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Prune like a Pro: An Arborist’s Guide to Winter Pruning

Prune like a Pro: An Arborist’s Guide to Winter Pruning

As we discussed in our blog Cut to the Chase: An Arborist’s Guide to Pruning, pruning is vital for plant life. Winter pruning is a must for arborists in the Midwest. It's the ideal time to trim and clean up select trees while they rest in their dormant state. There are many factors to consider, but the top priority is minimizing harm while maximizing plant health & structure!

Benefits of Winter Tree Pruning

  • Optimal Healing: A dormant state allows for better resource allocation, aiding in a more efficient recovery process that is often quicker & easier than warm season pruning
  • Lower Disease Risk: Pruning in the winter reduces the risk of diseases like Oak Wilt & Dutch Elm Disease since the insects and fungi that spread them are also dormant

Tree Types that Require Winter Pruning:

  • Oak Trees: Ideal trimming conditions from November to late March to avoid Oak Wilt
  • Elm Trees: Prune from November to late March when Elm Leaf Beetles, carriers of Dutch Elm Disease, are typically dormant
  • Fruit Trees: Prune dormant Apple, Cherry, and other fruit trees in late winter for better, healthier fruit production
  • Maple Trees: Prune in late winter/early spring before buds sprout to minimize sap bleeding
  • Crabapple Trees: Trim in late fall to reduce excessive shoot growth, a common concern during spring or summer pruning
  • Dogwood Trees: Promote enhanced flowering & overall well-being by pruning in late winter/early spring before new growth emerges

Winter Pruning Challenges:

  • Staying Warm: Combat the cold by using proper equipment & preparation. Remember to take increased wind speeds & other inclement weather into account while prepping
  • Mental Toughness: Maintain mental resilience while pruning in low temperatures to finish the job properly & injury-free
  • Knowing Your Limits: Avoid frostbite & other injuries by simply knowing when to stop. Take a break, warm up in the truck, or finish another day – Luckily, the tree isn’t going anywhere!

As you dive into your winter pruning, remember that it's not just a break for the trees; it's your chance to make them even better! Winter is the prime time for these activities, improving health, supporting growth, and preserving overall wellbeing. So, embrace the opportunity to make a truly beneficial impact during the dormant season!


Additional Resources:

Tree & Plant Diseases - The Morton Arboretum

Tree & Plant Pests - The Morton Arboretum

Tree Owner Information - International Society of Arboriculture

Tree Pruning - International Society of Arboriculture

Fruit Tree Pruning - Fast Growing Trees

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