Having a flowering tree in your yard is a lot like owning a pet. Just like animals, trees require not just water and food but also periodic grooming. Even though they don’t have hair or nails, they do have branches that must be trimmed to keep them healthy and looking good. In the same way you would take your dog to the groomer, you can hire a professional tree pruning service to keep your trees looking their best.
The purpose behind trimming branches is not just to make a tree look pretty. Pruning mimics nature’s method of cutting back dead or dying branches. In the wild, fruit trees are naturally relegated to the understory, meaning they grow in partial shade beneath a tall canopy. This forest environment would change the shape of their crowns by not allowing them to branch out as much as they would in full sunlight. The trees towering above the fruit trees would periodically produce falling limbs that would hit the smaller trees below, causing many of their branches to snap off.
This is nature’s way of keeping fruit trees healthy and maintaining the three-dimensional structure of a mature forest. Although fruit trees in your yard enjoy a life of domestication where their every need is fulfilled, their wild nature still requires the branches to be trimmed to keep them healthy.
When To Prune
Trees are not inanimate objects. Although they stand in the same place year after year and appear not to be doing anything, on the inside they are actively responding to their environment. Trees know what time of year it is by measuring the hours of daylight as the seasons pass. These natural rhythms control many things about a tree’s life, including when its leaves change colour and fall off, when sap flows, and when new leaves emerge in spring. Trees also know what time of year you prune them and will respond accordingly.
Before deciding when to prune your tree, you must first determine when it produces flowers. If you are growing a late-blooming tree such as a Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), or flowering plum (Prunus blireana), then pruning in late winter or early spring is best. This timing will allow the tree to recover before creating flowers. It also will promote more vigorous growth, because the tree can invest all its energy into healthy branches rather than into dead or dying ones.
Many fruit trees suitable for hardiness zones 5a and 5b of the Waterloo Region bloom in early spring. These trees plan ahead by forming their flowers in late fall and storing them in buds throughout the winter. If you cut off the branches in early spring, then there will be fewer flowers remaining. Therefore you should wait to prune species like peach (Prunus persica) or apricot (Prunus armeniaca) until August or September, right after their fruit or flowers have faded. An exception to this rule would be for trees that perhaps need a rest from flowering in order to regain strength after disease or damage; in this case, they should be pruned in spring. Spring pruning also can reduce growth and shorten the crown of trees that are growing larger than you would like them to.
Who To Call
While pruning itself may not be difficult depending on the size of the tree, knowing when to do so can be a complicated decision. If you are uncertain about the best timing for your trees, call Martin’s Tree Service at (519) 400-1441. We can offer advice about the best time of year to prune and can provide services to keep your trees healthy year-round.