There are many reasons to prune trees, like shape maintenance, removal of diseased branches, increased production and better flowering, and the timing really depends on the desired outcome. If your goal is to have a healthy, well-structured plant that looks great, flowers beautifully and lives a long, productive life, then the best time to prune and do general plant maintenance is during the late winter months when the plant is dormant.
Why should you prune dormant trees?
- It is easier to see what you are doing when there are no leaves on the tree.
- Pests are less active in winter and therefore there is less risk of pest infestations in the wounds.
- The cuts heal faster, the plant stays stronger and there is less risk of disease.
- There is less sap flow in the tree and while sap flow doesn’t really harm the tree, it can make a mess and attract pests and insects.
- Dead, damaged and diseased branches can pose a threat to yourself and your property and should be removed as soon as possible, especially if you live in an area prone to storms and strong winds, but these offending branches are easiest to spot in winter when the tree is bare.
Is Winter Pruning A DIY Project?
Before you grab your pruners and prune everything in sight, you need to know what you are doing and what you are pruning. The aim of most gardeners is to have a spectacular garden and pruning in winter is done to improve the structure and health of your trees and shrubs. This makes winter a good time to remove suckers and water sprouts, thin out congested areas in the middle of shrubs and deal with overlapping branches before they become a problem. You should concentrate your efforts on deciduous plants that bud or flower in late spring and summer. The ideal time to get out your shears and go to work is late winter when the plants are still dormant and there are a few weeks before the buds start swelling and the sap starts flowing again.
But don’t just go wild, you should avoid pruning trees or shrubs that flower in early spring because they have already formed their buds and if you remove them your plant won’t flower as beautifully as you would like. Rather prune early spring flowering plants immediately after they bloom. If you don’t know when your trees normally flower or how to prune them to get the optimum results, consult an arborist for advice or use a tree pruning service to do the work for you.
- Learn how to prune properly – consult an arborist or tree pruning service to give you advice and teach you how to prune correctly.
- Use the right tools – make sure you buy the right tools and look after them properly. The basic tools that you need are good quality, robust pruners, a small saw, and an extendable pole pruner.
- Keep your tools clean – clean tools will help control the spread of diseases and you should use a disinfecting solution to rub down your pruning tools between cuts.
- Be safety conscious – always use the right tool for the job and invest in the necessary safety equipment. At the very least, you need safety glasses, gloves, and sturdy work boots.
Shrubs and small trees are not that difficult to prune, it is easy to remove those wayward twigs and water sprout with a good pair of pruners. If you have a rudimentary knowledge of plant growth you will be able to master basic pruning, but the pruning of large trees can be tricky. You need the right pruning and safety equipment to tackle big branches and work high up in the tree. Unless you are an experienced tree surgeon you really should leave the pruning of large trees to a professional tree pruning service. Martin’s Tree Service has all the right tools and safety equipment to prune your trees correctly and keep them healthy.