Pre-Spring Tree Care Tips

February 14, 2020

Pre-Spring Tree Care Tips

Tree care is an ongoing process. Pre-spring is good for pruning trees. Tree pruning improves tree health and fruit yield. Thinning your trees before spring allows lighting and air circulation to the fruits near the center of the tree. It’s important to use the right tools for every tree care job. If you are looking for proactive ways of taking care of your trees, then these pre-spring tree care tips will help.

Don’t Over Irrigate

One of the biggest mistakes people make is over-irrigating the soil. It causes premature fruit drop and leads to root problems in the spring season. It may also lead to foliage problems. Make sure that you are monitoring the irrigation system, and you water the trees only when it’s required.


A better alternative is to mulch the ground instead. Mulching keeps the soil temperature 15-20 degrees below that of any patch that isn’t mulched. Mulch keeps the soil underneath moist and induces the growth of worms and fungi that are beneficial for the soil. Mulching improves the efficiency of irrigation water use by at least 50%. Mulching also prevents the germination of most weed seeds.

Use Lesser Nitrogen in Your Fertilizing Program

Use a low nitrogen fertilizing program. Some experts recommend aiming for a mixture with no more than 25% nitrogen content. This ensures good root stability and plenty of fruiting and flowering development.


A substantive part of tree care involves pruning. Pruning is more artwork than science. But it doesn’t need to be hard. Keep reading for some helpful, early spring pruning tips and benefits as well as information on how to prune and what to prune.

Prune at the Right Time

The dormant season is the best time to prune. Anytime after leaf-drop in the fall until buds swell in the spring is an ideal time to prune most trees. For some frost sensitive species (zone 3-4) you may want to wait until the coldest part of winter has passed, because the tissue around the open wounds from fresh pruning cuts can be damaged more easily by extreme cold. For north/central Alberta we recommend pruning fruit trees & less hardy ornamentals between mid February – late March.

Prune early in the season. Pruning multiple times a year is almost never a good idea. There are some specialized pruning forms which require multiple pruning sessions per season, but for most trees pruning every 3-5 years is ideal. Fruit trees may need to be pruned annually or bi-annually. Young trees can also be pruned more frequently until their permanent branch structure is established.

Pruning improves the space between fruits. It promotes airflow and lighting availability to the flowers near the center of the tree. This builds size, character and flavour in fruits in the harvesting season.

What To Prune

Remember, you’re not looking to tip every branch. Prune branches that are tipped out. Look for vigorous growth and take back some of that vigour.

Remove Non-Pollinated Fruit By Shaking It Off The Tree

Non-pollinated fruit is usually smaller and yellower than others. One option is to give the branch a little shake. The amateur fruits will fall off.

Pick Deformed Fruit That Isn’t Shaken Off

Keep looking for any deformities — fruits that don’t look too good — and cut them. Remove as much as you like to add space between the remaining healthy fruits.

Cut Branches Harboring Amateur Fruits

Another option of removing non-pollinated fruit is by pruning the branches hosting that fruit. Experts say that you can prune up to ⅓ of the tree, so don’t worry too much that you’re pruning a lot..

The more you prune at this stage, the better it is for the pollinated fruits that are left on the tree.

Cutting branches rather than individual fruits saves you some time too.

Reduce Fruit Density to Improve Fruit Yield

Instead of tight-spaced clusters of 12 or more fruits, you want only 3-4 healthy ones. Having too much fruit in one place makes it challenging for the tree to hold on to it. The fruit may also not ripen properly.

The 3 Ds of Pruning Branches

Following are the 3 Ds of pruning branches:

  • Dead
  • Damaged
  • Diseased

You can prune any branches that display these characteristics. If you find any branches that are dead, damaged or diseased, then they should be the first to go.

There is a reason why the 3 Ds work so well. You will take off any stuff the tree is focusing on that will not benefit the plant.

Pruning branches displaying these characteristics allows you to isolate the dying part from the rest of the tree.

How to Prune Unwanted Branches?

Aim to cut unwanted branches from the tip. Keep the cutting tool as close as possible to the main stem of the tree.

Some other experts suggest pruning at a 45-degree angle about three leafing nodes (crooks in the branches) from the spot you want to cut.

Again, the more you prune, the better it is for the tree.

How to Prune for Shape?

Pruning a young sapling is also known as ‘arranging’ the branches and other elements of the tree. It allows the tree to form a shape that is best for yielding and holding onto fruit in the seasons to come.

When you’re cutting for shape, the CAC rule helps:

  • Clustering
  • Crossing
  • Acute (branches)

When pruning for shape, you have to look for branches that form clusters, branches that cross each other, and branches that are acutely angled from the tree.

Trees cluster at the top. Clustering is not good for tree growth. Remove the clusters.

Acute branches are branches at sharp angles. They reflect weak points in a tree that won’t be able to bear too much fruit. Any branch having lots of fruit will likely snap.

Branches running into one another promote diseases and affect plant health. Crossings limit airflow too, so it helps to prune branches that cross each other.

Aim for a goblet shape that is capable of hosting the most amount of fruit.

Prune inward branches to promote outward growth.

Pruning Doesn’t Hurt The Tree

Some experts argue that people don’t prune enough fearing that it is painful for the tree. That’s not the case. If anything, the tree will thank you for it in the long run. It’s almost like giving the tree a haircut.

Pruning Tools

Use the Right Tools

It’s important to have the right tools for every job. Tree care is no different. You want the tools to be sharp for nice, clean cuts. A small pair of pruners like Sensei pruners or Felco pruners are suitable for small branches.

If anything is too big for the pruners to handle, use a Japanese handsaw.

Keep the Tools Clean and Sanitized

Keep pruning shears sanitized. It helps to rub them down with isopropyl alcohol before switching from tree to tree, so you’re not transmitting diseases between trees.

Handle the Tools Carefully

Handle your equipment with care. If you’re not careful, you might nip the tree in the wrong place or even hurt yourself.

Neighbours Tree is an Edmonton-based tree care provider with a certified team of arborists and fellers. We offer a complete range of tree services. Contact us today to discuss your tree care requirements.

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