The dormant season is the best time of year to prune most trees because many diseases and insects that can potentially invade pruning cuts are also dormant. It’s also much easier to see the overall form and structure of your plants without the foliage obstructing the view. Also, pruning in the late summer or fall will often stimulate new growth that may not harden off before the cold weather.

That being said, mechanical damage and improper tree care is often the main culprit for tree death. Here are some things to avoid killing your trees:

  • Topping
  • Leaving crossing branches
  • Ignoring pests & disease
  • Painting pruning cuts
  • Leaving broken branches
  • Spraying herbicides over root zone
  • Equipment damage
  • Trenching through the root zone
  • Flush cuts
  • Stub cuts
  • Johnny (hearts) Susie carved into the tree

Now is also an excellent time to plant trees because the shock to the tree is minimal during dormancy. However, poor planting practices can do severe damage to the tree as well:

  • Purchasing a tree that has spiraling roots
  • Planting the wrong tree in the wrong place
  • Planting too near downspout
  • Digging the hole too narrow
  • Digging the hole too deep at planting OR putting gravel at the bottom
  • Over-amending the backfill material
  • Leaving treated or synthetic burlap on the root ball
  • Leaving synthetic twine on the trunk
  • Using non-porous weed barrier under the mulch
  • Pile mulch up onto the bark – causes rot and encourages pests
  • Leaving tree wrap and/or anchors on too long