Pine trees can provide shade and year-round beauty to your landscaping, but they do need occasional trimming. Most pine pruning is done to remove unhealthy or dangerous branches.
1. Trim in Season
Although pine trees are green year-round, they do go into partial dormancy during the winter months. This dormant period is also the ideal time to trim pines, as semi-dormant trees don't produce as much sap nor suffer as much shock from good pruning. Schedule major trimming for late winter, but before any new spring growth begins. This way the tree will begin to heal pruning wounds quickly as soon as the weather warms and breaks its dormancy.
2. Use Proper Tools
Pruning pines requires two main tools -- a set of loppers and a pruning saw. The loppers are used to cut back small branches, typically those narrower than your thumb. The saw allows you to remove larger branches. If you are doing the trimming yourself, make sure the tools are properly sharpened and clean. Further, clean them before moving on to a new tree. This prevents the accidental spread of diseases and pests.
3. Follow the Shape
Most pine varieties that are used as landscape trees have a natural conical shape, but there are some like lodgepole pines that produce foliage branches in a clumpier fashion. Unlike other types of evergreens, though, most pines can't be trained to be a hedge or specific shape. Instead, they need to be pruned to follow their natural form, whether it's conical or something less symmetrical.
4. Focus on Dead Wood
Most trimming of pines isn't to shape them, but to keep them healthy and clear of dangerous dead wood. The first pass when pruning, whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, typically only removed dead, damaged, and dying wood. These branches are removed at their base. Only after deadwood removal is light pruning done to remove overgrown or overhanging branches, or to thin out overly dense growth.
5. Avoid Over Pruning
Cutting back a pine tree too far can have permanent repercussions. New needles will not grow on a bare branch, so branches should not be cut back into the bare wood that is near the trunk. Always leave some needles on any branches you aren't completely removing. Further, don't cut off the top of the pine tree, as it won't regrow or recover from topping.
Contact a tree trimming service—such as Complete Tree Service—for more assistance when it comes to pruning your pine trees.