Pruning a tree sometimes invokes more worry than it should. You wonder if removing a tree limb is analogous to cutting off your leg (does it hurt? will I kill it?).
Fortunately, if you take your time, pruning can be easily done, with no harm to your tree.
TIMING: You can remove up to 25% of the total foliage of a tree during the growing season without hurting it. A low limb from a crapemyrtle slapping you in the face when you mow? Cut it off!
You can remove up 30% – 50% of the total limb structure of a tree during winter without hurting it. Is a big limb growing over your best parking place? Remove it! (after moving your car first!)
THREE-CUT TECHNIQUE TO REMOVE LARGE LIMBS: You can seriously harm the tree (and yourself!) if a big limb is cut carelessly. If only one cut is made next to the trunk, the limb will sag before the cut is complete and strip bark off for a distance down the trunk.
The method below, developed by scientists at the USDA Forest Service several years ago, results in less decay development. Wound dressings or tar applied to the cut branch or other exposed wood don’t help reduce decay and are not recommended.
1. First make a cut about 15 inches from the trunk. Start from the bottom and cut one-third of the way up through the limb.
2. The second should be made from the top down but started 2 inches further away from the trunk than the first cut. The branch will break away as you make the second cut.
3. The third cut is made to remove the stub that is left and is made at the collar area.
Leave no stubs!