ruthj98

What happens when you prune 1/3rd of tree limbs on one side only?

I have a mature sugar maple, maybe about 40 feet high. I need to prune limbs off from one side to reduce debris plugging my eavestrough. What effect will this have on my tree other than it looking unbalanced?

Comments (38)

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

    this is allowed under your city problems???


    i might look into gutter guards ....


    what is the direction of your prevailing winds .... down here near detroit .... its NW ... from the NW ...


    1/3 is about the limit on canopy removal ...


    you will be leaving a lot of open wounds ... leading to POTENTIAL future decline .... but that might be decades down the line ... perhaps outside your life time estimate ...


    i suppose the arguments might be little different than topping the tree .. your just doing it on one side ...




    ken



    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
  • newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

    this is allowed under your city problems??? Not really. We are supposed to follow good pruning practices.

    Gutter guards don't work when you have as much debris as we have.

    1/3 is about the limit on canopy removal ... Yes. And I know that one should not be pruning merely on one side.

    Open wounds do not concern me. I need to protect my house first and foremost.

    I believe our prevailing winds are predominantly from the west. Why do you ask?



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  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

    Pruning is a trigger to regrowth. Each pruned limb may result in a shrubby mess of new sprouts.

    I have questions for you. Is this tree a valuable asset to your property in terms of aesthetics and shade? Is it healthy, to your knowledge? Would it bother you if this tree ended up being a bit of an eyesore for the rest of its life?

    Has the tree outgrown its usefulness at your home? Is it dropping branches and other debris, as well as copious amounts of leaves? Have you considered any of the many gutter treatments on the market today?

    I'm just trying to give you something to think about. I'd rather see a tree removed rather than hacked away bit by bit when it begins to be a nuisance.


    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7
  • mad_gallica

    I have a mature red maple about 10 ft from my house. I do not post pictures of this tree because I do not want to cause Ken emotional distress. The house is three stories high on that side, and the tree grows over the house. Ever since the gutter guards went on, the only maintenance that side has needed is that my DH goes up on the roof, walks over the peak and looks at it. Seriously.

    You don't need a tree guy, you need a gutter guru. They are out there.

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked mad_gallica
  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    If I have the back story correct from other posts, the tree in question is one the OP had requested city permission for removal (as require by her municipality) but that request was denied. So she is stuck with a too close, too large, deteriorating tree that she can not have removed.

    While it is not going to help the tree, may result in some unwanted regrowth and produce an uneven, lopsided appearance, it can be done. To minimize the damage and maximize appearance and tree health as much as possible, I'd consider hiring a certified arborist to do the job. If the OP can sneak that in with city interference.........

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

    Pruning is a trigger to regrowth. Each pruned limb may result in a shrubby mess of new sprouts.

    That's what I was afraid of!

    I'm just trying to give you something to think about. I'd rather see a tree removed rather than hacked away bit by bit when it begins to be a nuisance.

    I feel exactly the same way. But my city doesn't.

    You gave me good questions to ponder, rhizo_1. Unfortunately I am in a situation where my city doesn't value my house. The city represents the tree. The owners have lost control over their property. Gutter guards don't work for my situation.

    mad_gallica, we have two maple trees near our house. One is 6 feet away and the other is 10 feet away. Our prevailing winds are west and that means that both these two trees blow debris onto our house. Our house roof line allows for a limited amount of eavestrough, on predominantly two sides. There is a lot of debris our eavestrough needs to handle during heavy rains. When a downspout can get plugged after being cleaned two days prior, that is a problem!

    You're right, gardengal48! Tree permit was denied! Too healthy a tree is why the tree permit was denied. The city says healthy trees provide so many benefits that damage to homeowner's homes is not a valid reason to remove a tree.

    We are in a position of having to protect our house. I am wondering whether an arborist will prune the branches I would like to have removed. And then if there is the regrowth factor, I may be paying to prune this tree more often. But the city doesn't care about that either because the financial implications are ours.

