Pruning Trees

As gardens get smaller one may find that a previous occupant had little regard for the eventual size of a tree/s they planted many years ago, and it has now become necessary to reduce the height, and or spread of these tree/s.

Before any work is done, check if the tree is in a conservation area or subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).

Before commencing work on the tree/s, it is wise to advise your neighbour/s of your intentions, particularly if you will be required to enter their property to clear up.

A few basic tips:

Most deciduous trees are best pruned after leaf fall, that is, from late autumn onwards so that you can see better as to what is required.

Pruning in early spring may cause some trees to bleed sap so avoid pruning at this time to prevent this happening.

Some deciduous trees,e.g. birch, cherry, horse chestnut, maple and walnut will bleed no matter what time you prune them, so prune these in mid-summer after new growth has matured.

Conifers require little or no regular pruning except the removal of dead or diseased branches in late summer.


Plan the method/s to be adopted.

Safe working practices should be paramount.

Wear a hard hat and eye protection at all times.

If using power tools wear ear mufflers.

Consider how you will drop branches without damaging your or your neighbour’s property.

If you plan on carrying out work yourself, never work alone especially if you are using power tools such as chainsaws.

Avoid carrying out the work in wet weather.

As an alternative consider using a qualified tree surgeon.

This may be a more expensive option, but he/she will know what is required, and will be covered by insurance, something your home insurance might not cover if you do the work yourself and things go wrong.

There are basically three methods of pruning:

Crown thinning:

This entails the removal of excessive or congested growth.

This is generally done with trees that have outgrown their allotted space, casting too much shade, or might be endangering adjacent property.


Used to prune back large branches to the main stem or trunk, and lower the height of the tree to a more manageable height.

Pollarding should be carried out in late winter or early spring when food reserves are high and the tree is not experiencing water stress.

Pollarding is best carried out on young trees, because these will respond quicker from wounding, thus reducing the risk of infection and decay.


Pruning should be carried out annually to keep it with in the required bounds for light and size.

Do this by cutting out the new branches that have formed above previous pollarding wounds, anf this will avoid exposing older wood, which is more prone to decay.


This type of pruning is generally used to make the tree / shrub produce vigorous bushy growth.

It is done by regularly pruning the tree/shrub close to ground level to encourage new growth from soil level.

Some cultivars perform better for this treatment if done annually.

After pruning apply a balanced fertiliser to the manufacturer's recommended rates.

Do not be tempted to overdo the dosage as this might stimulate excessive soft new growth.

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