Tree pruning is both science and art.
I became interested in tree pruning via the art of bonsai. In bonsai (which literally means, “tree in a pot”, I became aware that there was a right and wrong way to prune. Years later, while becoming a master gardener, I learned that tree pruning is a science. It’s vitally important to our trees that we prune them correctly.
Tree wounds never really heal.
When we get a cut, our bodies can completely heal that wound. After a short amount of time, we can’t even find the spot where it happened. Unlike us, tree wounds never completely heal. Every wound invites decay and decay is the enemy of a tree. A badly executed pruning cut adds unnecessary wounds creating more decay and even possible tree failure.
Enter, the three point cut…
One of the most important techniques we need to master in both the science and art of tree pruning, is the “three point cut”. If you have ever tried to trim some branches off a tree, then you have probably committed the unforgiveable sin of ripping that branch down to the main trunk, forming a large wound and an unsightly tree. No matter how much you think you can do it fast enough to not rip it, gravity always has the last say, and many a tree has been disfigured because of our laziness, ignorance, or both.
When you try to cut from the top down first, the weight of the limb will cause the branch to split. If continued, this limb will split down the whole length, causing an unsightly tear and a large opening for decay.
So, let’s learn the 3 point cut technique, easy as one, two, three!
It is counter intuitive to make your first cut going from bottom up (1), but that is exactly where you need to make that first cut! Make it about 1/3 of the way through. Notice how that first cut enables the limb to stop there instead of ripping due to the weight. The cut absorbs the force of gravity at that point.
After you make the first cut (1) then proceed to make the second cut from top down (2). Because you have made that initial cut from the bottom up, this cut (2) will now stop there, eliminating the inevitable rip. Notice that I left several inches from the point of limb attachment in order to make that third and final clean cut. Never leave a stub! Stubs invite decay.
The final cut.
This cut will eventually form a protective callous around it, which will discourage decay.
The elegant and practical three point cut; always use this technique whether you use a hand saw or a chain saw. Your trees will thank you.