Why is Winter the Best Time to Trim Your Tree?

By: albertaarb - April 10, 2014

We’re often asked about tree pruning care during winter.

Winter is the opportune time for pruning many types of trees as they go dormant and lose their leaves. This gives you a better perspective of the tree's structure. There are many benefits to tree trimming in winter’s cold temperatures. First, cold weather helps to keep pests at bay so your trees are easier to care for and less likely to suffer from disease. When done right, pruning also provides your trees with extra reserves to support new branches and fruit in the spring.

Tree Care During Winter

Not all trees are conducive to winter pruning. Fruit trees such as apple, crab-apple, pear, cherry and plum trees do well when trimmed during the dormant winter season. Poplar, juniper, spruce, honey locust and bald cypress trees are also conducive to winter pruning.

Trees with sap such as maple, walnut, birch, elm and dogwood are best pruned in the summer or early fall when the oozing sap is easier to contain.

Even though some trees can be pruned any time of the year, tree care during winters frees you to give more attention to your landscape and garden during spring and summer months.

How to Prune

Pruning your trees and shrubs can enhance their growth and attractive appearance. Although pruning is not rocket science, you should read up on tree trimming before getting started, or hire a professional. There are right ways and wrong ways to prune; your lack of knowledge or experience in this area could cause more damage than good. Make sure you know what you're doing, or hire someone who does.

When trimming your tree, start with dead or dying limbs and branches first. Pruning rids your tree of diseased branches that steal nutrients from healthy tree parts. When pruning diseased limbs, make your cut well below the infected area. Avoid pruning when the plant or tree is wet, as water can cause the disease to spread.

Trim overgrown branches that cover your walkway or impede you from properly caring for your landscaping. When two branches cross, prune the thinner or smaller branch to make room for the larger to grow. If your tree is excessively thick with branches, try to thin it out so sunlight and air can filter through. 

Always cut your branches at an angle, where the branch meets with the tree trunk. Trim smaller branches first. If you're going to trim large branches, trim them in three separate parts to avoid injury, trying to sustain heavy branches while cutting. You also don't want the weight of the branch tearing off bark from the trunk.

Avoid leaving branch stubs behind where they can attract pests and rot. In addition, don't scalp your treetops. Not only do scalped trees look bad, it will weaken the sprouts that grow later. Always trim your tree in the natural shape in which it grows.

Getting Professional Help for Pruning

If your trees are exceptionally tall, you may not be able to reach the branches without proper equipment. You may also require help trimming trees that grow dangerously close to power lines - or even have them removed.

Storms may have damaged heavy branches, leaving them dangling or intertwined with other branches. This may make it more difficult or dangerous for you to trim due to lack of proper equipment. These are but a few circumstances where calling in professional is the safer option.

Good tree care during winters can help improve your trees' health and productivity in spring.

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