PHOTO: J. Keeler Johnson
September 27, 2016

I won’t try to deny it—I love trimming trees. I always enjoy the process of carefully pruning branches to give trees a beautiful, stately and clean appearance, and I love how trimming just a handful of trees can completely transform an area, giving it a much more manicured look.

If you have trees on your farm—or better yet, a wooded area on the edge of your fields—you might be amazed at how rapidly you can upgrade the appearance of your trees by pruning off their messy lower branches. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend that you dive in and get started, but first, here’s a checklist of items that you’ll want to have on hand:

1. Safety Goggles

First and foremost, you’ll want to stay safe during your tree-trimming project, and safety goggles are a requirement, not an option. You never know when a tangle of branches might spring toward your face, and if you’re not paying enough attention, it’s always possible to walk right into a small branch that you hadn’t noticed. Keep your eyes safe and never walk off without your goggles.

2. Pruning Loppers

Strong, powerful pruning loppers with handles at least 2 feet long are my favorite tree trimming tool. They’re easy to maneuver into cramped spaces and can easily cut through branches more than an inch thick, making it fast and easy to complete many trimming projects without ever getting out a saw.

3. Pruning Shears

These smaller pruning tools fit in the palm of your hand and are perfect for trimming tiny tree branches, bushes, root suckers or even seedling trees growing in unsuitable locations. I always like to have a pair on hand because they’re much easier to handle when making a bunch of small trims in a row.

4. Handsaw Or Chainsaw

Pruning loppers and shears can do a lot, but for serious tree trimming, such as removing all the lower branches off a pine or spruce tree, you’ll want to bring in a handsaw or chainsaw to do the job. I personally prefer a handsaw for most of my pruning needs because I frequently stop to change tools and move cut branches out of the way, but for very large branches or entire trees that would take too long to saw by hand, a chainsaw can save you a lot of time and effort. If you do use a chainsaw, you’ll want to have additional safety gear on hand, including protective chaps.

5. Gloves

You’ll definitely want to wear a pair of tough gloves when trimming trees, as they help protect your hands from blisters, scratches and cuts. Soft cloth gloves might work for the smallest projects, but for serious trimming, invest in a pair of leather gloves that will provide better protection and last longer.

6. Long-Sleeved Shirt Or Jacket

It’s easy to get scratched up while maneuvering around overgrown tree branches, so wearing a long-sleeved shirt or jacket can help protect your arms from cuts and scrapes. This protection actually serves two purposes if you’re working in the shade or on the edge of a forest during the summer months: This is where mosquitoes and other annoying bugs tend to lurk, and a long-sleeved shirt can help keep you from getting bitten.

7. A Wagon Or Wood Chipper

Obviously, trimming trees produces a lot of debris, and you’ll need a way to dispose of all the branches after they’ve been cut. One option is to pile them on a large wagon and haul them someplace where they won’t be in the way, while another option is to use a wood chipper to grind the branches into tiny wood chips, which can then be used in a variety of ways on your farm.


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