Glorious, Great and Grounded: A Tree Blog

New Gardeners, Beware: It’s Time to Prune Trees

Springlike weather is finally here in Australia, and that means it's time to prune trees in preparation for their new growth season. For new gardeners and homeowners, that sounds like time to get the pruning shears out and get those trees into shape. However, it's better to let a tree service do the work—and you shouldn't wait to call to set up an appointment.

The Less Foliage—the Better

Whether you're attempting to do the work yourself or will be calling a tree service, don't wait. When you do late winter/early spring pruning to remove old growth and make room for more airflow in the canopy, you want to see what you have to remove. Once new leaves start to appear, they can obscure the old growth. You may miss things that need to be removed.

Don't Top Them

If you're concerned that the tree canopy is too messy, that it doesn't have a great shape, or even that it's growing toward something it shouldn't, like power lines, you may be tempted to just cut off all the smaller twigs and branches and cut the top of the tree. Don't do this! This is a practice known as topping, and it's harmful to the tree. New growth appears very bushy, the tree loses its leaf-producing branches and thus its ability to photosynthesize, and infection can set in through all those cuts. There are ways to safely reduce the size of the tree and shape the canopy. A professional tree service knows how to do that. And if you have to cut anything near power lines, get a professional company to do it—don't attempt that on your own!

Know What Your Goal Is

If you elect to try pruning a tree yourself—maybe you've got a really short one that doesn't require that you stand on a ladder to reach its top—keep in mind what you're trying to achieve as you prune. That will help keep you on track. You don't want to start pruning away dead growth and get distracted by random twigs that you think need to be pruned away to make the tree look better. If you start pruning to remove dead branches, work toward that goal. Then you can go back for another round of pruning for cosmetic reasons, and so on. If you let yourself prune randomly, you may end up forgetting to prune parts of the canopy, making the tree look slightly off-kilter.

Pruning a tree follows the same general logic as pruning a shrub. However, tree pruning is more complicated in that the trees are much taller, and sometimes you have to remove things that are too thick for the clippers you have. Instead of attempting to prune any trees yourself, call a tree care service. These people will know exactly what to look for and remove on a tree, and they'll know how to stay safe doing it.