If you’ve decided to trim your trees without professional help, you may save money in the short term. Without proper techniques, you can cause irrevocable damage to your trees and the local ecosystem.

When your goal is to improve the health and longevity of your trees, there are several mistakes you need to avoid during trimming.

In this blog post, Brents Tree Service’s arborists have created a list of common tree-trimming mistakes. We discuss the problem of pruning your trees in the wrong season and highlight the dangers of making improper cuts.

Our team also examines the importance of choosing the equipment best suited to your task.

The Pitfalls of Improper Tree Trimming

Despite the resilience and strength of trees, improper tree trimming and pruning can have devastating consequences that impact the health of plants on your property. When taking a DIY approach to maintaining your trees, many avoidable mistakes can negatively affect your trees’ growth, structure, and aesthetics.

Without correct equipment and techniques, improper trimming can result in the following:

  • Tree wounding and stress
  • Structural damage and breakage
  • Imbalanced nutrient distribution
  • Increased risk of disease
  • Increased susceptibility to pests
  • Stunted growth
  • Destruction of wildlife habitat
  • Decreased curb appeal
  • Death of trees and plants

Now that we’ve discussed the consequences of improper pruning, we’ll break down some of the most common mistakes DIY tree trimmers make.

Overzealous Tree Trimming

When looking to trim your trees, one of the easiest mistakes to make is over-trimming. Exercising restraint is essential when pruning branches and leaves from your tree’s canopy. Cutting more than one-quarter of a tree’s crown at a time can harm its structure and nutrient dispersal.

Lion’s Tailing

A result of overzealous tree trimming is something called lion’s tailing. When too much of the tree’s inner foliage, leaves, and branches are stripped away, it results in a bare trunk and smaller canopy, literally resembling the tail of a lion.

While this may be aesthetically appealing, it reduces your tree’s ability to perform photosynthesis and can overexpose bark tissue to the elements. Without adequate foliage and protection, your tree becomes susceptible to seasonal diseases and may suffer from weakened nutrient distribution.

Pruning Trees in the Wrong Season

Another typical mistake DIY tree trimmers make is pruning in the wrong season. While most trees can be pruned when dormant during the winter, some species shouldn’t be tended until they bloom.

Flowering trees are better left until the spring, but some species may be weakened by exposure to heat. Pruning in the fall may stimulate new growth, but winter frosts can damage it. The right time for pruning is always species and climate-dependant.

Determining the proper time to prune your trees will help avoid unnecessary injuries and promote healthy growth.

Improper Tree Trimming Cuts

One of the most common and complicated trimming mistakes is improperly cutting branches or applying incorrect techniques. Trimming isn’t simply a matter of grabbing your chainsaw and hacking off a branch. It requires careful planning and appropriate strategies that consider the cuts’ angles, locations, and precision.

Flush Cutting

Flush cutting is a pruning technique where branches are cut at the trunk or bark ridge of your tree, well below the branch collar. This can create a large wound that leaves your tree vulnerable to insects and diseases, and this type of cut can remove the tissue that helps trees mend wounds.

Stub Cutting

Stub cuts are the opposite of flush cuts. It’s an incision too long for the tree to mend over. Without the ability of your tree to restore its tissue, a stub cut will remain an open wound, leaving your tree susceptible to decay, wood cracking, and bark tearing.

A good rule of thumb: if your stub cut is long enough to hang a hat on, it’s too long.

Using Dirty and Improper Tree Pruning Tools

When pruning a diseased tree, cleaning your tools before and after cutting is essential. Improperly cleaned tools can spread diseases and bacteria between your plants and undo the hard work of trimming.

You should invest in quality equipment to ensure your cuts are clean and precise. Blunt tools don’t make clean cuts, which can cause a much longer healing time, making your tree more vulnerable to the elements.

Incomplete Cleanup

Another common mistake non-professional tree technicians make is failing to clean up the work site. Aside from the eyesore caused by sawdust, dead branches, and foliage, the debris from tree trimming creates a significant fire risk and harbors disease and bacteria when left in place.

Make sure you take the time to thoroughly clean up and remove unwanted branches and other tree debris after trimming and pruning.

Professional Tree Trimming: When To Call an Expert

Even for the savviest DIY tree trimming enthusiasts, there are several scenarios where consulting or hiring a licensed arborist is necessary.

We recommend partnering with a licensed professional for the following:

  • Trimming large or mature trees
  • Trimming trees close to utility lines
  • Working on trees in high-risk and densely populated areas
  • Managing diseased or infested trees
  • Pruning rare or historically significant trees
  • Maintaining trees with unique structural issues

A professional tree technician will provide reliable service and ensure your trees are managed and maintained safely and expertly.

Education Is the Key to Keeping Your Landscape Trees Healthy

Tree maintenance is a complex and potentially hazardous field. Investing in professional tree pruning and trimming services is always your safest option. If you choose to tackle tree care yourself, having a good handle on the best practices required to do the job safely is essential. By avoiding the common mistakes listed above, you should be able to execute basic tree maintenance without the fear of causing lasting damage.

Are you concerned about a tree on your property but lack the skills or equipment to manage it safely? As certified arborists, Brents Tree Service offers reliable tree trimming services and takes a safety-first approach to all tree maintenance and removal services.

Contact us at (512) 310-8789 to schedule a tree assessment today.