If, like many Oregon homeowners, you have trees growing on your property, you will occasionally need to trim the limbs or branches. Failure to do so can potentially put your family and property in danger, as old tree limbs weaken and eventually fall. Correctly removing heavy limbs is not a particularly difficult process, however care must be taken. Cutting tree limbs off, if done incorrectly, can harm your tree and pose other risks as well. Here are ten tips that will help you remove tree limbs safely and effectively:
- Inspect your tree first
Before you start making any cuts, you will want to make a thorough inspection of the tree to determine what, if anything, needs to be removed. It’s a good idea to conduct inspections regularly – at least once a year – and also after storms or heavy winds. Look for any obviously broken limbs, as well as peeling bark, dead wood, or other signs of damage to the tree. If the tree is too tall for you to see the branches easily, you can use a pair of binoculars to inspect them more closely. Besides damaged limbs, you may also decide to remove branches that are growing too close to your property or are hanging over something.
- Make a plan
After you’ve conducted your inspection and decided which limbs need to go, take care to plan exactly how you will go about pruning your tree. Make sure you have all of the proper equipment – a ladder, a large saw (or chainsaw), safety glasses, gloves, etc. – and mark exactly where you plan to cut. Also make sure to clear the area underneath your tree; you don’t want any falling parts to damage your property.
- Start by cutting a notch into the branch
Each limb will require three cuts to remove properly. First, make a small notch about three feet away from the trunk of the tree. Don’t go all the way through with this one; about a fourth of the way through will work just fine. The purpose of this first cut is to prevent the bark from splitting as you make your second cut.
- Remove the first half of the branch
The next cut you make should be just beyond the notch you created. Removing the first half of the branch will make removing the remainder of the limb much easier. By removing half of the branch, you dramatically reduce the weight of the limb and lessen the chances of the wood splitting as you make your final cut.
- Don’t cut into the branch collar
The final cut is the most difficult one to get right. If you look closely at the tree limb, you will see that each branch has a “collar” where the branch connects to the trunk. You’ll want to make you cut right about where the collar is. Be very careful not to remove any part of the collar itself! This part of the tree is where the healing will happen, and if it is damaged it can cause the tree to rot or become diseased. This would ultimately lead to the death of the tree.
- Don’t leave the branches too long
As we mentioned above, it’s the branch collar that heals the tree limb. If you do not remove enough of the limb, the tree will have difficulty forming scar tissue around the area that has been cut. Just like cutting the limbs too short, this can eventually lead to infection and sickness in the tree.
- Make sure you use the right tools
The health of your tree depends on using the proper tools. Make sure any tools you use for trimming your tree are clean and very sharp. If you use a dull saw, the cuts may not be flush and may increase the tree’s chances of becoming infected instead of healing properly.
- Choose the right time of year to remove tree limbs
Certain times of year are better than others when it comes to removing tree limbs. It’s actually better to do your pruning during the winter as the cold weather makes insects and bacteria less likely to attack your tree. During the summer months, when insects are very active and freshly cut limbs can be much more vulnerable to disease.
- Avoid using tree paint
Tree paint is sold as a type of wound dressing for limbs that have been removed. However, they are often unnecessary and can actually do more harm than good. Your tree is very good at healing itself as long as you have given it the proper opportunity to do so. Allow the cuts you’ve made to dry and heal on their own and your tree should recover just fine.
- Contact a tree service if necessary
If you find that removing a large limb is too daunting for you to undertake, don’t hesitate to contact your local tree service professional. Do some research to uncover the best tree services in your area. Have them come in and inspect your tree. If they recommend that any limbs need to be removed, they will be able to perform this service safely and effectively.