CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Appalachian Power will thank me for this column. In light of the storms that blew through our area last winter, breaking tree branches that knocked out electricity to thousands, we need to look at the trees in our own yard to see if there is work to be done.
If you can't do a pruning job with both feet planted firmly on the ground, call an expert. After all, you're doing this to keep your home and property safe, so you have to keep your own well-being in mind as you prune.
Everyone always asks, "When is the best time to prune?" Trees are bothered by the elements year-round. Yet trees are very resilient. Minor pruning can take place any time. The dormant season is the best, however, because the hot sun is harder on newly pruned trees than the cold.
Also, professional tree trimmers have less work in the cold weather -- except after big storms, but that's why it's a good time to hire them before the storms strike! Professionals' prices are typically lower in the slow winter months.
So prune when it is convenient for you. If you have a not-so-snowy, not-too-cold day, get out there and cut down a few branches.
Some tools that will come in handy are handsaws, pruners, loppers and pole pruners. The key to good pruning is to use sharp tools. Loppers have long handles with a pruning device on the end. They can cut branches up to 2 inches in diameter. A pole pruner has a long pole with the pruner controlled by a rope pull cord. Do-it-yourselfers who are not familiar with power tools should probably not purchase a chain saw, but if you believe it is necessary, one with a blade of 12 to 14 inches is all a novice homeowner should use.
Cut as close to the branch collar as possible without damaging the trunk. A branch collar is the attachment structure in woody plants that connects a branch to its parent branch or to the trunk. The branch collar consists of overlapping wood fibers. You'll want to have the least amount of surface area exposed, and you don't want to leave much of the branch, as it will rot.
Most important: Don't work around power lines!
I get calls and e-mails all of the time, asking for a recommendation for a good tree trimmer. While I've used AD Johnson and Sons in the past, I Googled tree trimmers in Charleston and many names came up. Make sure the trimmer you hire has insurance (if the tree falls the wrong way and hits the house, who's going to pay for the repairs?) and ask for references.
Another practical pet peeve