As seasoned gardening enthusiasts know, some of the most important work you will do for your trees and shrubs should take place before spring even arrives. Calgary landscaping experts agree that late winter or early spring is usually the best time of year to prune branches from large plants. For trees, a good rule of thumb is to do your pruning before sap starts flowing, which occurs once temperatures are regularly reaching above-freezing levels.
Calgary Landscaping Means Pruning in Late Winter
Pruning is usually done during the late winter or very early spring because it’s the time of year when trees and shrubs are dormant. During dormancy, the plant’s growth and development cycles come to a temporary pause. This means that trees and shrubs have extra energy to devote to the post-pruning healing process.
Think of it like this: when you prune a tree or a shrub, you’re essentially slicing down its limbs and appendages. Just as you would be injured if someone snipped off the end of your finger, so too is the tree when you prune its branches.
However, when a plant is in its dormant phase, it doesn’t need to spend as much energy gathering or distributing nutrients. Energy that would otherwise be spent on circulating sugars or performing photosynthesis can instead be dedicated to healing, helping the plant recover from pruning more quickly than it would during its active phase.
Another reason cooler temperatures are the best time to prune trees and shrubs has to do with pests. When you prune a tree, it is much like creating an open wound where pests, insects, bacteria, fungi, parasites and other potential threats can make an easy entry. Since these creatures are also far less active during winter, it’s less likely that your trees or shrubs will suffer the adverse effects they can cause.
A Quick Guide to Out-of-Season Pruning
With that in mind, remember that there are situations when you’ll want to prune a tree or shrub during other times of year. For example, pruning can be performed to encourage more robust flowering and blooming. In this case, you’ll need to make a distinction:
- For plants that flower during the summer, prune during the winter or early spring.
- For plants that bloom during the spring, you should prune them after their first flowers fade — usually in mid-to-late spring.
You can also prune out of season if your objective is to stunt or direct a plant’s growth. For example, you may want to prevent a large tree’s branches from extending too far over your fence and onto a neighbour’s property. This type of pruning is best performed during the summer, once the plant’s seasonal growth phase has completed its course.
Finally, emergency pruning can be performed whenever it’s necessary. The presence of damage or disease makes pruning necessary to protect the overall health of the plant.
Pruning Tips from the Pros
If you’re going to try to prune on your own, follow these handy tips from professional landscapers:
- Stick to pruning smaller branches as much as possible. If a branch is less than 5 centimetres in diameter, you can prune it without worry. Anything larger than that should only be removed if you have a very good reason, such as damage or disease.
- It’s best to prune young branches, as this reduces the severity of scarring.
- When pruning branches, don’t cut them too short or leave them too long. Branches shouldn’t be left with stubs, nor should their collars be cut away.
- As a general rule of thumb, look to prune trees with “V” shapes rather than “U” shapes. V-shaped branches are weaker, while U-shaped branches are stronger and healthier.
- Finally, for trees, try to keep branches spaced out evenly, and prune away branches that rub up against or cross over other branches.
Of course, there are situations when you’ll need the experienced hand of a qualified pro.
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