Guide to tree pruning

Find out how to correctly prune and care for your trees.

Overgrown hedge and trees in a garden in Altrincham

Guide to tree pruning

Tree pruning or trimming is a process that should be undertaken on a regular basis throughout the life of your tree. Although you can safely complete some pruning yourself, as the tree gets older pruning can become more difficult, and you should seek professional tree pruning.

Professional tree pruning will not only save you money in the long run but it will also ensure your tree is healthy, easy to maintain, and looks the best that it can.

The earlier you undertake a regular tree pruning routine, the better, as how well you look after the tree in its early life will not only affect its final shape but can also affect the trees lifespan.

Correct pruning throughout the life of the tree also means that the tree should be stronger and, therefore, better able to withstand storms and extreme weather.

Tree pruning at the planting stage

When you have first planted the tree, you only want to do minor pruning work. This is to make sure that you leave enough of the leaf structure to feed the root system, which will give the tree a great start in life.

You should, however, prune away any branches that are broken, branches that are competing with the main growth of the tree, any tree tags or branches that are swollen by insect eggs.

Tree pruning from 3 to 5 years

When your tree is 3 to 5 years old, the root growth should already be well established and the tree will now be working on expanding in size in order to nourish its existing branches.

Formative pruning is undertaken on a young tree in order to help it to grow strong and healthy. Pruning at this stage should therefore concentrate on cutting off any root suckers in the crown, eliminating branches that are growing in the wrong direction, the removal of narrow angled branches, and thinning out of excessive branches to reduce the amount of competition there is for light, nutrients, and water.

Tree pruning from 5 to 7 years

Once a tree has reached 5 years old, it is established and you can concentrate your pruning techniques to improve the tree.

Crown lifting refers to the removal of lower branches of the tree to a specified height, which should not be more than one-third of the overall height of the tree. Lower limbs are often removed to make sure that the bottom of the tree crown is higher than human head height.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that tree branches move upwards as the tree grows taller – they do not – a tree branch at 5ft high will always be 5ft high.

Tree pruning at 15 years plus

One a tree reaches 15 years plus, pruning can be used to make sure the tree stays in the shape you would like and that any dead branches are removed.

Crown cleaning involves removing unwanted branches from the crown of the tree, and may also include some pruning work as well. It can also often include the removal of climbing plants such as ivy, and parasitic plants such as mistletoe.

Crown reduction refers to the process of making the overall crown of the tree smaller. No more than a third of the trees foliage should be removed and the outcome should be a natural looking shape with no thick ends protruding. Crown reduction is normally required when a tree is considered too big for its position in the garden, or when the tree’s stability is in question due to changes in the ground.

Crown thinning refers to the removal of specific branches from a tree in order to reduce the overall density, and is normally a task that is done because more light is needed through the crown or the wind needs to be able to pass through more easily. Again, no more than a third of the branches should be removed in order to preserve the health of the tree.

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