How to Cut Tree Limbs that are Too High to Reach

Updated September 6th, 2023

When most owners think of trimming tree branches, small and young trees are what comes into their mind more often than not. Contrary to this popular belief, bigger trees, more so those with huge overhanging branches need to be pruned as much as young ones do. I mean, it is not only unsettling but also unnerving to live on a property where huge branches are overhanging your house.

The problem is most old trees are tall, and most dangerous branches tend to be on the canopies of such trees, making it hard to get rid of them safely. However, by following the right precautions using the right tools and processes, such branches can be cut down to avert the catastrophic ramifications in the event one of them falls down. Even so, the biggest question is, how can such an undertaking be successfully achieved without causing injuries to people and damage to property? Well… here’s how!

Best Time to trim the branches

Cut Tree Limbs

Trees are living things. And considering that you’ve chosen to trim rather than cut your tree down, it is important to know the best time when this should be done. Otherwise trimming your tree during the reason could cause infections which eventually kill it. To be on the safe side, do it when weather conditions are most favorable.

  • Dormant seasons. These are seasons when tree growth is at its lowest. In such seasons, scars left behind by trimming are able to heal faster, hence minimizing the probability of infections.
  • Resin and sap flow are at their minimum. If your tree exudes resin, make an observation and identify the season or time when the flow is at its minimum. Pruning it during high-flow seasons can greatly compromise and jeopardize the entire process and also make it susceptible to pests.

These periods also minimize the risk of spreading diseases and pests considering that fresh tree cuts are an attractant to many pests such as stem borers, bacteria, and viruses. However, this doesn’t apply to weak and dead branches. If a tree branch is a security hazard, it is always best to get rid of it soonest possible to avert the disaster it can cause upon breakage.

Tree Trimming Tools

Cut Tree LimbsBefore we can get to the real process, a few tools will be necessary. Here is a list of some of them. And event you don’t have any of these, you can rent them instead of spending a lot of money on a tool that is going to be used just once or twice a year.

  1. Ladder. This is necessary to reach branches that can’t be reached from the ground.
  2. Hand-held pruner. It will come in handy in removing small branches that might block the access of higher branches.
  3. Pole Pruner. This is basically a saw or blade attached to a long pole. It makes it possible to access high branches that you can’t reach from the ground.
  4. Lopper. More of a bigger handheld pruner that can cut down average-sized branches.
  5. Rope saw. This is a chain connected to a rope and cuts on both of its sides. The rope is typically tossed to the branch that requires to be cut down. It is then moved back and forth until the branch in question falls down.
  6. Hand saw. These are light saws ideal for cutting easily accessible branches. They are ideal for clearing trees to access higher branches.

How to Cut Tree Limbs

Step 1: Setup your Ladder in the right place
Cut Tree LimbsPlace your ladder on the tree and ensure that it is stable. Most people do this the wrong way, which often results in fatal accidents, ending the process even before it begins.

Tip: Nail the ladder on the tree to ensure that it is stable. If that’s not practical for you, have another person hold the holder as you scale up the tree and when cutting the branch. Alternatively, rest the ladder tightly on the tree or use one with a wide base for extra stability more so if there is no one to hold it for you.

Step 2: Removing small branches
Cut Tree LimbsAfter ensuring that the ladder is stable enough, scale up and brace yourself for the initial cut. For now, you can concentrate on removing shallower branches that might compromise your ability to reach a higher one.

Begin by making shallow cuts. Be careful when doing this because branches will most likely fall in the direction of the cortex. The most important thing is to avoid pulling the branch downwards when cutting. Instead, draw more and more bars to cut the tree slowly. This makes the next step easier for you.

Tip: The first cut should be made approximately 6 inches from where the branch is attached. This will avoid damaging the tree and also ensure that you don’t leave a very big overhang that will rot and infect the tree eventually.

Step 3: Removing mid-size branches
Cut Tree LimbsThis will further simplify the entire process. In this case, a lopper or a hand saw will come in handy. If the blocking branches are way up, you can use a rope saw to get them out of your way. And even if these branches are not big enough to cause injuries, devise a plan to ensure that they don’t fall on you. Despite being small, they can knock you off the ladder, which can result in fatal or even mortal injuries. However, if there are no such branches or you would rather keep them, skip this step and brace yourself for the final cut.

