Tree Trimming and Pruning At It’s Best

Are your trees growing too big to allow you to see clearly? Are they posing as obstacles in daily activities? Or do you just not like them untamed and uncut? If so, then you might want to read on. This article is the perfect how-to when it comes to pruning trees, especially in the summer.

Tree shearing and pruning can be fun at times, and at times dangerous. Nevertheless, we believe that it is necessary for the common man to know the basics. You may always prefer to hire a contractor, but who wants to spend all that extra money, right?

In general, one should have knowledge about what utensils to prune trees with, which exact proportions of the tree are to be pruned, and how the process differs for each type of fruit tree.

So without further ado, let's get started!

What Is Tree Pruning?

Tree pruning, shearing, and trimming is the practice of reducing the "crown" (or upper bushy area) of a tree in order to (mostly) provide more space. However, tree pruning is performed for a number of reasons, including:

  • To create space by cutting down unwanted branches.
  • To protect the tree from a spreading infection by cutting off the infected branches.
  • To cut down intruding branches for better visibility of objects such as precaution signs.
  • To make the tree/hedge look aesthetically more pleasing by giving it a clean-shaven look.
  • To allow easier and healthier interception of light.
  • To direct nutrients towards wanted branches.

What Tools Do I Need?

The tools differ depending on your specific requirements. They are as follows:

  • Pruning Shears:

These are the most basic tools for shearing. They are also called pruners, cutters, and even secateurs. The shears are quite small and handy and will typically take care of smaller branches. However, depending on the thickness and hardness, the pruning shears may not be able to cut through all branches.

  • Loppers:

Loppers are just like pruning shears, except they have longer handles. They come in handy in removing small twigs and branches which are relatively out of reach, but close enough. For branches that are extremely far away, see Pole Pruner.

  • Pruning Saws:

Pruning saws are almost like regular saws, except they have a curved blade and are relatively smaller, though big enough to cut through branches. These are best when it comes to cutting off tick branches, or even whole stems in some cases. They work wonders at trimming off the branch “shoulder”. 

  • Pole Pruner/ Pole saws:

Pole pruners or pole saws are like loppers except with even longer handles. These are used to cut off the branches or twigs at the very top of the tree or those which are out of reach. The pole can be extendable in some models.

  • Hacksaw/Chainsaw:

This is an option for if you wish to cut off an entire stem or trunk. Some scenarios require the entire tree to be chopped off, or some major portion of it. A hacksaw will take care of the thicker branches, while the chainsaw can remove the trunk entirely.

  • Stump Grinder:

This is more of an accessory tool than a necessity. A stump grinder will remove dead tree stumps by shedding it into tiny bits that can be swept away.

Pruning Trees in Your Orchard Vs. Home:

Tree pruning in orchards and fields is almost the same as in a home. Except in orchards greater measures need to be taken to ensure that the process is more effective.

In orchards, trees are closely packed together, and they need a greater interception of the sun's beams. Which is where tree pruning comes in handy. It helps to allow light to pass through and also to keep the trees tamed. While at home you can easily prune the tree by using simple supplies, orchard pruning requires heavier material. Sometimes, main branches need to be cut off to regulate water supply and yield, and this can cost a fortune.

Apart from that, a tree with too many unnecessary branches will exhaust the farm's limited supply of water and fertilizer. Which is why tree pruning is the best option as it takes away the right to nutrition from unwanted branches and targets it towards branches with actual fruit and yield.

Pruning trees at home, however, is a simple task. And it can be successfully done with little to no knowledge of the art and a pair of pruning shears.

Which Tree to Prune in the Winter/Fall/Summer/Spring?

Tree pruning requires a lot of time and patience. Trees can’t just be shaved any time you like. Some seasons pose a risk of infection, while some might never grow back the same way.

For your own convenience, we have listed down the most common trees and which season they are better pruned in. Take a look:

  • For Winters:

Pears, Cherry, Peach, Apricot, Azalea, Butterfly Bush, Chaste Tree, Crape Myrtle, Hydrangea, Smoke Bush.

  • For Fall/Autumn:

Abelia, Magnolia.

  • For Summer:

Cherry (for pruning sweet fruits), Peach, Plum, Nectarine, Japanese Plum, Magnolia, Birch, Maple, Grapevine.

  • For Spring/Blooming Season:

Apple, Pear (lightly), Peach, Plum, Apricot, Abelia, Azalea, Chaste Tree, Smoke Bush, Philadephus, Kolkwitzia, Spirea, Roses.

In general, do not prune trees and shrubs in the fall, as that is the worst season to cut off a tree and can leave it prone to diseases and infections. Almost all trees are best when chopped in the late winters or early spring, and especially during their dormant season. Mid and late summer can also be an ideal time to trim trees, but not the woody ones. For shrubs, spring is the best time as they can easily recover from any wounds, and will also provide health for the flowers or fruits.

