Tips and Learning: Why is it so important to prune your trees in winter?

14th January 2019

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Winter is the ideal time to prune your trees. Ignoring this, or doing a poor job, could consign your trees to long-term issues in health, in fruitfulness, in growth, and even in its very survival through the long cold months.

In this article I’ll share a few of the many reasons why winter pruning is so important to your trees and why it should become part of your annual plan for maintaining the good heath of your trees.

Winter pruning can help to manage the shape, size and health of your trees. Why winter? Because without the leaves on many trees you can better see where to prune, and it’s easier to spot damaged or diseased limbs and identify branches that have been weakened by storm winds. Also, when you prune you create an open wound, a doorway for diseases and insects to infiltrate the tree through, but in winter there are fewer of both around, making it safer for undertaking such work.

Here are our four primary reasons for pruning in winter:

  1. Encourage larger fruit tree bounties

Fruit trees and bushes require careful pruning as each has a different goal that pruning facilitates. For example, in the case of apple trees, it’s to encourage additional fruiting spurs. Then for blackcurrants it’s the removal of lighter older stems so the plants can focus its energy on its younger stems which will yield greater crops of fruit. Letting in more light and air through pruning to thin the number of branches will also encourage growth on all fruit trees and bushes.

  1. Encourage healthy root systems

When you’re looking to establish new trees and plants, it’s vital that you start from a strong foundation. Therefore, it’s the root system that must be prioritised in the early years. The energy that goes into growth is limited, so if you want to encourage root systems to expand you must prune back your new plants and trees in the wintertime. This pruning should not be limited to branches, it should also apply to additional shoots that may appear at the base of your tree or plant.

  1. Encourage healthy growth

Illnesses and insects are fewer and slower in winter – the perfect time to spot the damage they have caused and deal with it. Diseased, dead or dying branches should be removed so infections can be halted and new growth encouraged. It’s also good practice to remove branches that cross as they will rub against one another and cause wounds which could be prone to infection or infestation.

  1. Encourage survival

Winter time is often when we see the strongest winds – if the canopy of your trees is too dense, you run the risk of is acting as a sail, pulling the tree over, putting additional strain on the structure and increasing the risk of it collapsing. Thinning canopies out to allow a decent flow of air through the branches not only encourages growth of the inner branches due to the additional sunlight they will now get, but will also reduce the possibility of your tree falling due to the horizontal stresses of winter storm winds.

Knowing how best to prune each individual tree depends on its species, size, age and many other factors. It would, therefore, be advisable to ask for a professional to look after pruning, not least because the right equipment and techniques are needed to minimise the damage that result if this were poorly done.

If you would like to talk to one of our arborists or tree surgeons about pruning your trees this winter, call us on 0208 292 8992.

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