If you are new to the tree pruning game and have decided to give it a go yourself, then it is understandable if you’ve perhaps been a little too trigger happy with the shears. If you are worried that you have badly pruned your tree and fear for its health, then try not to panic! In most cases, a tree can come back from bad pruning.
Of course, as with anything, it really depends on the extent of the damage and the species of tree. In this article, we are going to offer some general information that should help you fix your badly pruned tree. However, if you are feeling overwhelmed or don’t want to make the problem worse, then you should consult your local tree pruning expert to be on the safe side.
Can you trim a tree too much?
Absolutely. Not only can you trim a tree too much, but you can trim it too often as well. But first, it is important to identify the key difference between tree trimming and pruning. That way it might help for you to determine where you went wrong.
What is tree trimming?
Tree trimming is essentially the cutting back or reducing of a trees’ canopy. This is typically practised in order to improve the aesthetic appearance of the tree or indeed its shape.
What is tree pruning?
Tree pruning is trimming, only with a focus on the overall health and structure of the tree. This involves clearing away dead, dying, or crossed branches in order to help promote strong future growth. That said, it is all too easy to over-do it and what started out as trying to help the tree can seriously damage it.
So, how do you know if you have trimmed the tree too much? Well, for one thing, if you are looking at the tree and it has zero branches on it, then perhaps you may have gone a little bit overboard. That said, even if you have removed all of the branches from a tree, there is still a good chance that it can survive. It all depends on how well those branches were removed. Let’s take a look at some examples of bad cuts:
Bad cuts in tree pruning/trimming:
- Stub cuts – leave a stub of a branch which doesn’t allow the tree to seal itself off from disease. An easy way of telling whether or not you have made a stub cut is if you can easily hang something off the end of it.
- Flush cuts – remove the branch at the collar. This is the slightly ‘swollen’ or enlarged area around the base of a branch. Flush cuts prevent the tree from being able to seal the cut over properly with a callus.
- Heading cuts – take the end of a branch off at a completely random point. This leaves the tree exposed to pests and diseases which stimulates the tree to put a multitude of weak branches at the end of the cut.
The perfect tree pruning/trimming cut:
As you may have heard, tree pruning is both a science and an art. If you’d like to make the perfect cuts when pruning your tree next time, then there is a three step approach to follow.
First you want to make an initial cut about one or two feet out from the tree trunk. This is a very important part of the process. The cut itself should be on the underside of the branch, but only part-way in. This is called a heading cut.
Depending on the size of the limb, you may want to make a second heading cut beyond the first by another foot or two, all the way through. The likelihood is that the branch will break as you cut through it, although the bark will not tear off the tree due to the first cut that you made. Keeping the bark in-tact is paramount, as without these precautionary cuts the branch could snap right off and peel a sheet of bark with it, exposing a large open wound for pests and diseases to target.
Finally, make a cut right at the branch collar (where the branch meets the trunk). You will notice that this area is slightly flared (or swollen). Making the final cut so that the raised area is just evident, will enable the tree to heal over and eventually fill it with fresh bark and scar tissue—a tell-tale sign that the tree is healing properly is if you notice the area where you made the cut looking a lot like a doughnut.
Can dead tree branches come back to life?
It is important to know the difference between a dead and dormant branch. You see, dormant branches are resting temporarily before springing back into life again…dead branches on the other hand cannot be revived.
Whilst a dead and dormant branch look similar from afar, if you get up close and personal you will be able to see that each have different characterises indicating their state of life. The easiest way to tell is to simply make a small incision with a fingernail into the branch; if it is all green and gooey then it is alive and well and will bounce back next spring.
How do you fix a badly pruned tree?
1 – Know your tree: If you don’t know, find out what species of tree it is.
2 – Have patience: It can take up to 2 years for a badly pruned tree to fully recover.
3 – Consult an expert: if you feel out of your depth, don’t be afraid to contact a reputable arborist such as Lakeside Trees and Stumps to help you out.
4 – Give it some love: Water, feed, and fertilise. Give you tree everything it needs to thrive!
5 – Shape it: As new growth returns, guide and shape it into a healthy structure.
6 – Don’t do it again!