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How to prune a mature oak tree

Updated November 21, 2016

Like any other plant you may have in your yard or garden, oak trees benefit from pruning from time to time. While younger oak trees are not quite as difficult to prune, larger, taller mature oak trees can be a little more daunting. You will need pruning equipment, safety equipment, and possibly need to rent a lift or bucket truck if the tree is especially tall. According to the University of Texas at Austin website, pruning oak trees can help improve the tree's health, but should be reduced to removing only damaged and diseased limbs.

Wait until fall or winter to prune your oak tree. Insects that spread fungus that causes oak wilt are inactive in cooler weather, which will give your tree a better chance to avoid getting sick. Oak trees are also more dormant during colder weather, which means less stress for the tree after you cut off some of the branches. Avoid pruning your tree during the summer at all costs.

Put on all safety equipment and long trousers. Starting from ground level, look for any damaged or diseased branches. Dark, discoloured branches are usually the sign that a branch is dead, damaged or diseased. These branches are often thinner than the other branches because the have stopped growing. Cut the branches off as close to the truck as you can, taking care not to gouge the boot. Depending on how thick the branch is, use either a folding saw or chainsaw.

Find branches with large, heavy tufts near the ends. The tufts will weigh the branches down and will eventually cause them to snap. Look for branches that are drooping and look stressed. Cut the branches a few inches behind the tufts. Try to make a 45-degree angle cut if you can. Watch for falling debris once you cut the ends.

Continue pruning further up the tree. If you are skilled climbing trees, you can climb up into the tree to reach higher branches. You may have to use a hydraulic lift or bucket truck to reach the tallest branches. Unless you are experienced using this type of equipment, you should consider hiring a professional tree service to finish the very top of the tree.

Prune the tree every three to five years.

Things You'll Need

  • Work gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Helmet
  • Long trousers
  • Folding saw
  • Pole saw pruner
  • Chain saw
  • Lift or bucket truck (if needed)
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