Most of us can confidently give our trees the care they need to stay healthy. Water, mulch, fertilize—no problem.
But trimming trees on your own? It can feel like uncharted territory. Large pruning jobs should absolutely be left to a professional, but trimming small branches and trees is perfectly manageable. Yes, you can learn how to prune a small tree all on your own!
If you’re up to the task, keep reading for a step-by-step guide to pruning small branches and small trees.
Want to trim a small tree with lightweight branches and a canopy at eye level? Go for it! However, you should not attempt to prune a tree if you have to climb a ladder to reach the branches, if it’s near a power line, or if it has large branches that are too heavy to handle.
Let’s start with the steps to trimming just one branch, then get into pruning a small tree. To trim a branch:
When you trim a small tree, the process of removing a branch remains the same, but other factors come into play.
One wrong cut won’t immediately kill your tree, but pruning incorrectly or too often can.
If a tree repeatedly loses too much of its canopy at one time, it can become weak or even die from the stress. That’s why you shouldn’t trim more than 25% of a tree’s canopy at one time.
Cutting the branch collar can also be a nasty error. Keeping the branch collar intact helps make sure the wound properly seals after being pruned, but if it’s injured, the wound could get infected by decay fungi that could further spread within the tree.
Lastly, cutting off the top of a tree can be a deadly mistake. Read about why topping is a danger to trees here.
You may have noticed the theme here is all about trimming small branches and trees. There’s a reason for that!
Attempting to prune heavy branches or a tall tree is not recommended. Hiking up a ladder with pruning tools in hand can be very dangerous. You could lose your bearings and injure yourself, or worse, the ladder could fall over. The same goes for trimming heavy tree branches. If you don’t have a good handle on them, large branches could fall and injure you, your home or some part of your property. Plus, larger pruning jobs might call for a chainsaw or some other power tool, which would require a huge learning curve and extra precaution.
All that being said, you should never try to trim a tall tree by yourself.