. 

Some Objectives of Pruning as listed by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA):

  1. Reducing the potential for tree or branch failure
  2. Providing clearance
  3. Reducing shade and wind resistance
  4. Maintaining health 
  5. Influencing flower or fruit production 
  6. Improving a view
  7. Improving aesthetics 

Knowledge of Professional Tree Pruning Teams

More than mere skill and experience of pruning trees for years, a professional tree pruning team member has knowledge of the best practices for tree pruning. This, among other reasons, is crucial in considering when you may choose to get professional help involved in your tree care.

How trees recover from pruning and wounds

An understanding of tree biology and how a tree heals from a wound is needed to determine why placement cuts are so important. Branch collars are swollen areas at the base of a branch where it joins the trunk. Inside this branch collar a protective barrier called a branch protection zone exists. This zone has chemical properties that help prevent the spread of decay. When pruning, it is best to prune outside the collar to retain these healing properties and prevent the spread of decay inside the wound created by a cut. 

Minimizing tree decay or damage from pruning

When 2 stems of similar size grow from a union, they are called codominant stems. Codominant stems often lack a branch protection zone and contain included bark. This means there is no true attachment to the trunk from the branch. This leads to failure. Trees that commonly have codominant stems with included bark in the Des Moines Metro are pear, freeman maple (autumn blaze), silver maple, linden, pin oak, and white fir. 

In most cases, the best place to make a pruning cut is back to the main branch or trunk, just to the outside of the branch collar. This type of pruning most commonly resembles trees shedding branches naturally. This cut is designed to slow the decay in the wound as much as possible. Every cut made on a tree wounds it and allows for some decay. Minimizing decay as much as possible is crucial for long term health of trees. 

Here at the Tree Doctor we prefer not to remove any more than 25% of a tree’s canopy in a given year. This is because removing any more than that amount stresses the tree considerably and can possibly lead to failure. We offer health diagnosis of trees and pruning recommendations year round. Contact us at 515.333.TREE to set up an appointment today.