Dormant Pruning

Have you ever wondered why there are so many landscapers out trimming trees and shrubs in the midst of our bitterly cold Midwestern winters?  No, they are not gluttons for punishment.  There are many reasons to take on this task in the winter.

“Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle.” 

Barbara Wink

Plant health is a primary reason to prune during the dormant season.  There are several things to consider; disease, pest management, structure, sunlight and air circulation.  During the dormant season we can see the structure of trees and shrubs giving us an opportunity to eliminate crossing branches that may rub, producing a wound or entry point for pests and disease.

Looking at a tree with no leaves to hide its structure permits us to see where we need to create openings in the form of the plant allowing for sunlight and air circulation.  A tree unobscured by leaves also provides an opportunity for dead and diseased wood to be spotted easily and pruned out. Pathogens and insects are much less active at this time of year putting the plant at much less risk. During the winter months, the ground is frozen minimizing soil compaction and most perennials have been cutback for the season.  Thus winter pruning provides vital maintenance at a time that causes the least disturbance to the plant and in the garden.  Trees and shrubs pruned during dormancy are ready to begin spring with healthy vigorous new growth.

Nora Kennedy, Senior Gardener