Fall Pruning – Yay or Nay?

Fall Pruning – Yay or Nay?

Now is a great time to prep your yard and garden for the cooler autumn weather. It’s such a relief to have your trees, shrubs, plants, and grass manicured and ready for that first snow before the frost really arrives. Fall yard cleanup and prep work is almost more fun than spring cleaning. However, be careful when it comes to the shears. Many trees should not be pruned at all in the fall. Don’t get too hasty and start lopping off branches on your beloved trees in an attempt to get ahead of the game. There are still plenty of maintenance jobs you can do to prepare your trees for Jack Frost’s visit.

What You Can Prune

In general, arborists don’t recommend pruning trees in the fall time. But, if you have dead or diseased branches, those can be pruned. Dead branches can create hazards in the winter, which is not something you want as a risk on your property. Utah is known for wet, heavy snowpacks, and overloaded branches break easily, causing harm to people or property. Prune away anything dead or diseased before the snow arrives to eliminate the possibility of a branch snapping and falling on someone. If you’re unsure what’s really dead or how bad a portion is diseased on your tree, get a professional to take a look before you guess then chop.

What’s the Big Deal?  

You may be thinking – what is the big deal if I prune a little in the fall? One reason is that cuts need ample time to heal. When it starts to get cooler, your tree knows it’s time to hold on to its resources and go into dormancy. This means it will soon be at its weakest throughout the winter and will be struggling to keep whatever nutrients it can just to stay alive. Any major cuts to the tree during this time won’t be able to heal properly and will negatively impact the health of the tree. Allow for your tree to focus its energy on its root system and maintaining its health during the winter rather than trying to repair damage. If you really must do some pruning, wait until at least the middle of winter when the freezing temperatures are consistent.  

Create a Healthy Space

Having a beautiful yard is a rewarding feeling. Even with the best of intentions, it’s easy to do too much and end up harming plants and trees rather than helping. Keep the fall for mulching (which is helpful around tree roots in addition to vegetable and flower gardens), fertilizing and aerating your lawn, raking excess leaves off lawns and beds, checking for possible diseases on trees and shrubs, and giving your trees some final deep waterings before the freezes. Evergreens will especially need some water this winter after our dry summer. Leave the major pruning to professionals who can help assess the complete needs of the tree and ensure the cutting is done at optimal times for a tree’s health.