Tree Surgery, Removing Branches and Tree Pollarding
Removing a Tree Branch
- Detach the bulk of the branch about 45cm (1-1/2ft) from the main trunk or bough. Make the first cut on the underside of the branch (inset), then cut down into the first cut to sever the branch. This will ensure that the bark which is to remain is not torn as the branch falls.
- Remove the stump in the same way, first undercutting it, then sawing down into the first cut. Saw flush with the main trunk, but not so close that you make an excessively broad wound in the remaining bark.
- Using a sharp knife or penknife, pare away the surface and edges of the cut to make it perfectly smooth — rough wounds left by a coarse-toothed saw accumulate fungal and are more likely to rot. Either hold the knife with both hands or keep your free hand away from the blade.
- Paint the cut surface with a proprietary bituminous wound sealer within minutes of completing step 3. This will shield the growing wood from disease infection and provide cosmetic cover for the scarred tree. With a very large wound, it may be better to leave the centre unpainted to let it breathe.
Dealing with Suckers
- Basal suckers may sprout from the rootstock of grafted trees. If not removed, they could outgrow the tree and look unsightly. Wearing gloves, simply tear them away from the rootstock. Don’t use secateurs or pruners as you will leave buds beneath the which will regrow.
- Healed-over pruning wounds may sprout tufts of thin shoots, known as water or epicormic shoots. Apart from looking unsightly, these tap the supply of water and nutrients to the tree’s crown and weaken its growth. Using secateurs, cut them away every autumn to late winter.
Felling a Small Tree
- Take heed of the legal requirements with regard to tree felling. Start by tying a sturdy rope to the crown of the tree. Get someone to maintain a firm pull on the rope in the required direction of fall, standing beyond the danger zone — the tree will fall towards your helper. Make the first cut a metre (3ft) or so up on the side facing your helper, sawing horizontally one-third through the trunk.
- Saw out a wedge of wood by cuffing downwards at about 30-45° to the horizontal into the back of first cut. At this point, the tree should still stand securely on its own, but your helper must maintain a firm grip on the rope. Ensure that the area all round the tree is clear of people or valued possessions —keep young children and pets safely indoors from this point onwards.
- Make the final cut on the side behind the direction of fall. Saw downwards at an angle of about 30° to the horizontal towards the inner edge of the wedge cavity. As the tree loses its balance it will fall into the wedge. As soon as you detect movement, step clear and allow your helper to guide the falling tree. Having cleared the debris, sever the roots and lever out the stump.
The Art of Tree Pollarding
- Tree pollarding is a special pruning technique adopted either as a means of reducing the size of the crown of a mature tree, or to develop an unusual, often formal growth shape. The tree should have more or less reached its ultimate required height before pollarding begins in winter.
- Using a bow saw, lop the entire crown of the tree, leaving just short stumps with lots of dormant growth buds. Or cut out selected branches and reduce the others to desired lengths or shapes — like bonsai, pollarding techniques are largely a matter of taste. Coat all the cuts with a wound-sealer.
- In spring, tufts of new shoots will grow from the cuts. These may have colourful bark and will bear lush foliage. In one to three years, or as soon as the new shoots have outgrown the desired space, prune back to the original wounds. After repeated pollarding, the stumps become gnarled.