A common concern facing any gardener, from beginners to the keenest of green thumbs, is when the best time of year to prune trees and shrubs is. This age-old question is hard to give an accurate answer to; different species of trees and shrubs have different requirements of when is best to cut them back. Any search for advice on when is the best time to prune will give a range of different answers, which just adds to the confusion! However, as a general rule, the following should be considered:
Tree pruning – Summer is generally considered to be the best time of year to prune, as this is when the tree is most actively creating its own energy. Care must be taken to remove only a small percentage of the canopy, so that the tree will be able to replace the energy lost in pruning through the process of photosynthesis. If you are pruning in the summer, make sure you follow these tips on how to work in the sun safely.
Winter pruning can be undertaken; however, the debate here is that you are removing the tree’s stored energy at a time of year where the tree is least active. Also, pruning activates the natural defences of a tree, and these are slower when the tree is dormant. This may cause potential pathogens to enter the tree, which it would have been better able to combat if the tree was cut back in more active months.
It is also worth considering the type of tree that you are wanting to prune, since deciduous and coniferous trees need to be handled differently. Conifers often do not require pruning, save for the removal of damaged or diseased foliage in the summer.
What is more important is when NOT to prune a tree. Most trees should not be pruned in the spring when the sap is rising and releasing its stored energy from the roots. Equally, trees and shrubs should not be cut back in early autumn when the tree is sending its current energy down to the roots for storage over winter.
And of course, there are times when a simple prune or trim is not sufficient, particularly when you need to substantially reduce the amount of shade in your garden. On these occasions, it may be worth considering whether your tree needs reducing, rather than just pruning.
By following these general rules, you should be able to tackle that pruning job with confidence, knowing that your trees and shrubs will be better off for it!
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