White Shovel Landscapes

What is Tree Lopping?
A Quick Guide

Tree Lopping

Lopping refers to a tool used to cut a branch off a tree. It’s a strange Middle English term “lop” which simply means to cut off branches and twigs. In this guide we are going to be talking about Tree Lopping, and what it means to your landscape maintenance.

As a general rule, when a landscaper refers to the lopping of a branch, they rarely mean a twig or anything that is less than about half an inch. Simply put, tree lopping is something you do on larger branches, usually branches that exceed one inch or more. Lopping a tree branch that is shorter than this will cut into the bark collar and prevent future growth. In short, where you cut depends on how your tree grows and what shape it takes.

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The art of tree lopping is considered a skill, even a learned art by many people. As with any art, proper lopping can add to the curb appeal of your home and even help you seal the deal with said curb appeal. Although it is not the easiest route, it is a worthy one. There are, however, a few ways to make this process easier to learn and understand. This guide is here to serve you in your searches, and teach you a thing or two about lopping a tree.

Common Terms Associated With Tree Lopping

Keep in mind, pruning early is the secret to an overall healthy tree trimming. This doesn’t mean you have to be outside everyday cutting back your branches, mind you. Instead, venture out with some tree lopping blades and cut back on a potentially troubling branch or two. This can eventually save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars worth of maintenance and even prevent some costly accidents. Every year has a stormy season, and it literally pays to be proactive instead of reactive.

#1 - Tree Pruning

You may hear people talk about pruning their trees, and they might be confused if you refer to it as tree lopping. Tree pruning is commonly known as the plural phrase for lopping a branch. You may choose to lop off a branch or two, but you might decide to prune the entire tree.

Most trees need to be pruned on a regular basis to prevent them from overshadowing grass, rubbing against the house, or growing into utility lines. However, all of these potential issues can be easily prevented with an occasional tree lopping. Or you could choose to prune your tree once or twice a year to lop off some time spent pruning.

#2 - Tree Trimming

Many tree companies refer to tree trimming when discussing cutting back a rather large tree. Large as in a tree that is taller than your house, in other words it would take a cherry picker or bucket truck to reach their lofty branches. Even so, these trees need to be trimmed back in order to reduce potential damage from falling branches. This is what most people think of when you mention tree trimming, but it can be done with smaller trees as well.

#3 - How Tree Whacking Isn't Tree Trimming

There are also utility companies that claim to perform tree trimming, but this is usually a tree whacking. More often than not, they will simply lop off the upper portion of your tree, freeing it from essential power lines, then call it a day.  Landscapers refer to this as tree whacking, due to its damaging nature.

This damage, although unwanted, isn’t usually intentional. Utility companies are just doing their job of keeping power lines free from obstacles. They see it as necessary even if the process can unintentionally damage, or even kill, your beloved tree. You can prevent this and other damages on your trees by hiring a professional to do your tree trimming long before the tree gets to the size where it might get whacked for being too tall.

#4 - Tree Removal

Some people buy their houses because of the plants or trees that grow on the property. This is usually a great attraction until the realization of how much there will be to clean up every year. Once a year or so has passed, some folks tend to want to have a tree or two removed to reduce maintenance. This is fine in most cases, however tree removal is not something you should take lightly.

Many species of tree take years, if not decades to reach maturity, so it is important to plan your moves before taking action. In many scenarios, a proper lopping of a tree could take care of many problems, if not all of them. If this is not the case, do your research or have a professional team remove it for you. This will reduce the possibility of structure damage, as well as the possibility of harming the nearby plants.

The Stages of Tree Removal

Before you remove your tree, you will want to know what you will be dealing with. A mature tree has four major parts that will have to be addressed. Firstly, the branches might need to be trimmed close to their bases. Second, the tree trunk, which acts as the body of the tree, will need to be cut down, resulting in a stump. The stump, which goes down into the ground quite a ways, will have to be dug up, burnt, or machined out of the ground using heavy equipment. 

Next is the root system, which can sometimes span almost forty feet in diameter, will need to be removed to prevent any future deterioration. If the roots are left to rot, it can cause cavities in your yard that allow the soil to shift freely. This can lead to holes, insect infestations, and even structure damage in the most serious of cases. In cases of some oak trees, the roots will produce toxins that can keep grass from growing in those areas.

Furthermore, when you grind a stump you get a ton of free wood chips. Wood chips, or arborist mulch, can be a double edged sword. On one hand you have a nice, moisture securing mulch that’s local, free, and already on hand. On the other hand you might have a local fungus or bacteria that has infected the tree previously and might lead to future complications. Whatever you decide to do with the wood chips, be sure to remove them from the ground and refill the hole with soil. This will help mitigate any settling you might have in the future.

Does Tree Lopping Have an Age Limit?

Tree lopping knows no bounds when it comes to age. In fact, the earlier the better one could say. As long as the tree has enough leaves to produce food for itself, lopping trees while they are young will save you time, money, and frustration. Just, don’t go too crazy with the clipping.

