Winter is coming. That means big changes for the citizens of Westeros — Game of Thrones shout out! — and for your home. As a homeowner, you should have a winter preparation checklist. Along with inspecting your furnace, replacing your air filters, and cleaning out the rain gutters, you should also consider tree trimming. All it will take is one ice storm or heavy rain to turn a docile maple tree into a fierce, destructive force. Before that can happen, you should trim.
Trimming vs. Pruning
Is trimming pruning and is pruning trimming? A good way to think about the difference is that pruning is meant to protect the tree, while trimming is meant to protect your property. You can always prune dead branches, but if you're looking to reshape a tree by pruning, then you should wait until after fall. That is the time of year when the "wounding" takes a bit longer to heal. Your tree is already going through a lot by shedding all those leaves. It might be best to give it a break. As for trimming overgrowth, that can be done any time of year, but is best before the temperature drops.
Survey the Situation
Before you start trimming, you need to do a thorough survey of the tree and surrounding areas. Are power lines close or running through the tree? What is the weather like on your workday? If there is any chance of rain, strong winds, or other weather issues, it would be best to postpone the trimming. You should also step back from the tree to see how your trimming might impact the aesthetic. If you're protecting your roof or a power line, how your tree will look post-trimming might not be a primary concern. You should still consider the shape you're going to leave behind with any trimming project.
Protect the Drop Zone
As you climb up to trim a tree, you won't necessarily be keeping an eye on the ground. In fact, you shouldn't. That is why it is important to cordon off your drop zone. This is the area where your falling branches will land. A curious child could walk right up underneath where you're cutting. They can be stopped if you have traffic cones or tape surrounding your drop zone.
Work With a Trimming Buddy
If elevation is involved in your tree trimming, then you would be well advised to work with a tree-trimming buddy. This is someone who can stay on the ground while you're making the cuts up above. They can keep the area clear and help steady a ladder. They will also be a huge benefit in the event something goes awry.
Pick the Right "Elevator"
A ladder is an obvious choice for tree trimming, but it might not always be the best choice. A scissor lift can provide a lot more stability for the procedure, and it can handle up to about 1,500 pounds. You'll be able to make your cuts without wobbling on a ladder. The scissor lift will also come in handy lowering those branches down to the ground.
Don't Climb With Tools
If you are climbing up the tree, you should never climb with tools in your hand. You need to focus on getting up the ladder, not juggling a chainsaw. Just tie a rope to the tool and pull it up once you get into position.
Wear Gloves and Goggles
You'll never see a professional tree trimmer without gloves and goggles. Wood chip blow-back can not only cause eye irritation, but it can also make you lose your balance. If you're going with the chainsaw, you'll also want to wear earplugs.
Trim Before Bringing Down the Entire Tree
If you're bringing down the entire tree, you should still trim the branches to minimize the impact. Despite how easy it looks on TV, you need to be 100-percent clear as to which direction your tree is going to fall before you start cutting. That also includes positioning your ladder. You should never cut below your ladder. That's just asking for trouble.
When in Doubt, Bring in the Power Company
A tree growing close to a power line might be the reason why you're busting out the chainsaw. Can you guarantee that your trimming won't bring down that power line you're trying to protect? You should consider reaching out to your power company. They will actually come out and do the trimming for you. That might just be the safest trimming option of all!