Can I Prune My Trees In The Winter?

on .

While the best time for pruning may depend on the tree species, the most overlooked time for pruning is winter.  A frequent question asked of our team of Certified Arborists is, “When is the best time to prune?”  The simple answer is that trees can be pruned any time of the year, as long as they are pruned correctly and no more than 25 percent of the tree’s canopy is removed.  But winter pruning might be the most opportune time with many trees.  For deciduous trees, those that drop their leaves in the fall, winter reveals the full structure of the trunk and branches, exposing crossed or rubbing limbs.

Sometimes, homeowners delay pruning on deciduous trees until spring or summer, when it is easy to see any deadwood that needs to be removed.  While that seems logical, our climbers are highly skilled at identifying deadwood during the dormant season, and can remove it efficiently.

Winter pruning can have another important advantage, in that we can usually schedule the work much quicker.  Our production crews work year-round, and are available to prune throughout the winter months.  We appreciate the opportunity to care for your trees, and your patience when demand is such that we are scheduling weeks out.  Winter pruning may provide you the opportunity to have the experts your trees deserve, without the wait.

For over 30 years, Paul Bunyan's Tree Service has been providing quality tree care.  While the scope of services we provide is broad, pruning is the service most frequently requested.  Pruning services can range from simply providing minimum height clearances above streets, sidewalks, and alleys to meet city ordinances, to extensive end weight reduction to reduce the likelihood of structural failure or extensive storm damage in majestic old trees.


Sleet, Snow, and Freezing Rain....OH MY!!!

It is the time of year when all good arborists start to worry about ice and snow damage to our trees.

The weather events of the past week justify those concerns.  Often times, we are so excited to actually get a little snow, we overlook the potential damage that can occur.  The dramatic change to a little snow is welcome, until it just keeps coming down.  Joy quickly turns to fear as your White Oak snaps a limb—and it falls on your favorite holly.  If you were a tree, your biggest concern beyond the effects of humans, is the effects of Mother Nature.

If you only have deciduous trees, those that lose their leaves, you may think you have no worries.  Enough ice can buildup on limbs without foliage to cause breakage.  A half-inch of ice on a limb will dramatically increase the weight load on limbs, trunks, and roots, leading to structural failure.

Although we had great fall color and warm fall weather, the mild weather slowed the drop of the leaves.  As a result, trees that did not lose their leaves have more surface area for the ice or snow to buildup, increasing the odds of breakage.  Although the tree is dormant, it is much more susceptible to damage.

Sleet, following cold rain, is also a problem because the sleet sticks to wet limbs and foliage causing the rain to freeze.  If you already have snow buildup on limbs and leaves, the sleet adds to the weight.

The best defense against ice and snow damage is to work diligently now to minimize any future impact.  Extremely severe weather can cause the loss of most, if not all, trees in an area, regardless of any efforts to reduce the damage before it occurred.  However, damage from less severe weather can be lessened by inspecting trees for weak branching habit that is likely to fail.  In some cases, weak areas can be reinforced with cables or bracing rods.  Ideally, poor branching structures—tight “V” shaped forks or attachments, should be removed when the tree is small.  Doing so eliminates the risk of that fork splitting as the tree matures.

Beyond resolving weak branching habit, longer limbs in trees that tend to have broad, spreading canopies, should have the end weight reduced to lessen the surface area exposed to ice, snow, sleet, or high winds.  Professional tree climbers are trained to climb out to the ends of the limbs to reduce the weight.

Arborists also consider the strength of the wood for each species of tree when determining corrective actions for structural deficiencies.  An oak will typically have strong wood, whereas a maple will be weaker wooded and more likely to break.

Ice, sleet, and snow buildup can cause tree limbs to bow to a great degree without breaking.  The affected branches will return to their previous position once the ice and snow melts.  In some situations, the limb can contain internal cracks that are difficult to see, or the vascular system is damaged to the point that it permanently retains a bent shape.

Once you have an ice or snow problem, little can be done until the weight load melts.  Low limbs on larger trees or smaller ornamental trees can sometimes be braced with wood or other materials.  However, doing so can put someone at great risk should the tree or limb fail during the process of propping it up.

Once the severe weather event is over, standard tree care practices should begin.  This includes removing broken and damaged limbs by making proper pruning cuts, evaluating any splits or cracks in trunks or branches, inspecting and adjusting any cables or bracing rods on mature trees, and adjusting staking hardware on newly planted trees.

The snow and ice can be beautiful, when it comes to the risk it may present to your trees, the adage, “Be careful what you wish for.” applies.

If your trees have suffered damage from the recent storm events and you need one of the Certified Arborist at Paul Bunyan's Tree Service to assess the damage, contact our office by phone or by completing a service request on our website.  Our arborists can also assist you by developing a specific pruning program for your trees that will reduce the likelihood of ice or snow damage in the future.






S. Stiltner, Cloverdale, VA

Thank you for all your help and for hiring nice, clean, respectable young men...very professional.

GCR Tire Center, Roanoke, VA

I would like to thank Tim Hullett and Paul Bunyan's Tree Service, Inc. for their outstanding professionalism.  I approached Tim about clearing...

Read More