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This is usually the age-old dilemma that besets many a conscientious gardener through-out the calendar year.

Well why prune? Good and effective pruning, if done at the right time of the year, can:

  • Remove unwanted, dead, damaged, and diseased wood that can harbor over-wintering insect pests and disease.
  • Invigorate new growth and better health in flowering trees and shrubs.
  • Promote increased fruiting and flowering in fruit and specimen trees and shrubs
  • Improve overall appearance and form.
  • Decrease the potential for winter snow, wind and ice damage by the selective thinning of the canopy.
  • Protect a home-owners landscape investment by ensuring that they don’t out-grow their intended space.
  • Help to create a safer environment for people, homes, pets and wildlife.

The dormant season, considered early winter to early spring (or time before buds begin to break) is usually considered the best time to prune many deciduous tree and shrub species, as their leaves have already fallen, their structure can best be seen; allowing plant wounds to heal quickly without the threat of insect or disease infection.

Be wary of tree’s that bleed sap such as birch, maple, oak and elm. Pruning trees in early winter can help reduce the likelihood of spreading oak wilt and other tree related diseases.

Flowering can also be prevented or enhanced by pruning at the appropriate time of the year. For flowering shrubs, it is best to know if the new season flowers are produced on the new season growth, or last year’s (or second year’s growth!). Generally for flowering shrubs, pruning should be done after flowering has finished; which, depending on the species is usually late spring to early summer. If the shrub blooms later in the season on current season’s growth, then generally late winter or early spring pruning is the recommended choice.

Finally having the proper pruning tools, in good working order, is essential to getting the job done right! This is what you need and why:

  • Pruning Shears – probably the most important gardener’s tool, cuts up to a ¾ inch diameter
  • Lopping Shears – have longer handles and provide ease of cutting by providing greater leverage to cuts up to 1 ½ inch diameter.
  • Hedge Shears – meant for pruning hedges only!
  • Hand Saws – very important for cutting branches over 1 inch in diameter.
  • Pole Saws – similar to what a hand saw does but allows for extended reach up the canopy!
  • Chain Saws – these are for the savvy gardener and landscape professional that requires a heavier duty tool to cut larger size tree branches. Protective clothing and goggles must be worn and extreme cautioned exercised when using these tools!

Below are a few recommended links worth visiting that gives our readers more information on pruning; all links cited below referencing selected plant material.