Why Winter Pruning Is Healthy For Most Trees

Our arborists don’t take the winter off. In fact, winter is one of our busiest seasons for tree pruning. That’s because deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves) are dormant in the winter.

Removing branches during pruning wounds the tree, and winter dormancy acts as nature’s anesthesia. Pruning wounds have the rest of the winter to heal (actually callous) before the sap begins flowing again in spring. Tree wounds don’t heal like wounds to you and me. Rather, they form very hard callous tissue around the edge of the wound to prevent insects and disease organisms from gaining access to the tree. The cold temperatures also speed up the tree’s recovery process.

With no leaves to obscure our view, our arborists are able to see the tree’s “skeleton.” It’s almost like looking at an x-ray without any radiation. Examining bare limbs is like examining bare bones. We’re able to see the tree’s shape and determine where pruning is needed. Dead, broken, crossing, rubbing and hanging branches are visible from the ground, as are other hazards like cavities and rot.

Making diagnoses from the ground is always safer than having to climb into a leafed-out tree canopy before we know what awaits us. It is not only safer, it’s also more efficient. Pruning a defoliated tree results in less debris to be cleaned up. And pruning when the ground is frozen lets us get our equipment closer to the tree, further increasing efficiency.

Some trees shouldn’t be pruned in winter, except in emergency or hazardous situations. Then any time’s the right time. Ideally, conifers should be pruned in summer, specifically June or July. You should wait until flowering trees are through blooming to prune. These trees set both their flower and leaf buds in the fall, just after they lose their leaves. The untrained eye can’t differentiate between the two, so you may cut off this spring’s flowers.

I don’t recommend that you prune any of your trees, especially if you have to leave the ground. It’s definitely too dangerous, especially if you use a ladder. We read every about property owners falling off ladders while trimming trees. Often in the same column there’s at least one report of a property owner being injured or worse by a falling limb they cut overhead. Our arborists have the proper training, equipment and experience to do the job safely. Many of them have so much experience that they can tell the difference between a flower bud and a leaf bud on a defoliated tree. Therefore leave a dangerous job like pruning trees to the pros.

2 comments on “Why Winter Pruning Is Healthy For Most Trees

  1. It is difficult to keep up with all the pruning that needs to be done here where winters are so brief. In the orchards that were here decades ago, pruning started very early, before the trees were defoliated. I will never be sold on the ‘summer pruning’ fad for fruit trees, even for small spaced.

  2. Good thoughts here. I’m also concerned people will try to prune without professional help. Can be expensive but not as expensive as a hospital bill…

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