Late in the fall when the threat of winter manifests itself in the first flying snowflakes, people turn their attention from the bitter cold outside to the warm glow of their television sets inside. It is understandable to get out the heavy blankets and hunker down for the remainder of the season, but this time of year happens to be perfect for braving the elements in order to assess the pruning needs of your trees.
Every year clients and property managers ask whether it is possible to prune their trees without any leaves on them. The answer, of course, is YES! Dormant pruning offers several advantages both for plants and clients.
During dormancy the trees store the majority of their energy in the root systems.
This means that removing any branches and wood is less stressful to the plant because it isn’t subtracting a key component to the photosynthetic process – the leaves. In some cases, this can also allow your arborist to be more aggressive when selecting cuts for structure pruning. The tree will then respond during the spring, in an attempt to balance the root to shoot ratio, by pushing out a more pronounced flush of new growth and encouraging a healthier, more vigorous tree.
Pruning during dormancy can help protect against harmful insects and pathogens
The dormant season also means cold, dry weather which is in direct contrast to the wet, warm weather responsible for the spread of many tree related pathogens. Pruning cuts can act as another entry point for these diseases because pruning cuts, although precise, are technically wounds to the tree. In some cases, wounds attract insects that themselves vector disease. So, dormant pruning lessens the probability of any unintended infections.
Arborists love dormant pruning because it makes their job easier.
Assessing hazards like poor branch attachments, cankers, hollows, and deadwood, is much easier without a full canopy. Think of it like a doctor taking an x-ray. It is much better to see the complete structure of the tree before any work is done. Also, it is easier to see where cuts can be made to lighten weight on heavy leaders, remove structural defects, and improve branch spacing.
Dormant pruning can present cost savings as well.
Frozen ground and the disappearance of perennial gardens can allow equipment access to otherwise inaccessible parts of the property. This may present unique opportunities for improved work site flow, eliminating time consuming efforts by the crew to protect understory plants. This can mean the difference between several hours of labor and/or additional heavy equipment costs.
With so many added bonuses, why wouldn’t everyone take advantage of pruning during dormancy?