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Video:How to Prune a Tree

with Sean Dembrosky

Tree pruning is essential for the health of trees. See the proper technique for pruning both small and large branches.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Prune a Tree

Hi, my name is Sean Dembrosky for About.com. We're here at Edible Acres, a six acre forest farm in Trumansburg, NY. Today we're going to talk about pruning trees and shrubs safely for both you and for the tree.

Tree Pruning Supplies

So, let's show you what you need:
  • gloves, I like rubberized gloves because they give me a better grip
  • goggles, to protect your eyes from branches, twigs & spiky thorns
  • pruning shears - I like the Felco #twos personally
  • a folding back/buck saw

When to Prune a Tree

I've chosen this buckthorn tree as our example tree, because in generally it's in a messy state. There are a lot of lower branches, a lot of problems in here. People can get poked when they walk past, and the tree itself isn't all that healthy. It needs a cleanup. We're going to start with this low hanging and dead branch. First, we're going to prune it the wrong way and then the right way.

How Not to Prune

The wrong way to prune is away from the main branch. You can see that it's still sticking out. This is an area that could rot and be a problem for the tree. And it's unsightly.

Proper Pruning Techniques

So when you prune, you want to prune as safely as you can, but also as close to the main branch as possible. I'm going to get even a little tighter in here. When you get it flush with the tree there is a lot less room for disease to happen, and less area for snow to collect and rot the area. And it looks a lot cleaner.

Prune Crossing Branches

Let's go ahead and start dealing with some of our crossing branches. Again I will use my folding saw to cut as close to the tree as possible. The whole time I'm making sure my other hand is safely out of the way, but supporting the branch. Once it's off you can see that it takes the pressure of the branch it was crossing with. In fact, while I'm at it, this spur is dead and I might as well take it off.

Pruning Large Branches

Sometimes with larger branches, the weight of the branch can actually rip the bark of the tree off if you cut it in one pass. A common practice is to take it apart in three parts. First you would do, away from you main branch, your undercut. Follow with an overcut to actually relieve the pressure in the weight of this branch. And finally, a cleanup cut that's close to the main branch of the tree.

Pruning Small Branches

Now that some of the bigger branches are out of the way, let's go in and do some detail work to get rid of some smaller branches. This time I'm going to use my pruners. Again I'm going to cut close to the main trunk of the tree.

Now that we've learned some techniques to make pruning safe and easy, and hopefully a little fun for both you and the tree- let's go ahead and actually clean this tree up.

We're all done pruning this buckthorn. As you can see the tree looks a whole lot better. There's a lot more light coming through, it's safer to get around, and the tree is a lot healthier.

Check Specifics Before Pruning

The pruning techniques we learned today are applicable in general to all tree and shrubs that you might work with. You might want to go out there and learn from specific people and books about the specific trees that you're working with. Be it fruit, nut or timbers.

Have fun out there and be safe. Thanks for joining us. If you want more information, visit us on About.com.
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