Print This Page

Dirt Doctor Pruning Plan Newsletter


Dirt Doctor Pruning Plan

To trim a tree properly, stand back and look at the overall form of the plant. Do this before you make a single cut. In most cases, the overall shape and character that you see before you start is what you should still see when the pruning is finished.

Cuts hurt the tree so do as few as possible. You’ve heard that thinning trees is good for them, but it’s not. Thinning may be good for the grass and other plantings under the tree, but it is not good for the tree. Heavy thinning is called gutting and is severely damaging. Cutting off lower limbs is called lifting and in the same category. If limbs are in the way - hanging too low over the driveway or hitting you between the eyes or scraping your head when you mow the lawn, cut them off - just don’t be fooled that it is good for the tree. It’s not. It only benefits you. No pruning paint either. Nature doesn’t use it so why should we? If you must, use the product Lac Balsam. It breathes and doesn’t damage the healing process as other wound dressings tend to do.

Here are some shots and tips that might help.

Lifting is the term used for cutting only the lower limbs off trees. It is unnatural and not good for trees.

Over pruning by gutting - another bad pruning technique.

Bad flush cuts are generally oval in shape. These cuts remove part or all of the branch collars which are the important healing devices of trees.

Even worse flush cut.

Bad flush cuts.

Horrible flush cuts and just sloppy work.

Destructive flush cut that has completely removed the branch collar.

Bad flush cut that has removed a portion of the branch collar.

Bad flush cut healing poorly. Notice the varying widths of the healing callus.

Cavities are the common result of improper flush cuts.

Good pruning cut preserving the branch collar. Notice that it projects farther out at the bottom of the cut

Proper pruning cuts will be almost perfectly round and the healing callus formation will be uniform all around.

Excellent pruning cut - perfectly round, the cut was made outside the branch collar and the healing callus is starting to grow evenly.

Good cut healing properly.

Result of proper cuts leaving the branch collars. Rounded knobs are common.

Some well done cuts will heal almost perfectly flat.

Here are some other useful resources from

To discuss this newsletter or any other topic, tune in each Sunday 8am - 11am central time to the Dirt Doctor Radio Show. The call-in phone number is 1-866-444-3478. Listen on the internet or click here to find a station in your area.

Please share this newsletter with everyone in your address book and all your friends on Facebook and Twitter to help me spread the word on the proper way to select, plant and maintain plants.

Naturally yours,

Howard Garrett
The Dirt Doctor


  Search Library Topics      Search Newspaper Columns