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Why do so many arborists promote fall and winter pruning?

Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (My Page) on
Wed, Oct 23, 13 at 13:56

Is it simply because its a slower time of year and they want to keep busy?

This was published by the UW Extension office.

Delay pruning of woody plants until trees and shrubs are fully dormant or until the end of the dormant season in March or early April. Fall pruning leaves wounds that will heal slowly, increasing the potential for disease or damage.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Why do so many arborists promote fall and winter pruning?

its because trees are dormant during that time and are less likely to become stressed when trimmed. Most of the trees energy has moved into its roots.


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RE: Why do so many arborists promote fall and winter pruning?

  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (My Page) on
    Wed, Oct 23, 13 at 14:23

Isn't that reason not to prune it? Thats exactly why the tree is slow to heal the wound.

I'm sure bleeders make this more complex as well. They seem to bleed in the spring whether you prune them in fall or winter.


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RE: Why do so many arborists promote fall and winter pruning?

All Extension services will tell you not to prune trees until after they're dormant. The cuts don't need to heal until next season. You don't want to prune right before dormancy or the tree (and shrubs, too) will be stimulated to put out new growth, and that delays dormancy.

It's kind of like someone shaking you when you're trying to fall asleep. Let your trees fall asleep.


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RE: Why do so many arborists promote fall and winter pruning?

The end of the dormant period - late winter - is the recommended time to prune most trees. It is easier to see the structure and make informed pruning choices when the tree is out of leaf and it leaves wounds exposed for minimal periods before new growth and the sealing process begins. One can remove more structure during dormancy than in the growing season without causing unnecessary stress on the plant. This timing also reduces the chances of the spread of various disease pathogens that are more prevalent in spring and summer as well as insect pests, which all tend to be dormant at this time as well. Bleeding is typically more of a concern for the pruner than it is for the prunee :-)) If really a concern, one can wait to prune tress that produce copious sap in late spring or early summer but the amount you are able to remove should not exceed 1/4 of the live foliage.


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RE: Why do so many arborists promote fall and winter pruning?

  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (NW) (My Page) on
    Wed, Oct 23, 13 at 16:56

I should have clarified that many arborists in my area promote pruning ONCE they go dormant but push the timing in late fall, early winter and mid winter NOT necessarily late winter.

The extension offices ONLY promotes pruning in late winter.

Why do the arborists deviate? Is it just business vs risk of actual issues arising from the plant not closing the wound properly?

I had a few mature lindens pruned a couple years ago in early winter and the wounds never healed properly. Related? Can't say for sure if the timing had anything to do with it.


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RE: Why do so many arborists promote fall and winter pruning?

Its a lot easier to see what you are chopping about when the leaves are on the ground and not flapping in your face. Depends on the tree too - I do my cherries and damsons in the summer because the risk of silverleaf is higher in the winter.....but I do my apples in winter and summer, different cutting for different reasons. Also, in some places, it is common to fell firewood trees over summer and leave the leafy limbs to continue to transpire, therefore aiding the drying out of the wood. So, it's horses for courses, really - a matter of pragmatism, good husbandry and booking an arbourist (who are pretty much employed all year).


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