A tree needs to be trimmed to remove dead or diseased branches, to encourage new growth and better air circulation, or to shape it or reduce the height. Pruning is recommended during fall and winter, though dead branches can be removed anytime.
Trimming a Branch
Rest a ladder securely against a tree when you need to reach higher branches. Put on heavy duty work gloves and protective eyewear.
Start on the underside of the tree branch with a saw, about 2 feet away from the trunk. Saw through it carefully until you are halfway through, then switch to the top of the branch, directly above the bottom cut. This helps prevent injury to the tree.
Cut off the limb completely. Remove the limb's stub by sawing it off in the same manner you cut off the rest of the limb.
Check that the completed cut is smooth, then spray some sealant onto the open wound to help protect the tree.
Pruning an Entire Tree
Begin around the lower part of the tree. Any small branches coming out within 4 feet of the ground are called "suckers." Trim these off with the pruning shears.
Move onto the middle area of the trunk, using the ladder if necessary. You want to be eye level with the branches you are pruning. This will only be needed for very mature fruit trees because they are larger. Use the shears, for smaller branches, and the loppers, for larger branches, to trim away branches that are overlapping other branches, in order to increase air circulation and sunlight to lower branches.
Prune away any branches that are growing upward or downward and might run into stronger branches, because their awkward growth means a short life, and they will just block sun for other branches that need it.
Trim damaged or broken branches. These include branches with scar tissue or have bends, whorls or gouges. These may be from disease, weather or insects.