When is Tree Lopping Season?

In most cases when a tree is dormant in the winter is a good time to begin lopping off branches. Occasionally some arborists insist on spring or summer because trees then have time to recover. Having pruned many trees and shrubs, I’ve come to the conclusion that you don’t want to chop off new growth, as it can make a tree look ugly at the worst time of the year. That is why I suggest one prune trees right before they come out of being dormant. This way you get the best of both worlds. You are pruning them while they are dormant as well as helping the trees go through their spring growing phase while looking better than ever.

As always, I recommend that you try to make your cuts early on in the tree’s life. It’s easier on the tree to remove branches while small and young compared to grown and mature. Perhaps there is a life lesson in there as well. Perhaps it is that there is no time to prune trees like the present. Make your cuts while the tree is young, and you will have to deal with less problems. In addition to reducing your overall maintenance, the sooner your cut, the sooner you can forget about it.

Things to Consider Before Tree Lopping

Now that we have touched on the tree lopping basics, it is time to take a more thoughtful approach. This section will delve into a few areas that might require a bit more consideration. Right, let’s get to lopping through this branch of info.

Be Careful When Tree Lopping and Respect Your Trees

Don’t be alarmed to hear of someone who is scared to prune trees. Even though they shouldn’t be scared of lopping their trees, one should still carry a lot of respect towards this craft. Trees take a long time to grow, and you can easily (through pruning) cause a tree to become damaged, decay, and eventually die. Due to the nature of pruning trees and the dangers that accompany the act, it’s advised to take caution when lopping. However, following a few basic rules can help you prune like a pro and help your trees grow too!

#1 - Don't Cut Too Close to the Collar

You know how when you’re cutting your nails and you cut too far back into the nail so it hurts like crazy? When you’re cutting trees, something similar can happen. If you cut too close to the tree’s bark collar, you can cause damage.

Many people believe they are doing a fine job at lopping their trees because they cut them nice and neatly flush with the tree trunk. This however, is not as it seems. Sometimes this can make the dead part recede into the trunk, causing disease and decay.

Most trees pull back nutrients and kill up to four inches of branches that are heavily damaged. This means that when you cut a large branch, about six inches should be left for successful healing. Allowing for two inches of safety area will allow the tree to heal properly without much worry.

#2 - Lop it Early

One of the main points of this article was to start maintenance early. This means lopping trees when they are young, and lopping trees early in the year before the growing season. Main reason for lopping trees early in the year is that they pull in most of their nutrients away from their branches, so cutting them before the growing season removes the branches before they are filled with nutrients again. This keeps their shape maintained and reduces the amount of energy lost through lopped branches.

#3 - Make Sure Your Loppers are Sharp

They call it tree surgery for a reason. If you use dull loppers, you can cause unneeded damage to the bark of the tree. It can strip off more bark after the branch falls, which opens a would for disease to enter. It’s also easier to make cuts with sharp loppers. Reducing your time, overall workload, as well as your chances of endangering yourself.

Tree Lopping Blades

If you go to your local home improvement store, you can ask for a pair of loppers. They will usually point you to something that resembles  two large sticks with a parrot beak shaped set of blades on the end. One of the blades is blunt, while the other is sharp. This allows the tree lopper to hold the branch securely while the sharp blade pushes its way through the branch. This allows the landscaper to make a clean lop through thick branches. This reduces the amount of trauma the tree experiences during lopping.

Professionals Can Save Your Tree

Tons of people look online for a tree trimming company, and there are many to be found. However, there are a few things that make the difference between your average lopper of trees, and a landscape architectural design expert. The architectural design experts can tell you exactly where to lop off branches, as well as what plants would best fill that sunny spot you’re about to open up. They might even be able to save an ailing or damaged tree if it is possible. Professional landscapers will be insured for their practices, as well as safe around hazardous equipment like lopping blades and chainsaws. Just in case the worst does come to show.

Cutting Tree Lopping to a Close

Everybody should respect the tree lopping process, but not so much to the point that it causes fear. Tree lopping and pruning in general is a much needed maintenance and your trees will thank you for it. Even majestic oak trees can grow branches so large they either break or slowly slump to the ground. Tree pruning not only encourages new growth, but it allows one to choose the direction their tree grows in. This can lead to healthier trees, more convenient shade, and an even lovelier looking landscape.

Following along with these tips and tricks can help you become a tree lopping lord, or even a pruning pro if you will. This guide, along with a few videos, can set you well on your way to not only beautifying your landscape, but helping you bond with your branched friends too. As long as you are wary of how deep you are cutting, you shouldn’t have any problems with pruning your plants. Branches and leaves can be considered as temporary as hair. Most of the time it will just grow back, sometimes even a little stronger.

If you’re still too nervous to try your hand at lopping trees, you can schedule an appointment with the landscaping professionals in your area whether you’re landscaping Huntsville, AL or landscaping in Charlotte, NC. It’s always a win with White Shovel Landscapes. Brought to you by the best landscapers Huntsville, Alabama has to offer!

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