Winter in the North West
Winter has arrived in the Pacific Northwest, which means a lot of rain and little sun. It’s no surprise, then, that many of us take shelter indoors and put off landscaping chores until the spring. After all, what fun is landscaping during cold drizzle?
But did you know that winter is actually the best time to prune the trees on your property? Read on to learn why winter pruning is important for your trees.
Why Is Winter Tree Pruning Important?
Regular and properly executed tree pruning is important to ensure the health, strength, and beauty of your trees.
Dead, broken or diseased branches and root suckers (root sprouts) should be pruned at any time of year to avoid further damage to your tree. That said, because most trees in the Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA areas experience seasonal dormancy, pruning live branches should wait until the winter months when trees are dormant.
Pruning live tree branches during the dormant winter months (November through March) encourages vigorous new growth in the spring without depriving the tree of actively photosynthesizing tissues. Meanwhile, pruning your trees during the active spring and summer growing season removes leaf surfaces that are busy manufacturing food for the next year’s growth. While light warm-weather pruning will have little impact on future growth, in some cases, heavy spring and summer pruning can damage young buds and leaves and slow your tree’s growth. Ask a Certified Arborist about any pruning project you are planning.
Typical tree disease agents are dead or dormant during the winter, diseases are less likely to be transmitted through pruning completed during winter.
Finally, pruning also makes your trees safer as they endure the winter season. Damaged, dying or dead limbs can pose danger when winter storms bring heavy wind, ice, and snow. Dormant pruning prevents at-risk branches from causing damage to your home, people or property.
Winter Tree Pruning Tips
Using well-maintained, sharpened and durable pruning cutters will make the work easier and ensure that cuts are clean, saving your trees from damage. Once you have the right tools, you’ll essentially use two techniques used when pruning your trees.
TECHNIQUE 1: THINNING
The first technique, “thinning”, is the removal of an entire tree branch, cut nearest the next branch or tree trunk. This technique promotes better tree health and structure by removing any weak, broken or diseased branches and allowing greater light penetration into the tree canopy.
Be sure not to cut into the base of the area you are removing. You’ll want to leave a branch stub that is neither too long or too flat to the base. Cutting into the base or “branch collar” can damage your tree, slowing down its healing process and increasing the risk of infectious disease.
TECHNIQUE 2: HEADING BACK
The second technique, “heading back”, involves shortening the length of the branch by cutting at a slight angle just above the bud or the closest side branch. Unlike during thinning, you do not leave a stub when making a heading back cut. This is because stubs left from this pruning technique may rot and welcome unwanted tree pests and disease through the rotted area and into healthy portions of the tree.
The successful pruning of a tree usually incorporates both techniques to achieve the desired result.
Start by pruning the dead and diseased branches first. Then, remove any overgrown branches to increase light and air flow at the crown of the tree. Finally, you can remove the root sprouts.
Ideally, you want to keep any healthy branches that support the existing structure of the tree. An important rule of thumb: do not remove more than 25% of the tree’s branches. Removing too many will encourage unwanted sucker growth. Each species and specimen will have different requirements. Ask an ISA Certified Arborist.
Signs To Look For When Pruning
During pruning, it’s the perfect time to examine your trees for signs of damage, distress, and disease. Take the time to inspect each of your trees carefully. Look for these following common signs of tree distress or disease:
Dead and fallen branches that measure more than 2” in diameter
Deep, vertical cracks along the main trunk
Holes and sawdust on the trunk from wood-boring insects
Discolored and thinning leaves
Fungal growth on tree roots and trunk
An imbalance in the weight of the tree canopy above the trunk
If you see any of these symptoms in the trees on your property, it’s a good idea to call an ISA Certified Arborist for advice.
DIY Tree Pruning Vs. Calling A ISA Certified Arborist
If you’d prefer to handle your own tree pruning, it’s important to learn the proper techniques. The Portland Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry program offers classes on pruning here.
However, many homeowners prefer the peace of mind and convenience of calling an ISA Certified Arborist. The crew at Cascade Tree Works LLC is here to take pruning off your plate, and to ensure that it is done properly in order to maintain your tree’s health and vigor. Stay cozy inside while we do all the work!
Our knowledgeable ISA Certified Arborists and experienced staff are ready to safely, properly and efficiently take care of all of your tree care needs! Call us today at (360) 889-8680 to schedule a free, on-site consultation and estimate. Or, if you prefer, contact us via email here.
If you have trees that need pruning in the Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington area, give Cascade Tree Works a call. Our experts are happy to assist you in keeping your tree beautiful for years to come! Call us at (360) 889-8680 or send us a message via our contact page to schedule a consult and quote.