How Do You Become a DIY Tree Barber in 5 Easy Steps?

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Don’t you ever look at a tree and see it just like a human head, full of hair?

Like people, trees need trimming. With a manual pole saw or a trimmer, you can be a “tree barber” of sorts. With enough time, the right tools and equipment, and a high enough trimming ladder—anybody can do a DIY job.

But first, just a little caution: there is a time and place to invest money in arboricultural contracting and consultancy.  In some cases, what is needed is tree surgery work.

A qualified tree surgeon is needed when:

  • There are signs of tree diseases like leaf rust, gull, fire blight, or leaf spot, to name a few. It takes specialised training and experience to diagnose tree disease. Getting professional help is a must, especially for trees that have historical value and needs to be saved at all costs. An arborist is also focused on tree diseases and in giving recommendations for treatment. A tree surgeon, it can be said, is more involved in the physical removal of diseased parts of a tree.
  • A tree is weakened or unstable due to weak soil composition, movement due to storm winds and exposure to inclement weather, and flooding.
  • A tree needs extensive pruning, cutting, felling, or a technical trim that requires a person to operate from several feet off the ground.

A tree surgeon is not just a person who is passionate about trees. He or she is a highly trained and skilled individual who works with powerful tools and specialised equipment like chainsaws, pruning shears, trimmers, and hedge cutters. At times, they use mobile platforms and safety harnesses when they have to trim tall trees. Just like a medical surgeon, a tree surgeon’s goal is to protect and save the life of a tree.

Being a tree surgeon is not just a matter of being physically strong, even if it does require one to be fit for the job. By nature, it is a physically demanding profession. To do this job, they undergo a series of training programs and get certifications.

So, going back to the DIY option, a person who merely wants to cut a few branches here and there is the everyday “tree barber” or trimmer. To do this simple job in the safest way possible, follow these steps:

1. Check the 10 AM & 2 PM angles.

For the novice trimmer, it is essential to see all the branches that grow upwards at the ten o’clock and the two o’clock angle. These branches, almost always, need not be cut down.

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2. Trim the wayward branches.

Next, look at all the branches and twigs that appear ‘wayward’ or have been growing in all different directions. In general, these are the branches to cut.

During the trimming process, it is essential to know if the goal is to just “lift the tree crown” or minimise the overall length, width, and height of the tree.

Lifting the crown means cutting off branches and twigs at the lowest portion of the tree, where all these begin to spread upwards. The intended result of crown lifting is to create more space from the ground to the lowest branches pointing outwards from the trunk. That is sometimes needed when tree branches are already creating obstructions to a footpath or a driveway. There are also times when a tree needs to be made “smaller” by cutting all around the tree, making the branches shorter.

In doing these tasks, it is vital to use a reliable ladder or platform to make the top parts of the tree accessible.

3. Cut away growth near the base of the trunk.

Cutting away dead branches or water spouts near the base of the trunk is also necessary.

4. Remove dead twigs and branches.

Of course, trimming involved removing all dead twigs and branches that only add volume to a tree but is, in fact, no longer alive.

5. Retain the main branch and remove the excess.

An important principle is to retain the main or leader branch while taking care of cutting away the excess, which means removing branches that entangle or compete with the leader branch.

Following these simple methods will make tree trimming fun and easy. However, it is always advisable to get expert advice from an arboriculturist when the tree involved is a “veteran,” very tall, has historical value, or appears to be diseased because of fungi or bacteria, or infested by pests.

Wrong tree cutting can lead to tree death, and that is why extra care needs to be observed. At the same time, some trees can pose hazards on the untrained, especially if one needs a high ladder to climb to its branches.

Caring for trees is everybody’s responsibility. Some might have more specialised skills to help treat a sick tree. But surely, all of us appreciate all the good things that trees contribute to nature and human life.


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