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Should You Prune Your Trees During The Fall Season?

Written by Dirk Bakhuyzen III | Friday, November 7, 2014

Many people have questions about pruning and the best time for pruning the trees on their property. Is fall a good time for pruning? It would seem so - you’re already busy trimming back perennials and otherwise tidying your landscape in preparation for winter. Why not trim the trees too?

The answer is: do not trim your trees in the fall! Trimmed trees may look neater to you, but dead or diseased trees are not very neat at all, and that’s what you are risking by cutting back trees that are slipping into dormancy. Pruning trees stimulates them to produce new growth - it’s meant to. But you don’t want new growth right before winter’s extreme temperatures or snowfall. It will not have sufficient time to fully develop and harden. If the sap in a tree starts to rise and then the temperature falls below freezing, the tree can be severely weakened. A much better time to prune them during the winter when they are fully dormant or after they have bloomed in the spring.

It’s also important to trim correctly when the time comes. Using sharp cutting tools is important, and it’s best to trim back to the main stem. Any truncated pieces sticking out will be more vulnerable to disease or insect predation. To avoid either of those spreading to other trees or bushes, make sure to fully clean your tools after you’ve cut branches off a diseased tree. You can do this either with either soapy water or by adding a few tablespoons of bleach.

Another reason, if you need still need one, not to prune in the fall is that, for much of the North American continent, fall is the rainy season. You should always prune in dry weather because bacteria and molds flourish in the wet and die off with heat and dry air.

Of course, the exception to the rule of no fall pruning is dead or injured tree branches. Don’t feel guilty about trimming a damaged tree after a fall storm. And it’s always good to remove dead wood or eliminate dangerous limbs - but use caution or hire an experienced arborist for any challenging jobs.

Different species of trees have different growth cycles. If you can’t identify your trees or do not know their special characteristics and you value their good health, it’s best to do your research or leave the pruning work to tree experts. If you need advice on how to best care for your trees, do not hesitate to contact an expert at Chop. Our job is to make sure your trees are in the best possible health, and we love doing it.

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