Is pruning a large Live oak really just for pro's?

texas_fireDecember 7, 2007

We have 10 acres in TX. Lots of large Live oaks.

We are the 1st modern human inhabitants for sure.

They are in their natural state. Branches going low and long. Well, we want to make them look better and cut off the dead branches. Can we do this ourselves? I have read not to go too flush with the trunk so it stimulates quicker healing but also read some thread elsewhere where this theory might be all controversial, blah blah blah.

We also read to do pruning during the tree's dormant phase. I think that is now. But Live Oaks always have green leaves..hmmm?

Should we call an arborist or can we do this ourselves?

Any tips? Thanks.

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It's not a DIY job. If a 600lb branch falls on someone or something then it's going to be a real bad day. And those branches are a lot heavier and harder to cut than they look. In this case it helps to have safety training and the proper equipment and also a knowledge of how to make the cuts for the long term health of the trees.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 10:41AM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

I wouldn't prune off large branches at all. It would start the slow death of oak trees... Leave them be...

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 12:12PM
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It's only dead branches he's wanting to prune off! That's OK, won't hurt the trees.

But I'd agree with QQ, this is a job for a fully trained and qualified professional. Look for someone with ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) certification.


Here is a link that might be useful: International Society of Arboriculture

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 1:05PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

There are a few things that the above posters might have missed. First, you said that you wanted to cut off the dead limbs. Doing so (correctly) will definitely NOT start the slow death of the tree. Secondly, it sounds as if there's probably nothing underneath the tree for the branches to fall on (except maybe for equipment you might use while working on the tree). With reasonable care and common sense, pruning off lower branches on a tree is not relatively dangerous. Anything can happen; you could die in a car crash on the way to get gas for the saw. If you were talking about felling the tree or climbing up on a ladder to do upper canopy pruning, I'd be concerned unless you had significant experience. What you described sounds much less dangerous and not unlike what I do frequently. (I did get a small scratch on my arm the other day.)

I would strongly recommend you study pruning methods and practices before you do the job. You can easily damage the tree if you don't prune correctly. For instance, with medium to large limbs it's almost always a good idea to make an initial cut beyond the final cut to eliminate the weight that can damage the trunk as the limb is cut. Almost everyone agrees that making a cut inside the branch collar and branch bark ridge (too close to the trunk) is not a good idea. There are some exceptions and even some differing philosophies, but as a general rule I'd advise you to leave the branch collar and branch bark ridge intact.

These recommendations are only to give you an idea of what types of things you need to know. They were written in a hurry and lack almost all detail, so don't assume they are all you need to know. If you aren't familiar with pruning, get a good book on the subject, read about it on the internet, and/or take a pruning class.

Here is a link that might be useful: Basic How to Prune Trees

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 2:16PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Pineresin's post wasn't there when I submitted my post because I hadn't refreshed the page. He caught the dead limb thing, so I was refering to previous posts.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 2:22PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

if its within your capabilities.. then you can do it ...

but safety first... can you use a chain saw ... or a BIG saw .. can you do it on top of a ladder ... do you have basic knowledge of physics [as in knowing where the thing will fall] ...

and let me tell you something up front... pruning is 10% of the job ...

the other 90% is the backbreaking labor of getting rid of the refuse .... do you have a plan for that stuff.. that wont involve burning down the trees you just pruned.. lol ... or your house ....

anyway ... pay up the life insurance.. and the medical insurance.. and the house ins. if you are messing near there ... buy all the tools you need.. and a back brace.. and you will soon find out that hiring a pro might be cheaper ....

the question is NOT really CAN I DO IT.. the question is ... DO I WANT TO DO IT ...

we dont know your age or physical condition ... but there are much more pleasurable things you can do.. with a little checkbook pruning ...

finally .. unless you are independently wealthy ... i would suggest that you leave 10 acres natural .. perhaps some pruning near the house for safety .. but otherwise.. pruning 10 acres of trees would bankrupt most of us ...

IF YOU CALL a tree service.. i suggest you call at least three ... the estimates will vary greatly ... and learn all you can.. and if the guy doesn't seen to know what he is talking about... find someone else..

good luck


    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 4:09PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)


Texas Fire seemed confused by Live Oak having green leaves. it's evergreen oak. It's common. They are everywhere.

It sounded like Texas Fire also wanted to get rid of low branch so they would "look better". I was really talking about living branches.

He or she also stated that he/she is the first human to occupy that land. If the live oaks are really old with low large long growing branches, it's best to leave them alone.

It's hard to visualize anything without any pictures. I've seen morons butchering large live oaks across Texas.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 7:25PM
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"They are in their natural state. Branches growing low and long".
That sounds like a pretty good description of what I would call a picturesque Live Oak. That's what Live Oaks do.
Consider yourself fortunate that some previous owner has not butchered up these trees.
If you have an occasional dead branch it can be removed anytime. Please don't let some fly-by-night tree "expert" talk you into hacking back your trees.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 7:57PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Lou, I think you misunderstood Texas Fire. He/she was not confused that the Live Oaks had green leaves but was making the point that the trees don't have the same visually identifiable dormant period as deciduous trees.

It sounds like some of the posters here are jumping to the conclusion that Texas Fire isn't going to do the job correctly. Removing the dead branches and maybe select living branches (crossing branches, branches growing on the ground, etc.), if done properly, would only add to the visual appeal of the trees and shouldn't negatively impact their health. Don't jump to the conclusion that something awful is going to happen. Just because there are idiots out there that top trees, doesn't mean that Texas Fire is going to harm his/her trees.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 9:00PM
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I thought they were live oaks with the green leaves. Whatever, maybe it is a local term, but not scientifically correct?

OK, I will take on this pruning project. sounds reasonable.
I am 42 years old and just retired from the US Navy as a deep-sea diver. safety conscious and healthy and strong.
We have been working these 10 acres for a month clearing out dozens of cedars to make our road in and give the oaks a buffer zone. We've got chainsaws, cordless sawzalls, ladders, 2-ton cable pullers, tow chains, every kind of hand-tool you can imagine. My 12 year old son and I are the stump-busters (for cedars)! My wife is the cactus killer. But we are leaving plenty of wild areas. Maybe 90% of the land area. For you tree lovers, be assured we also love these big bubbas. "Papa oak" my boys call them. We should have a website set-up soon and will share the pix.

Thanks folks!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 9:03PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

One more piece of advise that you may already know....

It's always possible to prune more. It's never possible to add back. If in doubt, err on the conservative side when it comes to pruning trees/plants.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 9:08PM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

And DO be careful!!! To be redundant - big limbs are heavier than you might think, before you try to move one. I know you are safety conscious, but it only takes a minute (maybe more like a second) of inattention for something to go wrong. Be VERY aware of what is underfoot, move branches as soon as they are down, and be very careful when dragging branches away.

I totally agree with Brandon - if you wonder whether a branch should come off for more than 30 seconds, leave it and look at it later - there is always another day! I have sometimes found myself caught up in the "take it off!" mode, and been sorry later - it's easy to do.

I don't know what your weather has been like so can't say if burning is safe to do at the moment (Western SC isn't quite under a burn-ban, but close to it), but, while burning "slash" is an accepted practice, you can also make several piles out away from the house and leave the branches to rot over a number of years, providing shelter for birds and animals, and food in the form of the colonizing insects and grubs. Just be careful about the siting - you DON'T want to encourage bunnies and deer any closer to the house and your garden(s) (flower and veggies) than they will come on their own! Nor do you want to have a fire hazard close by.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2007 at 8:58AM
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Can't prune trees from friction ladder unless you like falling off muthalicka

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 9:53PM
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