Pruning, trimming and shaping a tree is essential to its overall health. Regular trimming removes conditions that may cause disease and stunted growth and prevents your tree from growing into power lines or into the neighbors' yards. Trimming also trains the plant to grow the way you want it and improves flower and fruit quality.
Trimming is possible any time of the year, says Texas A & M, but some plants are best trimmed at different times of the year. Trimming at the wrong time of year may damage the plant and cause irregular growth. Late winter or early spring is generally the best time to trim trees. Trim after new growth begins on the tree in the spring.
Specific tools are required for shaping and trimming a tree. Lopping shears, a hand pruner, folding saw, bow saw and strong working gloves are the essentials. Tools require oiling and regular sharpening so that all cuts on the tree are clean. Cleaning tools after each cut on the tree prevents the spread of disease from afflicted limbs.
Early Trimming and Shaping
To control the shape of the tree, it is best to trim and shape it shortly after it is planted. Crossing branches and branches rubbing together must be removed to encourage flowering and fruit development. Lower branches are best removed as the tree grows in height to raise the crown. Multiple leaders, such as evergreens, should be removed so that one leader is present.
Crown thinning and reduction
Crown thinning and reduction is essential for making an ideal shape for the tree and to increase air circulation and sunlight on the inside of the tree. This prevents the development of disease and increases production of flowers and fruit. The University of Minnesota says that selectively removing branches, especially weak ones, creates a stronger tree. Crown reduction will reduce the height when necessary.
When you are thinning the tree, cuts are best made at a 35-degree angle at a node, where a branch protrudes from another branch, or at a shoulder, where the branch forms on the trunk. When cutting large branches, a three-cut method is required to reduce the possibility of ripping the bark or otherwise damaging the tree. One cut is made on the underside of the branch about 18 inches from the trunk. The cut is made a third of the way through the branch. Another cut is made on the top of the branch, a few inches out from the first cut. The second cut removes the branch. The stump is removed at the shoulder to prevent disease.