Winter is a time when most of the plants around us become dormant—trees, shrubs, and in warm climates like here in Georgia, even grass. But despite what most homeowners think, this doesn’t mean the winter is lawn maintenance-free. As we gear up for March, one of the best ways you can help your landscape is by having certain trees and shrubs pruned—an activity many people think of as a spring task.
Why should I prune during the winter?
There are actually a number of reasons why late winter—particularly February and early March—is an ideal pruning time for many plants. First, it’s easier to see the structure of the tree or shrub while it’s bare of leaves. Second, the timing primes the plant for faster and more robust growth when warmer weather arrives. And third, it limits the spread of diseases. Tree illnesses can be spread during the pruning process by creating open wounds on the tree, which allows access to disease-carrying lawn pests (as well as any illnesses which might transfer through your shears, saws, or whatever else you use for pruning).
Which plants should I prune during the winter?
Not all your plants should have the same pruning schedule. The ideal trees and shrubs to prune in winter are those which flower in the summer, including fruit trees, roses, and certain varieties of hydrangeas. However, avoid winter pruning for any trees or shrubs which flower in the spring, as well as roses that bloom only once per season, gardenias, and most evergreens. You may also want to avoid winter pruning for any “bleeding trees”—maples, birches, dogwoods, walnuts, and elms. These trees produce large amounts of sap if they’re pruned in winter, which isn’t typically harmful, but it can make for a messy job.
For many homeowners, the concept of pruning sounds easy, but when they actually find themselves in front of the tree, they’re not sure exactly what to cut. Here are a few tree care tips to help:
- Start by removing any dead or diseased limbs.
- Your ultimate goal is to accentuate your tree’s natural structure, keep it from becoming overgrown, and allow enough air circulation throughout the foliage.
- Choose a mild, dry day to prune.
- Remove any branches which rub against each other.
- Cut off any “suckers” or “water sprouts” – straight, narrow stems which come up from the base of the tree.
- Never remove more than 25% of a plant’s volume in one season.
When should I call in a professional?
While you may be able to do your own pruning with some practice and research, many homeowners prefer to hire a professional like our experts at Turf Shield Lawn Care. Over-pruning and under-pruning can put a damper on the appearance of your trees and shrubs, and a professional also knows how to prune properly to keep your trees and shrubs as healthy as possible. Safety is also an important factor, so especially for those who don’t have the equipment they need to prune their trees safely and comfortably, it may be best to hire someone who does.
Maintaining a beautiful lawn and landscape may not sound difficult at first, but between pruning, seeding, weed control, pest control, fertilizing, and more, it can add up to be quite a handful. To learn more about how Turf Shield can take the burden off your shoulders while also giving you a more lush, beautiful lawn, schedule a lawn care consultation. Or, for more lawn care tips and to learn about our business, follow Turf Shield on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.