    I have another question: My tree has a slight lean away from the house. If I prune many branches on the one side nearest the house, will that make my tree lean even more?

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    The regrowth factor will be very dependent on timing. Typically, if the tree is pruned while fully dormant, any regrowth from the pruned portions will be minimal....a least during a normal growing season. However, waiting until dormancy is not going to help much with debris accumulation and gutter issues this season :-(

    Get a couple of arborists out for at least a consultation. Explain the situation wrt to the debris issues and the too close proximity. While they may not endorse a single sided pruning job, I'm sure local ones will understand your needs relative to the city's archaic permitting requirements. They may even suggest some pruning on the other side of the tree to balance things out better.

    One plus with pruning now is that maples will tend to leak much less sap at this time of year as opposed to a fully dormant pruning.

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • mad_gallica

    Have you considered pulling the gutters? Rain chains?

    I seriously expect this is a solvable problem *IF* you are willing to explore different avenues. Right now, you are out to get the tree, and the city knows it.

    So how many gutter people have you talked to?


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  • Embothrium

    Maples bleed when pruned during winter. That is why sugar is tapped at that time.

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  • newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

    Rain chains won't work. Not sure what "pulling the gutters" means. Removing it?


    mad_gallica, you sound like my city's representative! My situation is unique, and the request to remove our tree is not only because of water damage to our house. I will say that my councillor, who actually came to visit my home, and saw our situation first hand, supported me. So when something is unique, it is often not understood. It does not mean that we do not have a valid reason to have the tree removed. We have endured water damage to our home (three times). Don't you think we would want to do everything we could to stop that from happening?


    Gardengal48 and Embothrium, I would not want to do pruning on this sugar maple, or my other sugar maple, at this time. My concern is about my garden. I feel that it could possibly sustain a lot of damage. I would prefer to do it in the winter, but I see that it would not be an appropriate time for maple trees. I guess I could try to get it done in September.


  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Pruning now by a qualified and experienced certified arborist should not result in any damage to the rest of your garden. Pruning by Joe Blow Tree Guy - Have Chainsaw Will Travel potentially could :-)

    ETA, pruning while the tree is dormant will not hurt it, leaking sap or not. It just tends to be alarming and off-putting to those not used to it, as sap production can be considerable.

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • John D Zn6a PIT Pa

    The leaves will fall from any side to where ever they feel like going that day. If the tree is west of the house the majority of the leaves will fall on the roof. That's assuming your prevailing winds are westerly, as mine are.

    My gutter guards are useless for pine needles. I have the ones with screens. No leaves but an inch of needles from Norway Spruces.

    Trim 1/3 of the tree. 2/3 to go.

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked John D Zn6a PIT Pa
  • newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

    OK, gardengal48, I'll look into a reputable arborist. My concern is not only my garden, but also the proximity of the house and the possible damage to the patio that surrounds the tree.


    You made me laugh when you said " Pruning by Joe Blow Tree Guy - Have Chainsaw Will Travel potentially could :-)"


    I am getting the feeling that the pruning of the tree now and in the future is going to cost a lot more than the amount we would have paid to cut it down. We also had to redo our patio a few years ago when the tree roots began lifting it.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    newhostalady, a properly trained and experienced arborist can take down an entire tree with no damage or sign of anything being disturbed.....other than the remains of the trunk still being visible.

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

    To John D., "Trim 1/3 of the tree. 2/3 to go." I like that!


    To gardengal48, when we had an experienced arborist come (a few months ago) and give me an estimate to remove our tree, I pointed out that we were just in the process of getting a new fence. He said, we should have waited to have the tree removed first. He's made me nervous about tree removal and pruning.

  • kitasei

    What would be the fine for removing the tree? Maybe it's better to just do what needs to be done.

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked kitasei
  • newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

    There is not a set fine. The city scares you by saying that you could be fined up to $100,000 for removing a tree without the proper permit. Once you have made a tree application that has been denied, the city now has a record of your tree---size, species, health etc. The fine for removal, after being denied, would most likely be more than if the tree had been removed without the tree application. Who knows!

