State of New Jersey Department of Environmental ProtectionGovernor Phil Murphy • Lt.Governor Sheila Oliver
NJ Home | Services A to Z | Departments/Agencies | FAQs  
NJ State Forestry Services Logo

DEP Home | About DEP | Index by Topic | Programs/Units | DEP Online



Information for Municipalities

Proper pruning removes the parts of the tree that are not required or effective. By removing unnecessary parts, the tree’s energy goes to the healthy limbs. However, be careful to use the proper techniques and tools because improper pruning can injure or kill a tree. Prune as few branches as possible, as even proper pruning stresses the tree.

Three steps to pruning a branch:
1. Make a small wedge shaped cut on the underside of the branch just on the branch side of the branch collar. This will break the bark at that point and prevent a tear from running along the bark and stem tissue.

2. Somewhat farther along the branch, starting at the top of the branch, cut all the way through the branch leaving a stub end.

3. Finally, make a third cut parallel to and just on the branch side of the branch collar to reduce the length of the stub as much as possible.

When to Prune
The best time to prune is in the dormant season, after leaf drop in fall until bud break in spring. However, limbs broken in a storm or dead branches can be removed at any time. Flowering trees are best pruned immediately after flowering occurs.

Reasons to Prune:

Safety, removal of dead wood or weak branches
Health, to remove diseased or insect infested limbs
Structure, to improve or correct structural defects
Repair damage caused by storms
Training young trees Promote flower and fruit

Mulch should never be piled up against the tree trunk. Mulching in a “volcano” shape can make the tree more susceptible to fungus, insects, and rodents. Instead mulch in a “donut” shape. Keep mulch 6 inches from the trunk and mulch out as far as the branches extend above. Keep the mulch 2-4” thick. Every spring, break up old mulch and add new to maintain a 2-4” layer.

Properly applied mulch provides these benefits:

Prevents soil compaction Retains water in the soil for tree roots
Keeps lawn equipment from damaging the trunk
Moderates temperature
Reduces competing vegetation
Provides nutrients to the tree as it breaks down

During drought, sufficiently water trees. Drought stressed trees are more susceptible to pests and diseases.

Thoroughly inspect trees yearly for insects, diseases, and defects such as cracks and rot. Take action to prevent hazard trees.


Notch branch, cut through above notch, cut at branch collar
Champion Trees
Tree Care


 Hazard Trees
 Tree Planting
 Tree Maintainence
Pests and Diseases
Tree Professionals for Hire
Treasure Our Trees
Arbor Day
Benefits of Trees



Tree Owners Manual*

How To Prune Trees*

*To view this form, please download the most recent version of Adobe Acrobat

Mulch around the tree in a donut shape


Department: NJDEP Home | About DEP | Index by Topic | Programs/Units | DEP Online
Statewide: NJ Home | Services A to Z | Departments/Agencies | FAQs

Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2018
Last Updated: March 21, 2017