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Branch Basics

Here are some good, and not-so-good, things to look for—and one common pruning mistake to avoid

saw with a pruning saw cutting
Photo by Karen Bussolini
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To make conscientious pruning cuts, the first step is to simply walk around a tree and study it until you can pinpoint the problems. Here are some good, and not-so-good, things to look for—and one common pruning mistake to avoid.

a u shaped tree crotch or joint
Photo by Karen Bussolini
A U-shaped crotch, or joint, with a well-defined branch collar indicates strong attachment. The thick bark ring envelops the branch where it is attached to the trunk.
v shaped crotch
Photo by Karen Bussolini
A V-shaped crotch with a ridge of bark between the branch and main stem is a weak joint likely to split in high winds or heavy snow. Remove it unless doing so will leave a big hole.
a u shaped tree crotch or joint
Photo by Karen Bussolini
An improper single cut on a branch larger than 3 inches in diameter can cause it to tear under its own weight. A three-part cut will prevent this.
a u shaped tree crotch or joint
Photo by Karen Bussolini
This badly pruned stub was too long for the branch collar to enclose. Cutting it off properly now will allow the branch collar to grow over it, sealing out disease.

To make conscientious pruning cuts, the first step is to simply walk around a tree and study it until you can pinpoint the problems. Here are some good, and not-so-good, things to look for—and one common pruning mistake to avoid.

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