Step 4: Get ready for the final cut
Yeah, you’ve finally got there! This is the final and most critical stage. In the previous steps, we have significantly reduced the weight of the tree so be confident as you cut that perilously hanging branch. Cut Tree LimbsHowever, even if the tree is lighter than before, exercise extreme caution because the branch still poses a serious risk to property and life.

Using a pole pruner or a rope saw, begin cutting the big branch at least 6 inches away from where it is attached to the mother tree. This will make it easier for you and also minimize the risk of injuring the tree or exposing it to infection as you cut. Ensure that a rope is attached to a branch. Let someone on the ground pull the branch away from you or any other property to avoid damages and injuries.

When pulling from the ground, both you and your helper should take wind speeds into account. Otherwise, if the winds are strong enough, they can derail the branch from its designated point of landing. If it’s too windy, wait for the wind to pass so that you can safely cut the tree.

Tip: Cut the branch slowly while estimating the safest place for it to land. Don’t forget to be in constant communication with the person on the ground on your progress. Let them know when the branch is almost detached from the tree so that they can, in time, pull it away to safety.

Things to avoid

Cut Tree Limbs

  • Cutting the Branch Too Short. If you thought that branches should be cut clean of the trunk, you are wrong. The thing is, the branch collar is responsible for creating scar tissue. In case you cut deep into the collar, it will be very hard for the tree to heal. This will eventually degenerate into seeping wounds or holes in trunks. To avoid this, cut at least 6 inches from the branch collar.
  • Leaving the Branch Too Long. The collar can only form a healthy scar after the entire branch has been removed. If you cut the branch too long, leaving a stub, rotting will definitely occur and this will slowly progress down the stub into the branch collar and ultimately to the tree itself. If this happens, you could be looking at cutting down the entire tree in as little as 2 or so years because its structural strength will be compromised.
  • Failure to make relief cuts to reduce the weight of the limb before making the final cut can cause the branch to split off prematurely causing substantial damage to the trunk. Needless to say, a bigger wound is more susceptible to infections and pest infestation. Therefore, relieve the weight of the trunk before making the final. This will prevent fatal mistakes that can reduce the lifespan of the entire tree.

Safety tips to take into consideration

Cut Tree Limbs

  • If the branches are overhanging above your house or there are power lines above or below, it is always advisable to hire a professional tree cutting company to handle the task. After all, there is no point in bringing down the branch only for you not to live and enjoy your success.
  • Always beware of the property and below you to avoid damage to property and fatal injuries.
  • Never stand or place your ladder directly below the tree. Always ensure that you are at a safe distance to avoid injuries and also get time to escape in case the unexpected happens.
  • Since this undertaking involves climbing and balancing on a ladder, light tools are the best. Heavy ones might destabilize you and knock you off the ladder.
  • A first aid box should always be at hand in case of injuries.
  • If you are not sure whether it is an undertaking you can achieve yourself, it is always best to involve a professional.
  • Remove branches that are below the main to make the tree lighter. This way, the entire process will not only be made easier but also safer.
  • Never forget to put on safety gear such as gloves a helmet, and safety goggles to avoid injury in case of an accident.

Final Thoughts

Though personally trimming trees can save you money and time, it is not realistic Do it yourself project for anyone. It requires bravery, body strength, and stamina. So, if you are afraid of heights or don’t have the confidence, it doesn’t hurt to spend a little bit of money to have the overhanging branch removed by a professional.

One Reply to “How to Cut Tree Limbs that are Too High to Reach”

  1. The part of your article that talks about the best times to trim trees, especially during dormant seasons, really helped to read. We have a couple of oak trees in our property that we want to keep healthy because they’ve been doing a good job at providing us with fresh air and shade whenever the hot seasons roll around. With your article in mind, I’ll make sure to wait for a more off-season time to hire a tree trimming service so the trees can take their time recovering.

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