  • tigereye

    Have you thought about having the tree thinned, NOT topped, thinned? You remove dead/ damaged limbs first, followed by problem limbs. When done by a certified arborist, The canopy is opened up in a balanced way. Would the city approve that?


    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked tigereye
  • John D Zn6a PIT Pa

    Trim it to 9 feet tall, hang a light on it.

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  • kitasei

    Haha. JohnD is on to it! Pollard it!

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked kitasei
  • indianagardengirl

    You are in a box, the tree is the source of the problem so your focus is on the tree. But you can’t remove the tree. I think Mad was trying to get your focus off the tree, and onto the gutters, which the tree is clogging with debris. Focus on gutters and you may find a way out of the immediate problem stated in your OP. I once saw gutters that had no trough or downspouts. The were a series of louvers that were angled to shoot water away from the house, and had nothing to collect leaves. (No clue how well they work.). My gutters are filled with an open cell foam that lets water through, but not leaves. There are gutter hoods that direct water in while leaves float over the top...hope some of this is of help to you.

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked indianagardengirl
  • newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

    tigereye, I believe pruning by an arborist would be helpful to reduce debris. But due to roofline, proximity of tree/s, elevation of next door neighbor's property and our house being merely a few inches above grade, we wonder if we can ever be confident that our eavestrough will not get plugged up. Our eavestrough is cleaned regularly every two weeks throughout the growing season.


    You gave me a laugh John D! Thanks!


    Indianagardengirl, thanks for bringing me back to reality. You are right that I am focusing on the tree---which I am not allowed to cut down. I also suffer from frustration and confusion---how does a city value its trees over damage of the property owners? (I am not the only one denied removal of a tree


    The open cell foam system you have sounds interesting along with the other systems you mention. I have to wonder whether they would work for our home. OK, I willl try to redirect focus of our tree and try to improve and lower odds of water damage.

  • John D Zn6a PIT Pa

    If you pollard a tree means that the tree will regrow from it's roots? Does a sugar maple pollard? I ask these questions because: if you still have live roots you didn't kill the tree. Can you also say you didn't remove the tree?

    This time I'm not joking.

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked John D Zn6a PIT Pa
  • Embothrium

    If commonly sold gutter protection systems weren't effective for your sugar maple leaves they wouldn't work for anybody - as mentioned previously it's conifer needles that can defeat some designs. Merely because - unlike sugar maple leaves - they are small enough to get past the barrier.

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked Embothrium
  • Bill_minn_3b {West Central MN}

    My bil in Illinois put gutter guards on his house, the kind that covers the top and has holes in the covers to let the water in. He still had trouble. His large silver maples would dispense millions of seed helicopters every season and according to him, those helicopters would fly and perfectly hit those holes and stick in the holes. And you couldn't just pull them out, you had to remove the cover and do it from the inside because the seed would swell a little after it was in the hole.

    He recently changed to a different kind that has a full screen on top with baffles inside that are supposed to keep sediment from building up inside the gutter. He won't know for a while if these will work.

    A guard can keep the leaves out but sediment can build up and cause you to have to wash that out with the hose, which means you're back on the ladder.

    I say this so you can make sure the kind you get will do the job. Many don't. Ask around, some of your neighbors might have a kind that works. Or not.

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked Bill_minn_3b {West Central MN}
  • newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

    "If you pollard a tree means that the tree will regrow from it's roots? Does a sugar maple pollard? I ask these questions because: if you still have live roots you didn't kill the tree. Can you also say you didn't remove the tree?"

    I don't know if a sugar maple will pollard. But remember, the city rules are not only for removal but for pruning. The pruning must be no more than the 1/3 of the tree and with good pruning practices. I am wondering whether a reputable arborist will even remove all the branches I want to have removed. Or will they say what I am doing is compromising the tree and refuse? If I remove 1/3 of the tree this year and ask a reputable arborist to remove more of the tree next year, will they refuse then? "if you still have live roots you didn't kill the tree. Can you also say you didn't remove the tree?" I don't know. I would guess that if the tree was not pruned properly, one could be fined. There is no information that I have found about anyone receiving a fine for improper pruning though.


