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Prune but keep your tree safe

Q: I have a large maple with a very low branch that needs pruning. The branch is about 14 inches in diameter. Can I cut it off without harming the tree?

• Leanne from Canfield

A: Well, it depends.

It depends on what tools you have to remove the branch and how you go about the pruning. A branch of this size requires the use of a chainsaw for proper removal. But, that’s just the start of planning to make the pruning cut since the branch is so large.

Consider leaving the branch. Is it really in the way of something else you need the area for? Are there ways to landscape or mulch under the branch as to avoid removal? The only things to avoid is planting flowers close to the trunk and piling up topsoil or mulch around the trunk.

Think of all the reasons you want to get rid of the branch compared to the possibilities of leaving it alone.

Then, if the branch still requires removal, think about your ability to cut such a large branch. Pruning incorrectly can be detrimental to the tree.

To prune by yourself, start by thinking of making several cuts. Prune off any large splits or branches which come off of the main branch. Get as much weight off the branch as possible before making the cut close to the trunk. Then, use the three-step method to remove the large branch.

The first steps are making a cut under the branch about 12 inches away from the trunk. Only cut up about a third of the diameter. Then, make a second cut a few inches further away from the trunk and cut from the top down. The cut will start to weaken as you reach the cut from the bottom and will allow the branch to fall freely onto the ground.

The final cut will be flush with the branch collar. You can determine the branch collar by looking for wrinkled or pressed together bark areas. Leave this branch collar so the tree can properly callus and heal over.

For complete details of this type of pruning, check out the pictures of three-cut progression are about half way down on this fact sheet http://go.osu.edu/pruning. The fact sheet has details about preventing tree wounds, which is important in pruning large branches.

If the job is too big (which it is for most of us), hiring a certified arborist is a wise choice. Check out this OSU Extension Fact Sheet on “How to Hire an Arborist” at http://go.osu.edu/hireanarborist. Then, go to https://go.osu.edu/arborists and type in your ZIP code to find arborists close to you.

Barrett is the Ohio State University Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Call the extension office hotline, 330-533-5538, 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays to submit your questions.

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