Many homeowners aim to save money by pruning their own trees rather than hiring a tree service. While effective home tree pruning is possible, there are a few common mistakes you'll want to avoid should you choose to go this route.
Clipping branches too close to the trunk.
Many homeowners think that the closer to the trunk they cut a branch, the neater it will look. Unfortunately, cutting too close to the trunk is bad for your tree. The tissues at the very base of the branch are not as adept at healing wounds as those a bit further out. Thus, you should leave a stump of about 1/4 inch whenever you cut a branch. Your tree will heal more quickly, so it will be under less stress after pruning and won't be at such a high risk of developing an infection.
Cutting away too many lower branches.
Since the lower branches are the easiest to reach, many homeowners tend to over-prune these branches, but leave the tops of trees too thick. Over time, this leads the tree to take on a trunk-heavy look. The lower branches will be mostly gone. While this is not necessarily harmful to the tree, it's not a look that most people really find appealing. To avoid cutting away too many lower branches, start your pruning closer to the top of the tree, and work your way down. Count the number of branches you cut away from the top "half," and then make sure you cut away the same number or a few less from the lower "half."
Using dull shears.
When your shears are dull, they rip and tear at the branches rather than cutting through them cleanly. These ripped, torn wounds are harder for the tree to heal. Make sure you have your shears sharpened each spring. Many hardware stores offer this service for a small fee.
Pruning at the wrong time.
Most flowering plants and trees should be pruned in the late spring, as soon as the flowers have died off. If you prune them before this, you'll just be reducing the number of flowers they bear. Alternatively, you can prune them (and any non-flowering tree, too) in the early winter, just as the leaves begin to fall. Don't wait until all of the leaves have fallen to prune, or you won't be able to tell dead branches from live ones and may end up trimming away too many living branches.
For more information or assistance, consider contacting a professional like those at All Around Landscape & Tree Service.