Assess Pruning Needs
Now that other yard chores have slowed down, many gardeners turn to their
landscape plants to assess their pruning needs. Dead limbs can and should
be taken down whenever they are present. But cutting into live tissue
should be delayed until late winter or early spring. That is the time
of year when the pruning cuts will heal most rapidly.
Pruning at the wrong time of year will not kill a tree or shrub outright,
but may lead to other problems. Pruning in autumn may cause some late
new growth which does not harden-off properly and could be injured by
winter extremes. Wounds that are slow to heal over are more susceptible
to further dieback during the cold, windy months ahead.
Autumn is a good time to determine which plants need attention and to
choose a pruning service, if needed. Pruning of most shrubs and small
trees can be easily completed yourself. Young trees may need some thinning
each year to remove weak or damaged branches or excess growth. Make notes
of what to cut next winter or spring before the new growth begins. Most
mature trees should not need pruning except to remove dead limbs. For
large limbs or tall trees, it's best to call a professional who will have
the proper equipment and skill.
Whatever the tree or shrub, remember that topping is not a sound pruning
practice. Topping results in numerous, fast-growing new shoots which
are much weaker and more susceptible to wood rots than the original growth
and in the case of large trees, are more likely to cause damage to property
and power lines.
It is important to do your homework before you hire a professional.
Check with your friends and neighbors to see if they can recommend a particular
firm. Look in the yellow pages of the telephone directory under tree
service. You can narrow the list of choices by selecting those that belong
to professional organizations such as an arborists' association. These
associations sponsor continuing education programs to help keep the members
up-to-date. Be sure to ask the firm for estimates and references from
their current customers.