    Bill. It is certainly challenging to find the right kind of gutter guard. We have tried several, with no luck. But it does seem like there are different ones available now, but it is unknown whether they will work for our circumstance. Two large sugar maples near a house is challenging! Good suggestion to ask my neighbors.


    My city also says that routine tree maintenance . . . you know, like leaf pickup, pruning, eavestrough cleaning. . . is just part of the expectation of having a tree. Agreed. BUT if one is cleaning your eavestrough every two weeks, is this "routine" eavestrough cleaning? I have asked many people "how often do you have to clean your eavestrough?" The answers have ranged from every few years (with conifers) to a few times a year. Wow. That would be nice!

  • tigereye

    Could something like these work better than gutters?

    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/631348441484062018/?lp=true

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked tigereye
  • John D Zn6a PIT Pa

    I think that if I consider a $100,000 fine it makes more sense to move out of the town than to keep stressing over a tree. I'd guess that the only reason to stay there is your memories in that home, your gardens and possibly snow removal and maybe utilities. I have been living with a well and septic for 34 years and without natural gas for the past 14 years. I have never had to pump a septic tank. I dug this one up 12 years ago and it didn't need it.

    Kidingly, if you moved you could live up to your user name. New hostas. But perhaps you could dig up some of your plants when they're dormant and sell this house in late winter, early spring.

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked John D Zn6a PIT Pa
  • newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

    tigereye, sorry, but I can't see the pinterest link you attached. I don't know why. Can you try again?


    John, first of all the city "scares" you with the $100,000 fine. It does not seem that anyone has incurred anywhere near that amount of a fine. If I moved---and we have considered because of this tree---it would cost us almost $100,000 to move. There's land transfer taxes, real estate fees, moving costs etc. New hostas, you say? YES, YES, YES! That part I would like!

  • newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

    And in addition to the above comment----what do you think of this:


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhO8IPn9Few

  • sam_md

    nhl, check out this site with comments attributed to Alex Shigo, see the one about topping.

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked sam_md
  • newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

    Sam_md, did you mean to post a link?

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Click on "this" - that is the link (does it not show up green on your device?).

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

    Thanks gardengal48. I missed the "green" this.

    Sam_md, great article!

  • newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

    OK, I see nobody is interested in my link? I think this link would clarify what I am talking about.

    See my tree .............and decide for yourself.

  • John D Zn6a PIT Pa

    I watched the video, but had nothing positive to add, except:

    I feel for your situation.

    I sold 40 acres here in suburban Pittsburgh to a developer. He paid his surveyor for two days work to survey any tree over 24" in diameter. The surveyor came to me and asked about such trees. I gave him the location of about a half a dozen. He, and his assistant, spent the two days, I think, studying the wildlife and naping. I had no idea why he wanted the list. The township a couple townships away has a tree nazi, but the one there didn't.

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked John D Zn6a PIT Pa
  • indianagardengirl

    I watched the video, too. I sympathize, but didn’t comment. I don’t want to encourage you to focus on the variable you cannot control. I don’t mean that to be mean spirited, but you keep going back to the thing you cannot change, and I don’t think it helps you to encourage it.

    newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada thanked indianagardengirl
  • newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

    I know you are not being mean spirited, indianagardengirl. You are trying to get me to move forward. It took us time to make the decision to apply for our tree permit, and then to go through the process. Had the tree been able to be removed, it would have brought us peace of mind as the possibility of water damage would have been greatly reduced to almost nil. So now, moving on, means making difficult decisions: move (very difficult as I still have children living with me); do an addition to the house that would require removal of the tree (difficult choice and expensive); prune the tree (easy choice; but still have the risk of water damage); remove the tree (pay a fine which could be substantial, but unknown). Part of me finds some comfort in educating and helping others about our tree bylaw.


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