Pruning Tips – Which Method Do We Use When Trimming Trees?

Large or heavy limbs should be pruned using a three-step process to avoid tearing the bark while making the cut. This will help prevent the tree from becoming wounded and prone to disease or insect infestation. New Braunfels Tree Care for dependable, efficient, and experienced tree services. 

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Method 1: Undercutting

A tree is a living organism, and like any living thing it requires proper pruning to keep it healthy. Proper pruning helps prevent disease, rot and insect infestation as well as a host of other problems. In addition, it can prevent the loss of limbs during storms and reduce the chances that a fallen branch will hit your house, power lines or traffic.

There are a number of different methods that can be used when trimming trees, and the undercutting technique is one of them. This is a method that involves cutting a V-shaped notch into the side of a tree in the direction you want it to fall. The notch is about 1/3 of the tree’s diameter and should be about a foot long. This notch acts as a guide or aim slot and is the key to determining the direction that your tree will ultimately fall.

Using this method, the undercut is used as a guide to create an internal protective zone known as a collar. This essentially walled off the cut area to prevent decay, insects and diseases from entering the trunk of your tree. It is important to make cuts that compartmentalize naturally because a wound that is not walled off will eventually lead to the death of your tree.

When you are using this method, it is a good idea to have a spotter on hand that can help keep you safe and watch for any dangers above or around you while you are cutting. This is especially important if you are working with large trees and thick limbs that can fall quickly.

Another reason to use this technique is that it takes about 2/3 of the time as compared to the overbucking method, and is also more accurate. In addition, the open face undercut is fairly easy to master and line up, making it an ideal choice for situations where a back lean is present in the tree. In short, this is a good option to consider for those who are new to felling and need a simple yet effective technique that will give them confidence in their skill.

Method 2: Slanting

Pruning trees to improve their appearance and health requires a good understanding of how a tree grows. This involves removing dead and diseased branches, opening up the canopy to allow light and air in and reducing the risk of damage to buildings, vehicles or people. Trees also benefit from thinning cuts which encourage growth of new, lateral branches and can be used to reduce the size of mature trees.

In the past, many pruning cuts were made flush (or parallel to the trunk) with the branch collar. This method creates a wound that slows or hinders the natural process of callus tissue forming over the cut. Research has shown that slanting the cut, whether at the point of removal or on the lateral stub, allows for better closure of the cutting wound.

When trimming evergreens, a general rule is to remove no more than one-third of the current year’s growth. This promotes branch longevity, reduces the potential for suckers to form and encourages a more natural growth habit.

Proper radial spacing is essential in all types of trees to ensure that they grow well. If a limb is located too close to another, it competes for sunlight and resources. The resulting offshoots, called suckers, are weak and can easily break off in windstorms. Succkers also detract from the appearance of a healthy tree.

For this reason, a good starting point is to prune any twigs or branches that are growing too close together. A slanting cut can be made to separate these twigs or branches without damaging the root collar.

In a mature or established tree, the primary purpose of slanting is to control the overall shape. Many shade and ornamental trees are naturally shaped and should be allowed to grow as they wish, but in some instances it may be desirable to control the shape of a tree to enhance its visual impact in the landscape or reduce its vulnerability to storm damage.

When slanting a permanent branch, it is best to leave a 6 to 24 inch space on the terminal end of the limb. This enables the one or two buds to be induced to grow up and down the branch instead of outward toward the ground, which could lead to a tree that appears over-topped.

Method 3: Outside of the Collar

Many utility companies have instituted programs to replace trees that are near buried lines. These programs are aimed at reducing line clearing costs by encouraging tree growth that is either down or away from the lines. Directional pruning is one way that tree care professionals are trying to help these customers reduce those costs by leaving trees healthier than they were before being topped and also cutting down on the amount of sprouting and decay that occurs around the cut areas. Directional pruning, sometimes called natural pruning or the Shigo method (named after a renowned plant pathologist) is performed in winter and involves selectively eliminating branches that are growing down toward or up against utility wires or other obstructions. It requires no stubs to be left since all branches that are trimmed are removed at the point where they reach another branch or the trunk. This eliminates the narrow V-shaped crotches that cause damage to the bark and can pose safety hazards for pedestrians and vehicles.

The directional pruning technique works best on young trees that have not yet developed the thick, well-bonded trunks required to support a large canopy. It is especially effective on spruce and pine trees that need to be trained for high utility clearance. Directional pruning does not solve all line clearance problems and will need to be complemented with some crown thinning, raising or reduction.

When removing a dead limb, it is important to remember that the final cut should always be made outside of the branch collar. The collar is an area of slightly swollen, rougher bark that surrounds the base of the branch, often indistinguishable from the rest of the stem tissue. It provides a chemically protected zone that keeps the decay advancing down the branch from infecting the rest of the tree. When the final cut is made inside of this collar, a large callus will not form and the wound will be exposed to rot and insects.

This method of pruning is often used to train young trees into the desired shape and to eliminate competing leaders. It is not recommended for older trees or those that need to be raised for line clearance purposes. It is important to train the trunk of a young tree to develop a strong base in order to avoid removing too much height early in its life and requiring excessive maintenance later on. This can be accomplished by a series of gradual shortenings, using a reduction cut, on the lower branches of the main leader.

Method 4: Final Cut

The final cut is the most important one when trimming a tree. Make your cut just outside of the branch collar – the slightly raised, swollen portion of stem tissue that is a little rougher and darker than the rest of the trunk. The branch collar protects the tree from wounds and other potential damage that could lead to decay or entry of harmful organisms.

The goal of pruning is to encourage desired plant growth, remove dead or diseased limbs and improve a landscape’s aesthetics. To achieve these goals, there are many different pruning techniques that can be used.

Each type of pruning has specific goals and requires different types of cuts. In general, pruning reduces the size of a canopy and thins out a dense crown to allow more sunlight and air to pass through the branches. It also removes suckers and water sprouts that grow from the base of a tree, and helps train a tree into a desirable form.

For example, training young trees enables them to develop stronger root systems as they mature and prevents the buildup of weak, brittle limbs that can fall during storms. The overall effect is to create a strong, healthy plant that can withstand weather extremes and withstand structural loads.

Another example is reducing the proportion of a deciduous tree’s live crown to its trunk, especially after a tree has matured. This reduces the risk of sunburn, vandalism and other hazards caused by a large proportion of live crown.

Whether it is reducing the height of a tall evergreen or thinning the canopy of a shade tree, each cut must be made to a branch, twig or bud that points in the direction you want your plant to grow. Avoid shearing a branch as this can ruin its natural shape and cause unwanted growth. When pruning evergreens, be careful not to over-prune them as they are slow growing and can be damaged by shearing. This is a particular concern for narrow-leaved evergreens as shearing can result in the formation of callus over the wound. This can block out light and result in foliage loss.

Large or heavy limbs should be pruned using a three-step process to avoid tearing the bark while making the cut. This will help prevent the tree from becoming wounded and prone to disease or insect infestation. New Braunfels Tree Care for dependable, efficient, and experienced tree services.  Contact us now at for a free…