While January may seem like the time to cut back on garden tasks, it’s actually a prime time to start cutting back your plants. Pruning is an important January activity, especially for plants like fruit and nut trees.
While deciduous trees are dormant in winter months, it’s a good time to remove crowded or overlapping branches. This will allow you to open up the center of the tree for better light exposure and airflow. You’ll also be better able to identify deadwood or damaged branches that need to be removed. It’s also a good time to reduce the height or width of your fruit trees, especially if you’re keeping them in a smaller urban space. Take care though not to over-prune your fruit trees as you could reduce your fruit harvest by doing so.
Why not wait until February to prune? It might be tempting to wait until temperatures start to warm up before you head out to do your major pruning. But when it comes to fruiting plants, the last thing you want to do is interrupt their bud break or blooming cycle. If you wait too long, plants may come out of dormancy and begin to put on new foliage and flower buds. It’s best to get them pruned while they are still dormant.
January is also a good time to prune your deciduous shade trees and large shrubs. Again, deadwood or weak branches are more easily identified during winter. If you live in an area where oak trees suffer from Oak Wilt disease, then it’s very important to have them pruned before spring arrives. Depending on your region, Oak Wilt disease transmission can begin as early as February 1st and last through June or July. Pruning oak trees in spring can leave them susceptible to infection.