The Right Cuts
Pruning Dos and Don'ts
DO cut at an angle that mirrors the branch collar—the furrow of bark where branch and trunk meet. Cut the branch next to the branch collar. If you did it right, a circle of healthy callus will swell around the spot.
DO cut large branches in three parts. First, cut off about one-third of the branch to reduce the weight. Holding up a heavy branch while you prune it off the trunk will break your back and your saw, and tear the trunk's bark. Next, undercut the remaining stub so the trunk bark won't rip when the stub falls free. Last, make the final cut from the top, beside (but not cutting into) the branch collar.
DON'T leave stubs behind—stubs right, inviting insects and disease to move in and attack healthy tissue.
DON'T scalp your trees. A tree with a flat-top looks ridiculous, and it will grow weak new sprouts in place of healthy branches. Cut to the tree's natural shape and let it grow up.
When to Call a Pro
Most pruning work is easy for home gardeners to do. But call a professional arborist about:
The International Society of Arborists Online has information on tree-care for homeowners and a list of certified arborists searchable by zipcode.
National Arbor Day Foundation.—Reforestation and tree care concerns.
While you're thinking about trees, hoist yourself into the wild world of recreational tree climbing. You can even learn why cats climb trees, why they won't come down, and why cat rescues aren't for amateurs. Check out Tree Climber's International.