Tree Trimming: How To Know When It’s Time To Trim Your Trees

As the weather warms up and spring turns to summer, chances are you’re starting to take a fresh look at your yard. You may be dreaming of backyard cookouts, evenings on the patio, and playing with the kids on the lawn.

But first, you need to get your yard in tip-top shape, and that means taking care of your trees, too.

Tree trimming can be an important way to keep your yard safe and your trees thriving. Read on to discover some of the primary signs that it’s time to break out your pruning shears.

Keep Your Trees Healthy

One of the most important reasons to trim your trees is to keep them healthy. It may surprise you to learn that cutting parts off your tree can help them to grow better, but think of it as a haircut for the trees. When you go too long without a haircut, your hair starts to get unkempt, and you may get split ends; trees experience similar issues when they go untrimmed.

As trees grow, parts of them may become diseased, or invasive pests may move into them. Trimming removes these unhealthy parts, which allows your trees to flourish and direct more resources to the healthy parts. Removing these portions of the tree also prevents them from spreading and harming your entire tree.

Stay Safe 

Another great reason to trim your trees is to help keep your yard a safer place. As parts of your tree become diseased or die off, they don’t just have a negative impact on the rest of your tree. They also become weaker and can fall off the tree in even mildly unpleasant weather, or sometimes spontaneously.

Having limbs falling off your trees at random times isn’t safe for either your family or your house. By trimming your trees, you can control when and how these limbs come down, making sure it’s safe for everyone. You can also minimize damage to your tree from these falling branches by controlling where they split from the tree.

Promote Fruit Production

If you have trees that produce flowers or fruit, trimming is even more important for your trees. Pruning your trees regularly can help them to produce more, larger, and healthier fruit. Flowering trees may also produce more blooms in the season after you prune them. 

By trimming your fruit and flower trees, you direct where your tree sends its resources. By removing excess branches, you ensure that your tree has plenty of resources to dedicate to producing large, bountiful fruit. Many flowering trees only produce flowers on new growth, so trimming helps to ensure that almost all the growth on your tree will produce flowers!

Check Your Roof

There are several signs you can keep an eye out for that will tell you it’s time to trim your tree. One of the first things you’ll want to do when assessing tree trimming needs is to take a look at your roof. As trees grow, their branches can start to rub on your roof, and that is a problem you don’t want to go unchecked.

Over time, branches can start to damage your roof, especially if you have a shingle roof. This point of contact can also give pests a bridge into your home, as well as allowing water to flow into places it shouldn’t. If there are branches close to or in contact with your roof, it’s time to break out the pruning shears.

Keep an Eye on Power Lines

Power lines are another major thing to keep an eye on when you’re inspecting your trees. Trees can start to grow in and around above-ground power lines, sometimes even wrapping entire branches around them. As you might imagine, not only does this damage the power lines, but it’s also a fire hazard for your trees. 

If you have above-ground power lines near your trees, be sure to keep a close eye on the branches in that area. If possible, plant trees well away from power lines or prune them early so that they grow away from the power lines. You may want to call a professional tree trimming service to help you remove any branches that have grown too close to power lines. 

Watch For Disease

As we mentioned, as trees grow, some parts of them can become diseased. You may notice a branch not producing as many leaves, or you may see pests or a fungus infesting one section of the tree. It’s better to remove this diseased part and save the tree than allow it to spread and kill your tree.

There are hundreds of different issues that can affect trees, and each of them poses different threats to your tree. If you notice a part of your tree seems diseased, it may be a good idea to call a professional arborist. Not only can they advise you about whether to treat or remove the affected part, but they can also tell you if the disease poses any threat to your other trees. 

Look For Damage

During severe weather, your tree may get damaged; even if limbs don’t fall, they may crack or break. Disasters like wildfires could also leave portions of your tree burned without killing the entire tree. When this sort of damage occurs, you need to trim the tree to help keep it healthy and safe.

Once more, it’s a good idea to consult a professional arborist before tackling any damaged portions of the tree yourself. First of all, you want to make sure you’re using appropriate safety measures to remove any branches that have cracked or broken. And if your tree was burned, you need to decide if it can be saved or if the whole tree needs to come down.

Inspect For Unusual Growth 

Even if your trees are growing healthy and strong, they may sometimes grow in ways you don’t like. A branch may split off, pulling your tree out of balance, or you may want the crown of your tree to start a little higher up. Unusual tree growth can disrupt the look you’re going for with your trees, even if it is healthy. 

You want to keep an eye on the way your tree is growing and make sure it fits both the form and function of your yard. Plan to remove any branches that interfere with sidewalks or other walkways.

