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Tree pruning guide

The best way to keep a tree healthy and under control is through regular and correct pruning.

If branches from a tree owned by Medway Council are brushing on the roof or gutter of your house, Medway Council's tree officers will inspect and where necessary, prune trees to clear branches which brush against any property.

If squirrels climb from a tree growing on Medway Council's land and on to your roof, the council will prune where the work does not disfigure the tree, but it will not fell or disfigure a tree.  

The council does not carry out tree pruning for private residents. You can contact an approved tree contractor either through the Medway Council Fair Trader scheme or through the Arboricultural Association .

Please check to see if there are any Tree Preservation Orders or if the trees are in a Conservation Area before undertaking any work. Anyone can apply for permission to work on a protected tree, but you may need permission from the owner of the tree if it is not yours.

If you are a council housing tenant who thinks that a tree on your estate needs pruning, you should contact your housing officer who will decide whether the work needs to be undertaken.

The advice below details the correct way to remove a branches and support trees with stakes:


Branch removal

  1. If the branch is a large one, it is best to reduce it in segments to prevent it falling dangerously or damaging the tree by tearing the bark. Following the diagram on the left, begin removing each segment with a cut up about a third of the way from the underside of the branch (1).
  2. Continue by cutting down about two-thirds of the way through the branch a little bit further up the branch. This should cause the branch to fall with minimal damage to the tree.
  3. Once most of the branch has been removed, make the final cut across the branch collar (A-B) to remove the stub. Leave the collar intact, or this could be the cause of infection to the tree.
  4. Make sure you don’t cut the tree further than the end branch collar (D) – this will cut through the tree's barrier zones and make it extremely prone to disease.
 Diagram showing how to remove a branch

Diagram showing the reduction of a branch

Reduction of a branch

  1. When it is necessary to reduce the branch of a tree, cut from A to B in the diagram on the right (3) after the top has been removed, (1 and 2).
  2. Point B is at right angles to the main branch from point C, (the bottom of the branch bark ridge). The remaining branch should be at least one third the diameter of the stem to be cut.

Crown reduction

The parts to be removed for the process of crown reduction are shown in dotted lines on the diagram below. Use the techniques detailed above to remove the necessary branches.

It must be stressed that while crown reduction is a useful technique for reducing the spread of a tree, crown thinning is a different matter – by removing many branches at their base you are very likely to damage the tree and make it susceptible to disease.

 Diagram showing crown reduction
 Plan view diagram of staking a young tree
Elevation diagram of staking a young tree


When a young tree needs staking, it is best to use strong, round wood about 8cm in diameter and long enough to stake your tree, as shown in the diagram below. Use a good brand of tree ties to fix the tree to the stake.

A suitable point for the tie is just below the first branch of clear-stemmed trees when using a full stake or approximately 30-60cm above ground level when using a half stake. Any snags and burrs which will cause chafing of trees should be removed.

You should try to put the stake on the windward side of the tree or in the case of trees near roads, on the side facing the road.

Take care when you are positioning the stake to avoid rubbing the bark, as this will damage the tree.