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The yard has been raked and tidied up, garden tools have been cleaned and stored, and the lawn mower has been put away; all of the yard work is complete until next spring, right? Not exactly. What many people don’t realize is that the winter is an excellent time to prune trees.

Why now? Sometimes, tree issues are hidden by the foliage during the growing season. With no leaves on the trees, it’s much easier to see the tree’s structure. Pruning is necessary to remove any limbs that are crossing, rubbing or crowded together, and winter is a much better time to spot those co dominant leaders that might need to be removed or cut back from your trees.

Winter pruning also decreases the chances of disease transmission. Trees like oaks and elms should never be pruned during the growing season, only in winter. Fresh pruning cuts on these trees at any other time of year will attract beetles that carry the oak wilt or Dutch elm disease fungus.

Other trees susceptible to diseases like fireblight and canker are less likely to have issues if they are pruned in winter. Pruning in winter reduces the exposure time for contamination of diseases and wood decaying fungi, as new growth in spring begins to seal off pruning wounds.

Most homeowners are inundated with yard projects and maintenance during the growing season so pruning in the winter is also convenient. Because the ground is frozen, many trees are more accessible with specialized equipment. There may also be less of an impact to perennials and other landscape plants growing nearby.

One of the most common questions customers ask is, “How do I know what is dead on my trees if the leaves are gone?” This is where you need to contact an expert for advice. A trained, certified arborist can readily identify dead wood on a leafless tree by checking the amount of live buds and the overall appearance of the bark.

When looking for professional tree care, be sure to consider experts certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and/or Accredited by the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). They are the most knowledgeable and well-trained in industry practices, techniques and tools.

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