If you must prune off a scaffold branch, make sure, first of all, that the branch does not begin to fall prematurely, while still attached to the trunk. This would cause a rip at the joint where the branch meets the trunk, thus creating an open sore that invites disease. To avoid this scenario, make your cuts in the following manner to reduce pressure on this joint:
- At a point along the branch approximately 2'-3' away from the trunk, begin by sawing about half way through the branch from the bottom.
- Now, from the top, but an inch or so further out from the branch than the first cut (more for thicker branches), saw through the rest of the branch, to remove it. You've now removed all but 2'-3' of the branch. The remaining stub won't weigh enough to put undue pressure on the aforementioned joint.
- Now proceed to prune off the remaining stub, as indicated below.
With the danger of ripping thus eliminated, we can prune off the remaining 2'-3' stub. To do so, acquaint yourself with a tree part known as a branch "collar." A branch's "collar" is the swelled base of the branch where it meets the tree trunk. Think of it as an intermediate area between the branch and the trunk.
To finish pruning off the branch, saw it off just outside the branch collar. Leaving the branch collar intact will promote healing.
If you are merely shortening a scaffold branch on a young tree, prune the branch back to a lateral bud or other branch.
The next FAQ addresses the question of when to prune flowering trees.