Tree Trimming Guide: 4 Recommendations from the Pros

By: albertaarb - February 6, 2017

Are the trees in your yard looking a little overgrown or straggly? If you think this is a good weekend project for you to tackle, consider letting a professional arborist handle the job for you. A trained arborist has the skills and equipment to trim your trees properly and take care of the clean-up afterward.


But if you insist on trimming your own trees, here are four recommendations.

Step 1: Know When to Trim

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry recommends the following schedule for trimming:


  • Coniferous trees, like spruce or pine, can be pruned any time of year. For most trees, the best is time from March to mid-April or during the winter

  • Birch and maple should be pruned ONLY during the growing season—June and July. The leaves must be fully developed before pruning

  • Elm trees—DO NOT prune from April 1 to October 1

  • Hardwood trees, like aspen or ash, and shrubs without showy flowers should be pruned in the dormant season


Trimming at the wrong time can hurt the tree’s future growth and even expose the tree to diseases.

Step 2: Know the Proper Tools

Using a chainsaw to trim a small sapling would be disastrous, as would using small pruning shears to remove a large branch. Pick the tool that fits the size of branch you’re cutting. Also, make sure your tools are in good condition—properly sharpened and lubricated, if necessary. If you don’t have the right tools for the job, consider hiring an arborist who does.

Step 3: Know Why You’re Trimming

You don’t want to trim just for the sake of trimming. The 4 D’s can help you know what parts of the tree to remove:


Dead: any branches that aren’t viable should come off since these are in danger of falling and causing damage


Diseased: those parts of the tree that have obvious signs of disease—such as mottled and deformed leaves—or don’t look the same as the rest of the tree can be trimmed to prevent the spread of a disease


Damaged: partially broken branches can be removed to make room for new growth


Deranged: if there are branches that are growing in a different direction than the others or that rub against the trunk and other branches should be cut off


If your tree is growing into power lines, don’t attempt to trim it yourself. This is definitely one for the professionals.

Trimming a tree because you don’t like the look of it, or because you’re trying to get a particular shape can be bad for the tree’s overall health. You should never try to force a tree to grow into a particular shape. If you’re faced with trees that seem out of place in your yard, consult with a professional arborist before you trim. They can let you know what is possible for the type of tree you have.

Step 4: Know How You’re Trimming

Depending on the tree, there are different cutting techniques.

Deciduous Trees

Make your first cut on the underside of the branch, close to and parallel with the tree’s trunk. But be sure to leave the callus tissue at the base of the branch. The tree needs that tissue to heal properly. Make your second cut on top of the branch, about 5 cm down from the first cut. Make your third cut inside the first cut to remove the stub, but be sure to leave the callus tissue.

Evergreen Trees

Remove only dead or diseased branches. Avoid altering the overall shape of the tree, or removing entire branches. If any of your cuts are over 15 cm in diameter, we recommend applying a dressing to the cut area so the tree can properly heal.

Leave It to Us

Trimming your trees is not usually complicated, but it is hard work. When dealing with diseased or damaged trees, however, it can get complicated. Consider calling in a professional arborist to do the trimming and ensure the long-term health of your trees.


At Alberta Arborists, we have helped countless people get rid of trees safely and efficiently, and we can help you, too. Our highly experienced arborists are trained to deal with any tree removal in any location and can ensure no damage is done to your property.


Click here to contact us or call the number at the top of the page for a free, no-obligation estimate of your job.

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