Winter is a great time to prune your trees and shrubs. The sap is not running, the leaves are long gone, and clean up is easier. Pruning is a good idea to remove suckers, disease, old growth, and to reshape trees.
A good pruning will produce higher yields on fruit trees, stronger branches and trunks, and extend the life of your landscaping. Generally, I prefer pruning when it’s still cold, but I can comfortably use my hands and get to the trees.
Not all trees and shrubs are best pruned in Winter. Be a student of your garden and learn which are best served with a Winter haircut. Raspberries, roses, clematis, grapevines, wisteria, vines, and apple trees. Pruning wastes can be mulched or used as fire kindling. Wood from fruit trees and hardwoods can be dried and used in the smoker grill.
Some trees and shrubs can also be pruned in other seasons depending upon your goals. For more fruit and flowers, prune apple and pear trees in Winter. Remove dead branches and suckers. Other flowering fruit trees need to be pruned before or after flowering. Cherries get a black rot on their branches that is best cut off now. Other fruit trees get suckers that are long and flimsy. These branches show plenty of growth but no strength to hold fruit.
Not pruning is not an option. Nature will take its course and the tree will grow out of control and shape. The branches will rub on the houses and lose any attractive appeal. Fruit harvests will be minimal and low. New trees are expensive and take years to grow. Keep your landscaping under control and healthy.
To prune your trees, use a sharp pair of shears or a saw. Hand pruners work great but larger limbs may need to come off. Insects are also dormant in Winter so they will not be a problem. Prune near a branch or node. This is where branches leave the main limbs. Cut just above these intersections.
For vines, leave a few, stronger branches for future vines to climb on. Again, just prune an inch or so above the nodes. When plants are cut back, they go into stress and strive to create more seeds, flowers, fruit, and growth. This healthy haircut will encourage a healthy and vigorous recovery. The hair will grow back healthier and thicker.
Hunters and anglers can also do some pruning to enhance/improve trails to hunting areas, fishing access spots, or to any food sources planted for wildlife.
Winter pruning also allows you to really inspect your trees and shrubs. It becomes more obvious what needs to go or what the trees shape will become.
Cut it back, cut it back, way back!