When is the Best Time to Prune Apple Trees?

Apple trees are our most favorite fruit trees of the year. The apple fruit contains nutrition that is enough to last us for days. Apple trees are best when pruned in the first two months of spring, or a couple of weeks after the last winter.  

How to Prune Apple Trees:

The process is as simple as can be. Firstly, remember to lop the branches only in the first two months of spring. Next, decide which parts you need to trim. The smaller branches and the "suckers" (unnecessary branches at the bottom of the trunk) can be completely chopped off. However, larger branches such as the “scaffolds” (secondary branches) should be trimmed off in scarcity and with great care. Also remember to keep the shape of the tree conical or pyramidal for even light distribution. If need be, then prune the tree over the span of several seasons, but never all at once.

When is the Best Time to Prune Pear Trees?

Pears are our second favorite fruit (second to apples, of course). The flowers are just as prompting as the fruit. Remember to only prune them in the late winters, and never in the midsummer. A few branches can be shaved off here and there in the spring and the summer.

How to Prune Pear Trees:

Pruning pear trees can be a bit tricky. The main stem should be taller than the scaffolding, and never cut off more than one-third of the volume of the tree at a time. In general, it is best to prune the tree while it is young, to promote healthy growth and nourishment. The branches should be trimmed starting 33 or 36 inches above the ground, and a lot of space should be left evenly between branches to allow for easy regrowth. Never prune near a wound in an old tree. Cut off all suckers to target the water flow to the top.

When is the Best Time to Prune Cherry Trees?

We can almost taste those red ripe cherries. Cherry trees are best when pruned in the dormant winter season. However, if you want to remove sweet cherries (since they are vulnerable to disease), then the pruning can be done in the late summer as well.

How to Prune Cherry Trees:

Cherry trees should mostly be pruned in the winters, when the frost is at the highest and yield is the lowest. Th best way to trim them is to do so while they're still young. Cut off all of the suckers and weak unwanted branches. This will help direct nutrients to wanted branches. Next, make "heading cuts" (cutting off one-third or half of a scaffolding or tertiary branch). Only do so in the fall as the spring yields buds and fruit. However, it should be kept in mind that the tree must be at least 30 inches tall to head it properly.

When is the Best Time to Prune Peach Trees?

Late spring or early winter is the best time to prune peaches, but the process can be continued into the summer as well. The time right before blooming and yielding is best as it will make the tree healthier for better fruit growth.

How to Prune Peach Trees:

Firstly, remove all suckers and water sprouts (weak branches that grow directly upwards) to allow for better airflow and water circulation. Secondly, remember to prune only above 7 feet. Any lower than that and the tree could be at risk. In general, never remove more than a third of the crown, and never remove fruiting or budding branches, unless you want lesser fruit. Also remove any branches or scaffolding that grows inwards or directly upwards. Around 40 percent of the crown can be removed at a time, allowing for stronger wood and higher amounts of fruit.

When is the Best Time to Prune Plum Trees?

If you’ve never had a plum, you might just as well be the most unlucky person on Earth. Plum trees should be trimmed and tamed only in the spring season. Older ones can be dealt with up to late summer. Never prune in the winter or fall season.

How to Prune Plum Trees:

Plum trees can be pruned just like other trees. Make sure to trim them only in the summer or the spring. Young and budding trees should always be dealt with first, as this will encourage healthier growth and sustenance. Cut off the tree's crown so that it is only 30 inches high, and never cut off a well-functioning bud. Then you might want to create a "scaffold whorl". Remove all branches from the tree except four, and cut those down so they only have a few buds. Only do this with young trees. Cut off 1 to 2 feet from the top to regulate height.

When Is the Best Time to Prune Apricot Trees?

Apricot trees require a lot of intensive care and precautions. But once dealt with, can lead to a blossoming season as fruitful as the previous one. These trees are best pruned in late winters or early spring, when the tree is growing and can recover from wounds easily.

How to Prune Apricot Trees:

The instructions are the same as for most other fruit-bearing trees. Remove all suckers, water sprouts, weak, old, and decaying branches, or sub-scaffolding that has been visible infected. The process will be a lot more successful and easier if done a few months after planting the apricot. Do not remove branches that grow outwards at a wider angle, as these are the ones responsible for fruit yield. Prune off branches that grow any lower than 18 inches from the crown, and remember to shorten the terminal shoot to around 36 inches.

Wrapping up:

Tree pruning can be a bit tricky, but when done right can actually be healthy for the tree. It can remove unwanted branches, prevent the spread of diseases, and allow easier and justified distribution of light. Not only that, but cutting off a few unwanted fruiting branches can actually provide more nutrition and growth to other floral buds.

In the end, we will say one thing: contractors may try to get you to spend all your cash on them. But the process is entirely simple and can be done by hand. We're here to provide you with all the information you need so check out our pole saw 101 guide.

So don't hold back on all your gardening dreams, and get chopping!