The grass that inhabits your lawn needs ample sunshine to thrive. Many varieties require four to six hours of direct sun each day, which can be a challenge if your yard also includes trees and woody shrubs. Annual pruning of trees that cast shade on your lawn can let significantly more light through, so your grass can flourish underneath. In addition, pruning your trees and shrubs each winter keeps them strong and less susceptible to disease or insect damage.
Once basic pruning is complete, analyze any areas where grass appears thin due to heavy shade. In many cases, simply raising the canopy of nearby trees and shrubs, by eliminating the lowest tiers of limbs, will provide enough light for your grass to thrive. If not, an expert arborist may be able to strategically thin the canopy to increase the amount of sunlight on problem spots.
Follow these tips for successful winter pruning in your yard.
- For large trees, it’s always wise to hire a professional. They make it look easy, but dropping heavy limbs from overhead is difficult and dangerous work. However, you’ll get better results if you educate yourself so you can discuss your projects knowledgeably with the pros.
- Small ornamental trees and shrubs can be pruned by homeowners with basic DIY skills. Trim deciduous trees only after all the leaves have fallen. For flowering trees and shrubs, wait until just after blooming finishes.
- If you decide to do the work yourself, be sure to start with freshly sharpened blades and tools for cleaner cuts—the branches will heal faster and more thoroughly.
- Before pruning healthy branches, inspect the tree or shrub and remove any diseased or broken limbs. Always thoroughly clean tools with bleach after cutting diseased branches to avoid contaminating healthy plants.
- Remove suckers — small branches growing perpendicular to the trunk — as well as any crossing branches. Branches that cross against each other may rub through the bark, exposing the tree to potential infestation or disease.
- Next prune for symmetry, removing branches that seem to run at odd angles compared to the others, like branches that run straight up or down.
- As a general rule of thumb, remove 25% of the canopy or less each year to preserve the health of the tree or shrub. The limbs and branches should cover the top two-thirds of the overall height, both for aesthetics and to keep the tree strong.