How To Trim Large Tree Branches
By: Julie Day
Nicely healed (and healing) pruning wounds.
If you’re trimming heavy tree limbs, you have to be extra careful not to damage the bark or interfere with the tree’s natural healing response. Doing it right is actually no more difficult than doing it wrong, particularly if you think ahead to how much work it would take to remove a dead tree!
Here’s how to cut large tree limbs in your yard in three simple steps.
Poorly healed wound due to an improper pruning cut.
How Trees Heal
The truth is, trees don’t actually heal like we do. When you cut off a tree branch, the tree forms a special callous tissue (like a scar) that covers over the wound to keep out disease and decay. That scarred part of the tree will be there forever, sealed off so that the rest of the tree can keep growing. It’s very important to prune trees correctly so that we don’t interfere with this process – incorrect pruning will leave the tree weak and vulnerable to disease.
In the top photo, you can see the evidence of several large pruning cuts. The bumps show well healed pruning scars, most of them completely covered over. The “donut” shaped scar is normal, too. The callous tissue grows from the outside edges toward the center, so it’s still in the process of sealing over.
Take the time to do it right.
How to Cut a Tree Limb
Proper pruning of large tree limbs involves three cuts:
- Cut #1, Notch Cut: Cut a small notch in the bottom of the limb, 2-3 feet away from the trunk, and about a quarter of the way through. This notch will keep the bark from splitting when you make the next cut.
- Cut #2, Relief Cut: Just outside the notch, make a relief cut completely through the branch. This removes the weight of the branch, so that you can make your final cut without the branch splitting and falling.
- Cut #3, Final Cut: This is the one that matters! Your final cut should be right where the branch collar (that swollen bump) transitions to smooth branch bark. Follow the slant of the branch collar. If you can’t fit your saw into the crotch at the right angle, then cut it from the bottom up.
Common Tree Trimming Mistakes
- Cutting the Branch Too Short: We used to think that branches should be cut off flush with the trunk – boy, were we ever wrong! The branch collar is responsible for forming the scar tissue. If you cut into the branch collar, the tree will have a very hard time recovering. When you see rotten holes in tree trunks, or seeping wounds, you’re looking at the aftermath of cutting off the branch collar.
- Leaving the Branch Too Long: The branch collar on the truck can only do its job of allowing the wound to heal if all of the branch that it has to cover over has been removed while leaving the branch collar itself intact. In the photo on the right, you can see how the branch stubs that were left too long are interfering with and actually preventing the healing process from taking place.
- Failure to Make the Relief Cuts: If you fail to make the relief cuts and remove most of the weight of the limb before trimming the branch back to the trunk, you run the risk of having the branch split off. This can cause substantial damage to the trunk, as seen in the photo at right. This can make the wound on the trunk susceptible to disease and insect infestation and take much longer to heal.
All thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightning. While lightning fatalities have decreased over the past 30 years, lightning continues to be one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States. In 2010 there were 29 fatalities and 182 injuries from lightning. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms.
Other associated dangers of thunderstorms include tornadoes, strong winds, hail and flash flooding. Flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities – more than 140 annually – than any other thunderstorm-associated hazard. Dry thunderstorms that do not produce rain that reaches the ground are most prevalent in the western United States. Falling raindrops evaporate, but lightning can still reach the ground and can start wildfires.
To prepare for a thunderstorm, you should do the following:
- Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
- Postpone outdoor activities.
- Remember the 30/30 Lightning Safety Rule: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
- Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
- Get inside a home, building, or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
- Remember, rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal.
- Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades or curtains.
- Unplug any electronic equipment well before the storm arrives.
Hurricane Preparedness Tips for Home
Hurricanes can be dangerous, listening to the hurricane warning messages and planning ahead can reduce the chances of injury or major property damage.
Know your Emergency Shelters
Contact the National Disaster Office for the closest shelters.
Have disaster supplies on hand
Flashlight and extra batteries
Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
First aid kit
Non-perishable (canned food) and water
Non-electric can opener
Cash and credit cards
Protect your windows
Permanent shutters are the best protection. A lower-cost approach is to put up plywood panels. Use 1/2 inch plywood–marine plywood is best–cut to fit each window. Remember to mark which board fits which window. Pre-drill holes every 18 inches for screws. Do this long before the storm.
Trim back branches from trees
Trim branches away from your home and cut all dead or weak branches on any trees on your property.
Check into your Home and Auto Insurance
Confirm that policies are valid and coverage is appropriate.
Make arrangements for pets and livestock
Pets may not be allowed into emergency shelters for health and space reasons. Contact your local humane society for information on animal shelters.
Develop an emergency communication plan
Make sure that all family members know what to do. Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water. Teach children how and when to call police or fire department and which radio station to tune to for emergency information. In case family members are separated from one another during a disaster (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.
Hurricane Watches and Warnings
A hurricane watch is issued when there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 24-36 hours. A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane conditions (winds of 74 miles per hour or greater, or dangerously high water and rough seas) are expected in 24 hours or less.
DURING A HURRICANE WATCH
Listen to the radio or television for hurricane progress reports.
Check emergency supplies.
Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys, and garden tools and anchor objects that cannot be brought inside.
Secure buildings by closing and boarding up windows.
Remove outside antennas and satellite dishes.
Turn refrigerator and freezer to coldest settings. Open only when absolutely necessary and close quickly.
Store drinking water in clean jugs, bottles, and cooking utensils.
DURING A HURRICANE WARNING
If you need to evacuate your home, lock up home and go to the nearest shelter.
Take blankets and sleeping bags to shelter.
Listen constantly to a radio or television for official instructions.
Store valuables and personal papers in a waterproof container on the highest level of your home.
Stay inside, away from windows, skylights, and glass doors.
Keep a supply of flashlights and extra batteries handy. Avoid open flames, such as candles and kerosene lamps, as a source of light.
If power is lost, turn off major appliances to reduce power “surge” when electricity is restored.
Hurricane Survival Kit
by Dr. Rick Knabb
During a hurricane, and possibly for days or even weeks afterward, electricity and other utilities might not be available. Debris and/or water might block the roads, preventing vehicles from getting in our out of your neighborhood. Help might not reach you for days after the hurricane, so you’ll need to be completely self-sufficient during that period.
Here are some of the most critical supplies to have on hand, well before a hurricane threatens:
- At least a 3-day and preferably a 7-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day)
- Non-perishable food
- Formula, diapers, and other baby supplies
- Manual can opener
- First aid kit
- Prescription and non-prescription medicines
- Cell phones and battery-powered cell phone chargers
- Battery-powered radios and flashlights
- Plenty of batteries
- Extra cash
- Blankets, sleeping bags, books, and games (especially if evacuating)