It’s hard to believe that the winter season is nearly over. Yes. The first official day of spring is March 20, and that means tree pruning season is nearly here, too.
A little light pruning or the removal of dead wood can be done at anytime throughout the year, but if you’re looking to spur growth, improve the look and shape of a tree or shrub, and promote tree health the late winter or early spring is usually the best time.
Trees are dormant in the winter and pruning late in the season before any new spring growth begins can prevent any serious damage to your trees. Pruning at this time means that any fresh wounds won’t be exposed too long before the new growth begins the sealing process.
For deciduous trees, here’s what we suggest:
- Prune on a mild, dry day
- Prune dead and diseased branches first
- To increase light and air at the crown, remove overgrown or smaller branches
- When pruning, cut branches at the node, which is the point at where a branch or twig attaches to another.
As for evergreen trees, generally they don’t need much pruning, but they’re are a few exceptions. Here’s what the University of Minnesota Extension has to say about pruning evergreens:
- Spruces, firs and douglas-firs don't grow continuously, but can be pruned any time because they have lateral (side) buds that will sprout if the terminal (tip) buds are removed. It's probably best to prune them in late winter, before growth begins. Some spring pruning, however, is not harmful.
- Pines only put on a single flush of tip growth each spring and then stop growing. Prune before these "candles" of new needles become mature. Pines do not have lateral buds, so removing terminal buds will take away new growing points for that branch. Eventually, this will leave dead stubs.
- Pines seldom need pruning, but if you want to promote more dense growth, remove up to two-thirds of the length of newly expanded candles. Don't prune further back than the current year's growth.
- Arborvitae, junipers, yews, and hemlocks grow continuously throughout the growing season. They can be pruned any time through the middle of summer. Even though these plants will tolerate heavy shearing, their natural form is usually most desirable, so prune only to correct growth defects.
In addition to pruning at the right time and the right way, one of the most important aspects of pruning is using the right tools. If you’re not using a professional, make sure you have a good pair of pruning shears, and keep them well maintained. OldHouseOnline.com has a good list of six essential pruning tools.
Want more pruning advice? Check out these helpful links below. If you’re in need of some professional help, give us a call or connect with us by submitting a bid request online!
Precision Landscape & Tree - DIY Pruning Tips
University of Minnesota Extension - Pruning Trees and Shrubs
Arbor Day Foundation - When to Prune
The Old Farmer’s Almanac - Winter Pruning Guide for Trees and Shrubs
PlanItDIY - How to Prune Trees and Shrubs
(Photo Credit: http://www.cpe.rutgers.edu/courses/current/al0806ca.html)