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In this video, This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook saves a sick, neglected tree.


1. Start by using a pruning saw to make an undercut into the bottom of the branch. Locate the cut about a foot from the trunk, and cut one third of the way into the branch.

2. Next, cut down into the top of the branch, about ½ inch beyond the undercut.

3. Continue cutting until the branch falls away.

4. Make the final cut to trim the stump of the branch from the trunk. Cut straight down along the outer edge of the branch collar; don't cut flush against the trunk. Support the branch with one hand until it's free.

5. Repeat the three-step process described in Steps 1, 2 and 3, to trim other dead branches.

6. To encourage horizontal growth, trim away some vertical branches. Use the pruning saw to cut the vertical branches close to the main branch from which they're growing.

7. To trim upper branches that are beyond the reach of the pruning saw, use a long-handled pole saw. Again, employ the three-step process to saw through the branches.

8. Use the pruning saw to cut back damaged branches.

9. Remove vertical sucker branches from the tree with the pole saw.

10. Rake up all the leaves from the ground around the tree.