How to remove tree branches and limbs

Tree owners should consider hiring a professional before doing any work on a tree. If you’re not sure about what you are doing or don’t have the proper equipment to carry out the work you are wanting to do, it’s always best to go with the safest option. Tree surgeons can carry out any work you need in safe conditions, with the proper equipment and will be able to advise you on how to solve issues or care for your trees.

However, if you want to do some light pruning to remove small or easily accessible branches, here are some tips on how best to remove branches.

First, make sure to wear gloves and protective equipment as necessary, such as head or eye protection. For small branches, secateurs should be strong enough. Pruning saws can be used for thicker branches.

When you are cutting a stem, make sure to cut just above a healthy bud or side shoot. Cut around 0.5cm (1/4in) above the bud. If you cut too close, the bud will die. If you cut too far, there is a risk of infection. Aim to avoid congestion or rubbing branches by cutting to an outward facing stem or branch.

For thicker branches, aim to cut about 20-30cm (8 in-1ft) away from the trunk. Start by making an undercut, followed by an overcut (not necessarily aligned and not joined). This will prevent the bark from tearing, avoiding any potential infection. Make a small undercut just outside the branch collar (the swelling where the branch joins the trunk), followed by an overcut to meet the undercut. Angle away from the trunk so the slope can shed rain.

Avoiding cutting too close to the trunk as collars are the area where the healing takes place.

Wound paints are generally not necessary unless your tree is prone to silver lead disease, in which case the paint could prevent the spores from entering the wound.

If the tree bleeds sap, don’t try to bandage the cut as this could prevent the healing process.

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