Fall: The Best Time of Year For Pruning

Fall best time for pruning and shaping

Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year. Crisp, cool air, vibrant foliage, football games, and apple cider. It is also one of our busiest times of the year because it prime for tree pruning and shaping.

Broadleaf, deciduous trees prepare for winter in the fall by reducing metabolic activity in the leaves which causes the colors to change as chlorophyll is removed. Sap is slowly withdrawn from the branches and as a result, the leaves separate from the tree and fall. During this dormant period, pruning and shaping has minimal impact on the tree.

Pruning Basics

Pruning and shaping are essential activities to ensure a healthy tree canopy and maintain a safe size. When done properly, pruning stimulates new tree growth and ensures that inner branches receive enough light to support foliage. This provides for a thick, healthy tree canopy and excellent shade production. For fruit trees, pruning ensures continued fruit production year after year.

Basic tree pruning is perfect for the DIY gardener and great how-to information can be obtained from your local extension service. Here are a couple of articles we find helpful: OSU Basic Pruning Guide and and VSU Guide to Successful Pruning.

4 Basic Pruning Rules to Follow

  1. Avoid pruning after the trees have produced buds in the spring and before their leaves have dropped in the fall (the same season applies to evergreens as well) You can prune dead branches and damage during the summer but keep in mind any time you prune a living branch, you increase stress on the tree which might make it more susceptible to disease.
  2. Take a step back and view the tree from a distance to identify branches that extend beyond the desired shape of the tree. Then do the same thing from several different locations. Take note of any crossing branches, branches that overhang a sidewalk, or vertical “water sprouts” that will need to be pruned. In the fall take note of any foreign growth, such as mistletoe, that needs to be expertly removed.
  3. Assess whether you are capable of removing the branches yourself with the tools you have (see below for recommended tools). Keep in mind the height of the branches and how a ladder might be limited by terrain.
  4. Make cuts close to the node to allow for new growth. Clean your equipment with a bleach water solution before and after each tree.

If you determine that you your project is beyond your capabilities, give us a call.

Recommended Tools

  1. Hand shears (non-anvil type) of good quality. Don’t skimp here, because a clean cut is essential to your tree’s health. Anvil type shears tend to leave a tail on the branch and compress the branch during the cut.
  2. Loppers. Used to cut larger branches, these will make your life a lot easier. Again, don’t use anvil type loppers and buy a good quality product.
  3. Pole-Pruner. A lopper/saw attached to telescoping pole, this tool is must in your tree-trimming arsenal. We’ve heard good reports about this 14-ft model made by Fiskars.
  4. Pruning saw. This is good to have for those really thick branches. If you have a reciprocating saw, they also make pruning blades.

Pruning will help your trees to thrive and make you a better gardener. As always, we are available to help with all of your tree shaping needs.

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