Landscape Pruning for Vancouver, WA, Winters
The best time to prune a landscape's trees and shrubs, in seasonal climates like Vancouver, WA, is generally during the latter part of winter.
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The best time to prune a landscape’s trees and shrubs, in seasonal climates like Vancouver, WA, is generally during the latter part of winter. This practice helps promote spring growth and reduces the risk for disease. In this blog we will go over the benefits of winter pruning, the best pruning practices, and the tools we use and recommend.
Why do we prune in the Winter?
The primary reason we prune during the winter is because plants are in a dormant state. Plants enter this dormant state as a means to protect themselves from the hazards of winter ( freezing temperatures, dry air, and nutrient shortage). Plants prepare for these hazards by halting soft tissue growth and dropping the existing soft tissue (such as leaves) as they are prone to freezing and providing entry points for cold, disease, and pests. These dropped leaves and debris add insulation to the root system where the vitality of the plant will wait for spring to come. The benefit of pruning during this plant hibernation period is that the plant has already prepared for the damage of winter and is thus prepared to receive the damage from pruning without it affecting its natural seasonal cycle.
What not to prune in the Winter:
Avoid pruning springtime flowering trees and shrubs until after they have bloomed (dogwood, magnolia, cherry, etc…) or ideally before the buds have formed. Additionally, trees that produce a lot of sap (e.g. birch, walnut, maple) shouldn’t be pruned too late into winter as the sap will be messier with the warmer weather.
Additional benefits to pruning in the winter are as follows:
- The absence of leaves allows for greater visibility of the branch structure and any illnesses that may be plaguing it.
- Nesting birds will be absent from your trees and shrubs in the winter which means pruning is safer for them and you.
- Another great reason to prune in the winter is to create more time in the warmer seasons for more pressing matters, whether that be landscaping or relaxing by the pool.
Our favorite pruning tools:
(the name bypass denotes a cutting mechanism as opposed to crushing)
Bypass pruners are a go-to in landscape maintenance. They are made for cutting softer branches of various sizes. The mechanism typically includes one curved and sharp blade and one similarly curved and blunt hook-like blade that form a pair of scissors specially designed for securing and cleanly cutting branches.
Bypass snips are similar to the bypass pruners but are for smaller branches/stems. This tool will be your best friend when preparing a bouquet or tending to your flower beds.
Bypass loppers might be the most satisfying of all pruning tools. These are made to cut branches up to 2 inches thick. The long handles of this tool create leverage to increase the cutting force. This means they are extremely powerful at cutting and should thus be treated with extra respect and caution.
Saws, Pole Saws, and Chainsaws
Saws are essential for branches and trunks too large for the bypass loppers. Hand saws and pole saws are great affordable options for trunks and branches at ground level or in the trees but get ready to sweat! Alternatives include chainsaws and pole chainsaws, which are much more powerful and thus warrant much more respect and caution.
Hedge Trimmers are awesome tools so long as you have a steady hand and a good eye. Trimming hedges is much like cutting a head of hair, you can only take away and cannot add. We recommend practice and prudence until you are more comfortable making level sweeps and passes.
Lastly on our list, and most importantly, is safety gear. This includes safety glasses, face shields, gloves, pants, hearing protection, chainsaw chaps, proper footwear, hard hats, respirator masks, and anything else your project’s risks might necessitate. Obviously these are not all needed for every project but should give you a good checklist to see if you’re missing anything. Also worth noting, safety gear requires safe practices in order to be effective. Please do your due diligence before starting any serious maintenance projects.