This post was originally published on DIY Network’s blog Made + Remade in June 2015.
I admit to having underestimated the impact of a well-pruned tree. The low-hanging branches on trees don’t rub me the same way as an untrimmed hedge or weedy garden bed, and when it came to landscaping I associated pruning branches as project outside of my ability (and as for hiring tree trimmers, that was a task with too high of price tag). As such, I left the low-hanging branches as-is, mowed around them, and sacrificed areas of my yard to accommodate them. In hindsight, a simple cleanup would have rendered the yard and curb appeal a lot more visually appealing, and it was absolutely something I could do myself.
It wasn’t until I moved my family into a new house with a woodsy yard that I realized how easy it could be to trim back those low-hanging branches.Trimmed trees look better, makes the trees look healthier, and increase the available living space.
The battery-powered pole saw is my favorite tool for trimming overhead branches. The product is lightweight, cordless, and unlike gas-powered chainsaws, it can kick into action with just the push of a button. The tool requires minimal maintenance–mostly just lubrication and chain adjustments–and no fussing with gas and oil mixtures.
Trees all across our yard have needed help over the years, but the lower and underside branches on many of our pine trees were especially sorry looking. This is mostly due to the fact that as the trees grew, their height as well as the height of the surrounding trees blocked more and more natural sunlight from the base of the trees, which is much like the tree growth pattern you see in many heavily wooded areas (green on top, less foliage towards the bottom of the trunk). I was able to remove branches from beneath to expose more of the trunk, and give each tree a healthy, well-maintained appearance.
A few things to ask yourself as you consider pruning lower branches:
- Check for dead branches. Those should be the first to go.
- Identify which branches are angled downward. When you’re considering thinning out a tree, some of the first branches to go are offshoots that aim downwards, instead of at an upward angle.
- Know your reach. My pole saw extends long enough for me to double my reach. Anything higher than that I know I need a ladder for, though being off the ground makes cutting branches a little more dangerous.
- You will need to plan for how each branch will fall. Pruning branches requires undivided attention. A pole saw slices through 3-5″ branches easily enough, and any falling branch can do damage. Wear protective eye gear, closed toe shoes, cover that skin as much as possible. The extendable rod on the pole saw will help you reach each branch from a safer distance (assuming you aren’t reaching directly overhead). Being on the ground is to your advantage, because you can jump out of the way more easily than if you were on a ladder.
- Plan your cuts. When possible, use the “1,2,3 Method,” and alternate sawing from bottom up to middle and from top down to middle to make the cut happen more gradually. This helps prevent the bark from splintering and peeling as it pulls with gravity, and gives you a better idea of how it might snap and fall.
The improved, pruned trees not only look healthier, but also add more living space to your yard – use the area that had been under the tree for outdoor chairs and a small table, or as a new garden bed for shade-loving ground cover.