As a professional gardener, I am always being asked when the best time of year is to prune trees and if it really matters. The truth is that it really does matter, especially if you want to keep your tree alive and healthy! The easiest way to look at keeping a tree healthy, is to know that trees need their leaves to harvest sunlight and therefore, to prune a tree in the summer months, means that you will be depriving your tree of the nutrients needed in this crucial time of year. This of course also depends on whether a tree is deciduous or evergreen, since they both have very different cycles.
When is the best time of year to prune trees?
The best time of year to prune a deciduous tree is in late Winter, which is when they lay dormant. Deciduous trees are those that lose their leaves in Autumn, their growth comes to a halt and include Oak, Maple, Birch, Ash, Willow and Beech and many more. These trees will heal much quicker after a heavy pruning during its dormant months and keeps the risk of disease low.
If you are looking to prune evergreen trees, which include conifers, holly, laurels and many more, there is a completely different approach to pruning your tree compared to cutting back deciduous trees. This is because evergreen trees need their leaves all year round, but only actually have the ability to grow new leaves in the warmer months. If you cut the leaves off an evergreen hedge such as a laurel for example, during the Winter, your laurel will be unable to get the nutrients needed until March or April arrives, which is when it starts to grow new leaves, if your laurel survives this long without any nutrients of course!
The best time of year to prune your evergreen trees is in early Spring, during March and/or April. This allows your tree to grow its foliage in time for the Winter, keeping your tree healthy all year round! Remember, growth of your tree is slowed down during Autumn and Winter, with many of my customers asking me to do a light hedge cut during the Autumn months, with a view to keeping their hedge looking nice through the Winter months. Although this would only be a light prune, keeping the hedge green, it still comes with unnecessary risk!
How to prune a tree
When pruning a tree, it’s important to make sure that you remove any dead or diseased branches as well as any branches that touch or rub against each other, as this will remove any decay organisms and insects which could then start to focus on healthy parts of the tree, causing more disease and damage. It is also important to try and increase air and sunlight between the branches as this will encourage growth and reduce the risk of disease. Don’t forget to keep a look out for branch that are growing back towards the tree, as well as branches growing vertically!
If you are pruning multiple trees and have had to cut dead or diseased branches, be sure to keep your tools clean to reduce the risk of spreading infection and disease from one tree to another. You can clean your tools by just using hot soapy water, and be sure to dry before re-using.
Should you have any questions about how to prune your tree then please share in the comments below!