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Growing Concerns: Why trees should be pruned in winter dormancy

November 4, 2018 GMT

I continue to get people asking if we really work in trees during the winter. I think many homeowners have disbelief that we would want to work outside in the season most people find to be quiteinhospitable.

Here are several advantages to dormant season pruning, that runs from about mid-October through early April.

Disease management. Several species of trees have restrictions on pruning during the growing season because of the risk of disease spreading through fresh pruning wounds. Scheduling work when the trees are dormant allows us to work in all tree species that may be on a property, which improves our work efficiency.

Tree physiology. All tree species respond well to wounding from dormant-season pruning. Knowledgeable arborists can also manage growth and elicit specific growth responses with proper pruning techniques. This is an especially useful when pruning young trees, where managing development is a primary focus.

Visibility. Inspecting trees and working in them is much easier without leaves obstructing visibility. We can better identify structural defects, set ropes and move around in trees after their foliage drops.

Visual impact. Pruning often requires removing portions of trees that impacts their form. When done during the dormant season, the visual impact is less noticeable and the new growth in the spring helps fill in the canopy for the next growing season.

Time. Summer is a busy season for tree care professionals. Requests for estimates go up because homeowners are in their yards more and thinking about getting outdoor work done. We also have more storm damage, diseased tree removals and clearance pruning where trees encroach on facilities after spring growth. Winter provides a great window of opportunity to do non-urgent maintenance pruning. Scheduling pre-booked work can also improve scheduling efficiency allow cost savings for customers.

Access. Working on trees often requires access with equipment and also results in branches being dropped during the pruning process. Work can be done with less potential for damaging lawns and perennial beds after the ground freezes.

Income. Winter is a long season in Minnesota. Companies need to maintain an income to support their employees and families. Seasonality is one of the most difficult challenges for green industry business. Hiring and retaining good employees is very difficult if we can’t work all year. This is critical in tree work because it is a high-risk work environment where experience and well-trained workers are essential to maintaining safe and efficient crews.

Requests for tree work typically slow down considerable after trees go dormant and temperatures cool down. This is really the season when homeowners should be contacting arborists to evaluate their trees and get recommendations on tree pruning.