Well this is something I have been wanting to write about for quite some time now but after at least 20 calls in the last two weeks asking "is it to late to trim my trees" or "when is the best time to trim/prune my trees" I knew I had to take a few mins to address the concern. I could talk for a long time about this, after all its the thickest chapter in the ISA arborist handbook but ill try to hit the high points.
So, when to prune? This really depends on your reasoning behind pruning. Light pruning and the removal of dead wood can be done anytime. A good rule of thumb is the 1/3-2/3 rule. If you are removing 1/3 of the tree whether it be from the top, tips, mid-canopy, or lower branches and you leave 2/3 untouched you will leave a healthy tree. Otherwise, here are some guidelines, but recognizing that individual species may differ is important to remember.
Pruning during dormancy (no leaves) is the most common practice. It results in a vigorous burst of new growth in the spring and should be used if that is the desired effect. It is usually best to wait until the coldest part of winter has passed. Some species, such as maple, walnuts and birches, may “bleed”—when the sap begins to flow but this is not harmful and will cease when the tree leafs out.
If you goal is to stunt the growth of a tree, remove unhealthy sections of the tree or re-shape a tree, it is best to wait until seasonal growth is complete. The reason the trees growth drastically slows is that you reduce the total leaf surface, thereby reducing the amount of food manufactured and sent to the roots. Another reason to prune in the summer is for corrective purposes. Defective limbs and limbs that hang down too far under the weight of the leaves can be seen easier.
When Not To Prune: Fall
Because the healing of wounds on trees slows drastically during this time, it is best to wait until the appropriate time to tackle those projects. This is the best time to plan removals it is typically more cost effective to wait until the leaves begin to fall off the trees for this as well.
This blog literally just addresses "WHEN is a good time to prune". Although I have highlighted the ideal seasons to prune and for what reason, that does not mean if the proper methods and precaution aren't taken that you can not kill a tree during this time. There are still very many aspects of a tree and where/how to cut to be sure that even though you are cutting during the right season that you are not going to harm the tree.
If you have more questions or comments please leave them below and we will reply asap. We will continue to add more posts showing in more detail how to properly prune during the season for each specie of tree.
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