Oak trees are stately trees that can grow quite large if untrimmed. Trimming an oak helps direct and shape future growth while improving the tree’s health and structure. Follow this guide to properly trim an oak tree in your yard.
Assess the Tree
Begin by walking around the tree and assessing its current shape and growth. Look for any dead, damaged or crossing branches that need removal. Also identify areas that need thinning or shortening to balance the canopy.
You’ll need pruners, loppers, handsaw, chainsaw for larger branches, ladder or lift if working up high, protective eyewear, gloves, first aid kit. Have all supplies on hand before beginning.
Check for Hazards
Look up into the canopy to spot any widowmaker branches that could fall and injure you. Also check for power lines or other obstructions that could interfere with trimming work.
Prune in Early Spring
The best time to trim oaks is in early spring right before active growth starts. Cuts heal faster, and you can clearly see branch structure. Avoid trimming in summer or fall.
Remove Damaged Branches
Begin by pruning out any dead, diseased, broken or hazardous branches. Make clean removal cuts just outside the branch collar without leaving a stub.
Reduce Branch Lengths
If needed, trim branches back to an appropriate length using reduction cuts. Leave at least 1/3 of foliage on branches to avoid excess stressing.
Shape the Canopy
Identify areas that need thinning or shortening to achieve desired shape and sunlight penetration. Even the canopy for optimal growth.
After each cut, clean pruning tools with isopropyl alcohol to prevent spreading disease between branches. Keep tools sharp.
Leave No Stubs
Small branch stubs die and invite decay. Always prune back to the branch collar or main stem without leaving small stubs behind.
Clean Up Debris
Dispose of all fallen branches, leaves and debris when done. Compost or use for firewood. Never leave cut pile near the tree.
Trimming oak trees on a regular basis helps the tree establish good form and remain healthy. Take it slow, and watch for signs of distress like oozing sap.