May 012012

Customers often ask me when is the best time to prune their trees. The answer depends on the type of trees that need to be pruned and what needs to be removed from the tree. If you are just simply removing dead growth, then any time of the year is acceptable, as long as you make proper pruning cuts. If you are removing live growth from a tree, this is where knowing what kind of tree you are dealing with is important.
As a general rule, typically the best time to prune is when trees are dormant. In deciduous trees, this is after the leaves have fallen off the trees, but before bud break in the spring. The most common deciduous tree in Tahoe is the aspen. Aspens that are in a landscaped area and are irrigated are much more likely to survive the winter with less damage from snow loads if they are properly pruned in the fall. Aspens are a fast growing tree, especially with irrigation, so their cell structure is naturally weaker, making the wood of aspens more brittle. Reducing their growth in the fall creates a better growth pattern and reduces the amount of leverage that extra snow can create on the tree and it’s limbs. When new growth begins in the spring, the pruning wounds will begin to close.
The best time to prune conifers is late winter or early spring. Conifers make up the majority of the flora in the Truckee and Tahoe areas. The most common are jeffrey pine, sugar pine, western white pine, mountain hemlock, white fir, red fir, lodgepole pine, and incense cedar.
The main exception to pruning during dormancy would be for fruiting trees. This is because these trees typically bloom on the previous season’s growth. Therefore, they are typically pruned just after bloom, but can also be bloomed during dormancy. The most common fruiting trees in Tahoe and Truckee are apple trees. These are very common in the downtown Truckee area. They were planted heavily during prohibition to make hard apple cider. Even after prohibition, many of them were left standing and are still around today.

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