A Word Of Caution...
For very large trees it's best to call in the experts unless you have previous experience, as it is a job not without risks.
For small to average size trees there are several tasks you can carry out yourself with a few basic pruning tools, such as pruning shears and a pruning saw, or for very large branches a chain saw.
The best time to carry out tree pruning is during the dormant season in late fall or winter, although dead branches can be removed at any time. The reason for carrying out pruning during the dormant season is that the tree will lose less sap and it will reduce the potential risk of fungus or insect infestation.
To minimize damage it's best to prune the tree as little as possible, as pruning creates a great deal of stress on the tree and increases is susceptibility to disease and insects. An excessive amount of pruning can damage a tree irreparably so never prune more than you have to.
You should make sure that all pruning tools being used are sharp enough to make clean cuts without tearing. Any branches that are big enough to require a pruning saw need to be supported while cuts are being made.
Pruning Live Branches
A general guide is to make a shallow notch underneath the branch, outside the branch collar. This will prevent a falling branch from tearing the stem tissue as it pulls away from the tree.
Then make a second cut which should be outside the first cut, all the way through the branch, leaving behind a short stub. This stub is then cut just outside the branch bark ridge which completes the task..
Pruning tools should always be cleaned after use as tree diseases are easily spread by using infected tools. This can be done using one part bleach to nine parts water and then clean with soapy water.
Pruning Dead Branches
This is carried out in a similar way to cutting live branches. Make the pruning cut just outside of the ring of woundwood tissue that has formed, being mindful not to cause unnecessary damage. Larger branches again need to be supported in the same way as live branches.
The Fact Is...
The questions that confront every gardener never change, however the solutions do. That's where a good reference book comes in handy.
The 'Pruning of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers' is a book dedicated to pruning that recommends the best pruning techniques and practices. This unique encyclopedic details the best pruning techniques for more than 450 trees, shrubs, conifers, and woody climbers.
There are plenty of diagrams and pictures as well as a substantial amount of written information, in fact everything one needs to know about tree pruning.
And although it's A-Z format features thousands of species, it still manages to remain a practical reference.