Dead tree branches are not only an eyesore—they can hinder the growth of healthy branches on a tree. These branches are also capable of causing enormous damage during adverse weather conditions. The National Storm Damage Center estimates that falling trees during bad weather cause more than $1 billion worth of property damage in the US every year. Plus, getting rid of dead tree branches can ensure the safety of your house and your loved ones, as they can pose a huge falling hazard.
However, removing dead branches isn’t as simple as it sounds. Improper methods can compromise the entire tree. That’s why our in-house experts have some advice on how to remove these branches efficiently.
1. A Thorough Inspection Is a Must to Identify the Dead Tree Branches
Don’t jump right into chopping off the branches you can see. Instead, take your time to examine the tree closely so that you know exactly which branches need to be removed. You only want to remove the branches that are damaged or diseased, without causing harm to healthy branches.
For example, if the branches are completely brown, it is time to remove them. However, if you scratch the bark and notice green spots underneath, there may be a chance that such a branch can be salvaged.
Similarly, branches without any leaves should be removed. If you have a deciduous tree, check whether the dead leaves have shed properly, as dead branches cannot do so, meaning the leaves hang onto the branches during the winter season.
Branches without any bark are also dead tree branches that should be removed. Finally, the presence of fungal growth, such as wood conk, is an indicator of a rapidly dying branch, and such branches should be cut off to prevent further infestation.
Also, you need to be extra careful if the tree is located near power lines or houses. Unless you inspect thoroughly, you may end up removing the wrong branches and compromise your safety.
2. Improper Cuts Can Adversely Impact the Rest of the Tree
You cannot haphazardly cut off the dead limbs. Once the limbs are removed, callous tissue forms over the wounds to prevent further decay. That’s why you have to be extremely careful about how you make the cuts.
Arborists use a practiced series of cuts to get rid of dead tree branches. You can start at the bottom of a dead branch and chop off a small notch about two to three feet away from the trunk and keep going for about a quarter inch. A cut like this ensures that the bark doesn’t split when you make other cuts. You can follow this up by making a cut outside the notch. This is known as a relief cut. Such a cut is an essential step before trimming the dead branch. An improperly made relief cut can damage the trunk and make it vulnerable to a variety of diseases.
Once you make the relief cut, you need to make a final cut on the branch collar. This is where most go wrong and end up removing the branch collar itself, resulting in tree rot and the death of the entire tree. To make a smooth final cut, you can either follow the slant of the branch and keep cutting or start from the bottom of the branch. Be careful not to leave extremely long branch stubs, as they can interfere with the growth of other branches of the tree.
3. There Are No Substitutes for the Right Tools
Using the correct equipment for chopping off the dead tree branches is non-negotiable. Appropriate tools ensure better cuts and proper removal of the branches. For instance, you can use a pruning saw with fine teeth for removing dead branches that are up to 2.5 inches thick. However, the same saw won’t be suitable for thicker branches. Similarly, using a dull saw can result in improper removal of the branches and leave the tree exposed to diseases.
You also need to care for the tools after each use. Ideally, it’s good to give the tools a nice wipe after pruning to remove any debris. You should also apply a thin layer of oil to the blades to prevent rusting. Give the tools a good wash with a disinfectant to avoid disease transmission when using the same tools for a different tree.
4. Improper Methods Can Be Dangerous for the Tree
Removing dead tree branches can go horribly wrong. For example, if you remove the branches nestled inside the tree (which is known as lion-tailing) along with the dead branches, it can result in breakage. If you chop off the top of a tree while removing the dead branches, it can cause structural imbalance and can topple the tree completely. If you end up removing leaves from healthy branches while getting rid of the dead tree branches, you can make the rest of the tree more prone to wind damage.
You should be mindful of the methods you use for clearing the dead branches. The bottom line is simple—under no circumstances should you compromise the overall structural integrity of the tree.
5. Know When You Should Contact a Professional Tree Service Agency
Using incorrect tools or methods for removing dead tree branches can result in your tree becoming weak and even dying. But even if you master the techniques, you may end up risking your safety and that of those around you. A misplaced cut could unexpectedly bring a branch crashing down.
Pruning is a highly skilled job, and mastering the art of handling different types of equipment isn’t an easy task. That’s why hiring a professional tree service company makes sense, and Mr. Tree Services in Portland, Oregon, can help you wherever you need it. Our team of qualified arborists can ensure the safe removal of dead tree branches without causing any additional stress to the tree or putting you in harm’s way. So don’t hesitate to contact us as soon as you spot a dead branch.