Basic Pruning Methods

December 12, 2018

Basic Pruning Methods

1. Crown Cleaning – We will remove all dead, damaged, broken or diseased branches of 1” diameter or greater for large shade trees, and ½” or greater for fruit or small ornamental trees. We remove all suckers emerging from the ground, and thin watersprouts within the canopy. Crown cleaning is a cornerstone practice in arboriculture and is important for maintaining tree health. It also improves aesthetics and eliminates the hazard posed by dead and broken branches by removing them before they fall.

2. Clearance Pruning – We will remove or reduce secondary and primary branches to provide clearance from buildings, roads, infrastructure etc.

3. Structural Pruning – We will train young & intermediate aged trees to develop sound structure with a size & shape appropriate for the species & given location. We will 1) Identify the desired tree form, central leader(s) & permanent scaffold branches 2) Reduce or remove branches or leaders with attachment defects. 3) Reduce or remove co-dominant leaders & branches. Identify permanent scaffold branches & reduce or remove competing branches. 4) Reduce or remove additional temporary branches if pruning dose allows. Branches of any size will be targeted. This procedure is relatively inexpensive for young trees but pays huge dividends later on, eliminating the need for drastic pruning or costly tree removal, storm damage, and tree replacement. For more information on tree defects and managing tree risk, please visit our website:

4. Hazard Reduction Pruning – Many mature trees on our landscape did not receive structural pruning when they were young and have developed with structural defects. While we can’t drastically alter the architecture of mature trees, we can apply structural pruning principles to manage the risk these defects pose. We will identify developing branch or trunk defects and reduce or remove them before they become a high risk. We target 1-6″ diameter branches towards the tip of the defective trunk/branch. This reduces end-weight, and more importantly redirects growth to stronger branches/trunks. This proactive approach is the most effective way to manage risk in mature trees. More serious defects found during pruning work will be reported to the client and removal or cabling recommendations will be made.

5. Thinning – we will reduce or remove crossing, rubbing or crowded primary branches & stems. 1 – 10” diameter. This practice improves airflow & light penetration within dense canopies, discouraging fungal diseases and helping important interior branches survive. Proper thinning also improves aesthetics and can be used to help reduce weight on weak trunks. (Thinning may not apply to conifers or columnar varieties where rubbing/crossing branches are normal)

NOTE: We do not top trees under normal circumstances. We follow ISA guidelines for crown reductions, and don’t recommend major crown reduction pruning as a routine practice for any tree. There are cases where overall crown reduction is appropriate, but when done aggressively, it can cost the tree in health, structure, and appearance. Any gain in risk reduction is short lived, because trees tend to respond to aggressive crown reduction by sprouting multiple secondary shoots which lack the hormonal growth controls of the original branches and grow many X faster. This is true, even when cuts are placed properly. The stress this kind of pruning causes can lead to internal trunk or root rot and predispose the tree to insect attack. These health problems in turn become a safety issue when fungal rot or canopy dieback make the entire tree or portions of the crown unstable. If a tree is too large for a given location, consider removing and replacing with a smaller tree. This is usually more cost effective over a 5-10 year period than fighting the natural size of the tree all the time.

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