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How to prune dormant trees.

January 26, 2016
Brad Bippus

Before we talk about the best time to prune deciduous trees, let’s clarify what one is.  What is a deciduous tree?  A deciduous tree is one that loses its leaves in the winter time.  Trees are losing their leaves in response to cold, change of sunlight duration, and sometimes drought.  When there are no leaves on the tree, they are not dead, but have become dormant.

Why would you want to prune a dormant tree?

  1. Less chance for bark to tear
  2. Less likely to have excessive amounts of sap.
  3. Gives time for recovery before the bud break in spring.
  4. It’s much easier to see the branch structure of the tree without the leaves covering up and hiding the branches.
  5. Less likely to stimulate unwanted growth on the tree.

Benefits of pruning

So there are a few good reasons to prune your deciduous tree.

  • It will promote the tree’s health.
  • It’s a great way to train a young tree so you won’t have to do major trimming in the future.
  • It’s also a way of  decreasing the number of  flowers and fruit that will be on the tree for the next year.
  • Another obvious one, is the hazards to people or structures that the branches are may be causing.

Find your purpose for pruning

First off, identify the purpose of pruning your deciduous tree. Resist the urge to prune a shade tree just because your neighbor is pruning their trees. Resist the urge to trim the tree just because is a growing very fast. Whenever you prune a tree there will always be some sort of response from the tree. That’s why the  optimal time is in the winter when the tree is focusing on root growth and not sapping as much is it normally does during growing season.

Trees that need prunning

Problems With Bad Pruning

If you trim too much of the tree during the growing season it can have major impact on the health of the tree by cutting back on its food supply since the leaves are catching the sunlight and creating food for the tree.  Poor pruning technique can lead to unwanted insect problems, decrease the vigor of the tree, create water sprouts from the base of the tree or within the tree canopy.

Best time to prune deciduous trees

The very best time to trim the tree is when the foliage has dropped. Typically the drop occurs between November and December, depending on what region of the country you are in.  Pruning should be done before the buds show evidence of swelling in the spring.  Winter is the very best time to prune your deciduous trees.

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