Tree Pruning

What does correct trimming of large trees look like?

          Good tree pruning starts with an objective of what the goal is. A few common examples are:

  • Limb is likely to break because of it’s weight and length
  • tree has defects down low and could use a crown reduction to lighten the load on it
  • limbs are rubbing on the house
  • tree is blocking your view
  • vehicle or pedestrian traffic is running into limbs
  • tree is shading an area that needs more sun  

Proper tree pruning is always done with a clear attainable objective. For example, one common unattainable objective would be:

I am tired of the leaves. Can you whack the top off the tree?

One of two things will happen. The tree will sprout profusely making more of a leaf mess or will decline, rot, and die. You will still have the problem you wanted to solve!

Here are some alternatives:

Photo #1 (before)  In the first picture you will notice an overgrown honey locust tree. On the area over the house there are heavy limbs rubbing on the roof. In the foreground the locust is shading the tree next to it excessively. On the left side the limbs have been cut incorrectly making the tree unsightly. Also the tree has a lot of limbs that are getting too heavy and quite a bit of deadwood. 

Photo#2 (after): We started over the house and pruned the limbs there so they won’t rub the house or break and hit the house. In the foreground we made reduction cuts to allow the sun to reach the small tree. On the left side we removed the unsightly stubs. We also cut out the dead limbs and performed reduction cuts on  any that we felt where likely to break.

Photo #3: This shows an example of a proper reduction cut. You will notice that the main part of the limb has been cut to a side branch. This retains natural uncut tips and promotes slower growth and stronger limbs.  When these type of cuts are made correctly, it shortens the limb or tree, making it thicker and stronger for it’s length.


A proper reduction cut will be made to a  side branch thick enough to keep the limb healthy. For example it would not be ideal to make a six inch cut at a one half inch  branch.   It would be a lot better if the cut was made to at least a two inch branch.   Also it is not always necessary to make large cuts. A lot of time it is preferable to make more small cuts. The smaller the cut, the less harm is done to the tree.