Tree Trimming: How Often?

BorisYeltsin's picture

Tree Trimming: How Often? (post #12622)

We live in SoCal, and have about 5 trees: Orange, Tangerine, Avocado, Chestnut, and another one I can't think of the name. Most are mature trees, e.g., tall with lotsa large (old) branches and lotsa new (younger) branches.

I can not do the trimming myself; I don't have a selection of chain saws, ladders, rope,and specialized equipment necessary to do this myself, nor the training.

We got a bid for, . . gulp. . . $2,500 to do the work, which seems high to me, but what the heck do I know.

Question One: How often should trees be trimmed?

Question Two: You'all won't know the answer but, Is $2,500 a good price?

Thanks to everyone who posts a response. I am a contractor and post over at breaktime, not an arborist.



"Sir, I may be drunk, but you're crazy, and I'll be sober tomorrow" -- WC Fields, "Its a Gift" 1927

Regards, Boris "Sir, I may be drunk, but you're crazy, and I'll be sober tomorrow" -- WC Fields, "Its a Gift" 1934
LIBugGuy's picture

(post #12622, reply #1 of 4)

That's probably about right for 5 trees, my folks have paid close to that for pruning one mature oak (ok, it included taking out one of three trunks and topping the other two a bit)

Just be sure whoever you get knows how to trim for fruit production rather than shade, if that's what you want.

Gardening in the heart of the suburban sandbar- LI NY, Zone 7ish...

Selling plants from the Orange box, and doing a little garden work on the side.

LI, NY, almost zone 7, but it's been warmer of late :)

DavidxDoud's picture

(post #12622, reply #2 of 4)

Boris,  why do you want to prune the trees?  this has relevance to your two questions -

Trees need to be pruned as often as necessary such that they respect the constraints of your desire.  A rule of thumb is that no more than 20% of the canopy is removed at any one time -  a fruit producer thinks in terms of light pruning one or two times a year - I infer from your post that these have received no attention for some time - if the trees are overgrown,  it is difficult to reduce their volume significantly without adversely affecting the health of the specimen -  evaluate each tree with an eye to its condition -  perhaps it would be better to remove one or more and replace?

the $2500 seems dear,  but I live in a low rent area of the country - a better question is 'what am I getting for $2500?' - just as I would judge value in contractors by examining their work,  so should you examine the work of the arborist - get some addresses and examine  two or three jobs - so much the better if he can direct you comparable trees (age/size/species) - - look at the form of the patients;  regular shape appropriate for their space?  a real tip-off,  are there any 'bloody stubs'?,  arbitrary cuts that lack 'hierarchy of form'  where wood proceeds from larger to smaller,  ending at a terminal bud - - if the trees look good and it is difficult to see exactly what has been done,  this is a good sign -

Has the arborist discussed a program of maintenance?  Neglected specimens are not shaped up 'once and for all',  after this initial hard work,  a follow-up in a year and maintenance pruning every couple of years for $500 a pop? - If you use an angle like this,  perhaps you could negotiate a lower initial charge - don't be afraid to get another opinion - I'm leery of anyone who views tree maintenance as anything other than a program over time -


regards, DOUD

"there's enough for everyone"
KimmSr's picture

(post #12622, reply #3 of 4)

Fruit trees need annual pruning to perform to their best, mostly that is removing old wood, crossing branches, and opening up the tree so the fruit that it produces is of better quality. This is something you can do without much more than hand pruners, loppers, and a good, small, hand saw.

Shade trees only need periodic pruning, removing dead wood, branches that cross one another, etc. The cost of a good tree trimmer may seem high but consider the cost of the insurance they need to carry (and be sure they do have liability and workers comp insurance before you hire them since you do not want to be responsible if they make a mistake), equipment, and training.

We hired tree trimmers this past summer to remove a tree that had split, threatening to fall on the house, and opted for the middle guy (3 bids ranging from $750 to $1600) only to find this guy did not use ropes when dropping the higher limbs and damaged a fence, bad enough it needed to be replaced. The high bid guy (who has done work for us before) always has used ropes when dropping high limbs and has not even put dents in the lawn and does a good cleanup job when done, something the lower bidders may not do. 

West central Michigan along the lake shore

A sign of a good gardener is not a green thumb, rather it is brown knees.

Hopleaf's picture

(post #12622, reply #4 of 4)

Thing is you want to make sure the people you hire are certified arborists. The International Society of Arboriculture has a continuing education program that their members have to keep up on or risk losing their certification. They're all experienced climbers and will quote you their estimates ahead of time. Check their Web site out, I think there's a searchable list: (it might be .org, but I'm not sure). Their site will have some information abotu tree trimming and rates, etc.

In addition to professionally handling the trimming, they can also assess the value and health of your trees. As a homeowner, your trees and shrubbery are a valuable investment.

Hope this helps.

Wine is fine, but beer brings cheer!

Zone 5