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How to prune trees

Pruning is a fundamental job in the garden, it will remove any diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, and structurally unsound branches. There are some basic principles to follow that can be applied to pruning trees or shrubs. Here are our top tips for pruning.

Which cutting tool do I need for pruning trees?

Investing in top-quality pruning tools, including pruning shears, loppers, and pruning saws, is paramount to achieving clean and precise cuts.  Always use clean and sharp tools, and based on the size of the branch, select the right tool.

Use a pruning saw for branches that are larger than 4cm – 6cm in diameter.  To help you choose the right saw for the job, use this rule of thumb:

Pruning small branches and dead wood?

A small folding saw is perfect for removing small branches and dead wood.  We have the Corona Folding Razor Tooth Pruning Saw, Burgon & Ball Folding Pruning Saw, and the Wolf-Garten Power Cut Saw 145.  All of these saws fold up and can be carried safely in your pocket, tool belt, or holster.  The Wolf-Garten Power Cut 275 Folding Pruning Saw also comes with its own protective sheath that can be hooked onto your belt.

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Pruning branches larger than 2.5cm?

Use loppers on branches that are greater than 2.5cm in diameter.  To know which are the right loppers to choose, bypass loppers are suitable for cutting living plant material.  Anvil loppers are useful for cutting through dead wood, shortening a long or heavy branch from a living tree, ready for more precision removal with a saw.

Pruning branches larger than 4cm – 6cm?

You need a more sturdy saw for cutting through the thicker branches.  We have the Wolf-Garten Power Cut Saw 370 and the more versatile Wolf-Garten Power Cut Pruning Saw PRO 370 which is also suitable for palm fronds.  The PRO 370 saw has stoppers on either end of the blade to prevent overshooting and pull down any branches that are stuck.  Both saws fit onto all the Wolf-Garten handles making it easier to prune those hard-to-reach branches. 

Cutting larger branches, prune 2-3 cuts higher up the branch before cutting at the base.  This makes it easier to cut through and helps you get a cleaner cut.

Protection

Wear clothing that will provide good protection.  Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a strong pair of gloves, safety glasses, and non-slip shoes that cover your toes.  Don’t forget a wide-brimmed hat to protect you from the sun.

When is the best time to prune your trees?

seasonal tree with different coloured leaves for each of the seasons

Winter Pruning

When winter arrives, it’s the ideal time to remove any dead or damaged branches. Rest assured that by doing so, you won’t disrupt new growth during the colder months. 

Late winter or early spring, is when your trees are taking a little breather from their growth spurt. This is the ideal moment to grab your pruners, loppers and get to work. Why, you ask? Well, during this time, your trees are less likely to suffer from damage or catch any nasty diseases.  

Trees such as Maple, Birches, and Magnolia do bleed a lot of sap if they are pruned in the winter, it is best to wait until the summer when they have full leaf growth. 

Pruning during the dormant season actually gives your trees a boost of energy for when spring rolls around. It’s like a shot of espresso for them, directing all that energy towards vital growth processes. Your plants will have a stronger, livelier regrowth that’ll leave you in awe come springtime!

Spring Pruning

Spring pruning gives plants final touch-ups to thrive for summer. For fruit and flowering trees and bushes, it’s important to prune the growth from the previous year, promoting healthy development and a bountiful harvest.

Summer Pruning

The heat of the summer doesn’t require any excessive pruning.  Trim and shape your hedges and greenery to maintain their desired form and promote healthy growth.

Autumn Pruning

It’s important to exercise caution and refrain from excessive pruning during autumn. While pruning can stimulate new growth, it may not have enough time to establish before winter arrives, potentially resulting in the death of these tender shoots.

Additionally, pruning during autumn can create wounds that make plants more susceptible to pests and diseases. Instead, embrace the natural cycle of autumn and allow birds and other native wildlife to utilize seed pods and old growth as valuable resources.

Tree Pruning Techniques

Cleaning

Cleaning is the removal of Dead, Damaged, or Diseased branches. Removing these problem areas is crucial for maintaining the overall health of your tree.

Dead branches not only blemish the beauty of your tree, but they can also become a breeding ground for pests and diseases.

Damaged branches, whether from storms or other causes, can weaken the tree’s structure and pose a safety hazard.

The diseased branches, can spread illness and cause further harm to your beloved tree.

By prioritizing the removal of the 3 Ds, you ensure that your tree stays healthy and strong, allowing it to focus its energy on growing vibrant foliage and producing beautiful blooms. 

Thinning

Thinning is cutting through the clutter of overcrowded branches and letting the fresh air flow through, creating an environment where your trees can truly thrive. Over time, your trees can get suffocated by a tangled mess of branches, robbing them of proper airflow and sunlight. But when you strategically thin out those branches, you give your trees room to breathe, reducing the risk of nasty fungal diseases and boosting their overall health. 

By embracing their natural form and growth pattern, you empower the tree to embody strength and resilience. Conversely, excessive pruning disrupts this delicate equilibrium. 

A general tip with citrus trees is to prune in a trapezium shape, for larger trees the focus may be more on safety to remove branches encroaching walkways, although always do your best to prune in the shape of nature.

Through thinning, you redirect that energy to the essential growth that truly matters.  It’s like injecting your trees with a shot of life! 

The more sun they soak up, the more photosynthesis kicks into high gear, fueling their energy production and nutrient absorption.

Trees possess an innate ability to develop branches in a symmetrical arrangement, fostering optimal growth and stability.

Raising

Removing the lower branches from a tree to enable clearance for buildings, vehicles, and pedestrians.

Reduction

Reduction is cutting the size of the tree to reduce its height or spread (think neighbours who don’t want your tree invading their backyard).  

How to prune larger tree branches

pruning branch collar

To cut larger branches easily, reduce the overall weight of the branch by cutting 2-3 cuts higher up the ranch.  Then cut the branch at the collar – that special spot where the branch meets the trunk. When you snip just outside the branch collar, you’re granting your tree the opportunity to work its magic and heal like a pro. By taking this mindful approach, you reduce the risk of unnecessary harm and create a nurturing environment that fosters healthy growth. It’s like performing a delicate surgery that paves the way for a swift recovery and remarkable results. 

The key to a thriving and visually stunning landscape lies in pruning regularly. By consistently tending to your trees, you promote new growth and ensure they maintain their desired shape. Think of it as giving your trees a refreshing makeover, allowing them to flourish with renewed vitality. Additionally, regular pruning also helps prevent potential hazards. By removing weak or overhanging branches, you eliminate the risk of them causing damage during storms or high winds. It’s like creating a safety net for your garden paradise.

Pruning Palm Trees

The best way to prune palm trees is to remove the dead or dying fronds using the Wolf-Garten Power Cut Pruning Saw PRO 370.  If your palm tree has flowering or fruiting clusters such as coconuts that can be a risk to the public, prune these as often as every 3-4 months to avoid any coconuts falling off the tree.

Feed after Pruning

Plants will benefit from good feed after pruning.  To determine the best fertiliser to use on what plant, check out our seasonal fertilising guides

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