Guidelines on pruning damaged trees; prune any oaks now

pruning oak tree in winter
Photo courtesy New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

We’ve had high winds this winter that have damaged some trees and shrubs across Western New York.

Those trees and shrubs may need pruning. Here is information to get you started.

Make safety a priority

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has good information about pruning damaged trees.

The first thing they talk about is safety. Any work that requires a chain saw or can’t be performed from the ground should be done by a professional tree-care service or arborist. You should also consult a professional when assessing trees for possible removal.

If a damaged tree poses a safety issue, get that taken care of as soon as possible. Unsafe conditions include a branch that is dangling or loosely attached, a branch that hangs over power lines, a trunk that is split or a tree that is leaning.

There are also defects in trees that could cause a safety problem; see more information from the DEC on those tree defects here.

Oak trees should be pruned by end of March

You should also move quickly when it comes to oak trees. If you want to prune an oak tree for any reason, even if it’s not damaged, do it by the end of March to avoid the risk of spreading a nasty tree disease called oak wilt. The disease hasn’t been spotted in Western New York yet, but it has been identified in other parts of New York State.

November through March is the safest time to make cuts on oaks because both the oak wilt fungus and the beetles that spread the disease are dormant, according to the DEC. Winter pruning can also benefit trees by helping them grow more vigorously in the spring.

More information on pruning trees and shrubs

This blog post from Cornell University offers some introductory information on pruning.

Find more detailed information in these two publications:

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