You may also want to remove branches that obscure views from windows or which don’t fit the natural flow of the tree.

Keep an Eye on the Bark

When you’re inspecting your trees to decide whether they need trimming, one of the things you want to look at is the bark. Bark acts as a protective covering for your tree, and damage to it can leave your tree vulnerable. Many diseases and fungus also show up first in the bark, and you may also see evidence of pests in your tree’s bark. 

Make sure you have an idea of what your tree’s bark is supposed to look like when it’s healthy, and keep an eye out for any changes. You may look for bald spots, discolorations, unusual depressions, bore holes, and so on. If you notice any of these changes, call a tree professional to determine what’s wrong and how it should be treated. 

Care For Your Lawn 

You need to make sure when you’re inspecting your trees that you also pay attention to your lawn. Many types of grass struggle to get enough sun under trees that don’t get proper pruning.

While a shady lawn is nice, a shady dirt patch isn’t, and you need to make sure your lawn is also getting the care it needs. 

Watch for bald patches appearing in your grass under the crown of your tree. Try to trim the crown of your tree, such that most of your grass gets some amount of sun throughout the day. If you have a lot of large trees, you may also want to look into planting a grass species that are more resistant to shade.

When to Prune Trees

Although you should inspect your trees on a regular basis to make sure you know about any changes or unneeded growth, you don’t want to trim your trees just any time of the year. Trimming your tree at the wrong time can damage it, making it harder for the tree to recover and put out new growth.

You need to make sure you’re trimming during the tree’s dormant season—most often in the winter or early spring. 

If you notice disease in your tree, it’s a good idea to go ahead and remove it, no matter what time of year it is. For most other trees, aim to prune them in the mid-to-late winter. Somewhere around December or January is the best time to trim trees.

You may also need to give some care to early-versus-late-blooming trees in order to get their pruning schedule right.

Crown Thinning

There are several methods you can use to trim your trees, depending on the results you want to get. If you have large, mature trees with dense crowns, you may want to go the crown thinning route. As the name suggests, crown thinning strategically removes branches to result in a more open, less crowded crown.

When doing crown thinning, plan to remove only about 10 to 20 percent of the branches from the edge of the crown. You’ll want to spread this removal out so it’s consistent throughout the tree.

Aim to remove branches that are between one and four inches in diameter, cutting back to where the branch splits off from a larger limb.

Crown Raising

Another popular method of tree trimming is crown raising, a technique that allows you to lift the bottom edge of the tree’s crown. This can help to clear walkways, driveways, and roads, as well as keeping views unobstructed. It’s also a fairly invasive pruning method, so you’ll need to tackle it slowly over a long period of time.

You need to make sure you remove only a few branches that are smaller than four inches in diameter from the bottom of the crown each year. Keep in mind that in the case of deciduous trees (trees that shed their leaves each year), the crown should make up about two-thirds of the total height of the tree. Conifers (trees that keep their needles all year round) can be balanced at about a 50/50 trunk/crown ratio.

Crown Reduction 

Crown reduction is a similar pruning method to crown thinning, though it has a different purpose. Whereas crown thinning aims to remove material from the crown, crown reduction aims to remove old growth. This can both encourage new growth and prevent those older limbs from becoming weak or diseased.

Crown reduction should be done slowly and carefully, always leaving plenty of structure in the crown. Look for older branches that are coming out of the side of a limb that is still putting on new growth at the end. Remove these branches during the winter to encourage the limb to put on new growth where you pruned in the spring.

Crown Cleaning 

As the name suggests, crown cleaning removes any unwanted, unsightly, or dangerous material from your crown. Most often, this method is used to remove damaged or diseased portions of your tree. It’s the only kind of trimming that can be done year-round, since you don’t want to give the disease time to spread. 

It’s a good idea to get a professional arborist to help you with a crown cleaning operation. For one thing, they’ll be able to advise you on how much of the tree to remove to keep it healthy and thriving. But they can also ensure that these branches, which are often structurally compromised, are removed safely.

Learn More About Tree Trimming 

Trimming your trees on a regular basis is important to keep them healthy and your yard beautiful and safe. Look for any damage or signs of disease in your tree, and always remove damaged portions. You may also want to trim your trees when they start interfering with your roof or power lines, or when they obstruct your view.

If you’d like to learn more about tree trimming, check out the rest of our site at Green Topps. We offer full-service landscaping, and our professionals have years of experience with a wide variety of plants. Contact us today and get landscaping, tree service, stump removal, and more.

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