Summer vs. winter pruning

Traditionally, shade and fruit trees are pruned in late winter. However, another school of thought promotes pruning in the summer. What are the advantages and disadvantages of summer pruning?

Trees that are "bleeders," such as maples, birch, beech, poplar, cottonwood, aspen, elm and willow, ooze sap when pruned in the spring. This running sap is messy and attractive to ants and other insects. In drought years, this excessive moisture loss can stress a tree. Therefore, the best time to prune these trees is late summer or early fall. Prune other deciduous trees that don't bear fruit in the spring, before they are covered with leaves. This allows you to more easily see their branch structure and make your pruning cuts accordingly.

As for the best time to prune fruit trees, opinions vary. Penn State literature promotes summer pruning, stating, "Traditional dormant pruning (of apples and peaches) restricts root growth and reduces tree trunk enlargement, while it stimulates growth near the cuts. The later in summer you prune, the less likely the chance of regrowth during the season of pruning."

However, New Mexico State University still recommends traditional dormant season pruning. Their experts say, "Most pruning (of apples) should be done during the dormant season and before spring growth. Typically, summer pruning is a selective training procedure aimed at weakening vegetative growth while promoting flower production. Flowering spurs often develop at summer pruning cut sites."

So, how do you decide which advice to take? I recommend considering "the comfort factor." I'm much more comfortable pruning my fruit trees when it's warm in the summer, than in February when it's freezing!

If you would like more information on proper pruning of fruit or shade trees, roses or grapes, contact me at or 887-2252.

In addition, with fire season just around the corner, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension is offering to advise homeowners in Carson City about what they can do to better protect their homes from the threat of wildfire. We will visit your property and complete a checklist, looking for several things that make a home more or less vulnerable to the threat of an oncoming wildfire.

You may also attend a free vegetable gardening class, 6:30 Ð 8:30 p.m., March 22, at Bartley Ranch, 6000 Bartley Ranch Road, Reno. Master Gardener Randy Robison will share his secrets on how to grow award-winning vegetables.

For more information, e-mail or call me at 887-2252. You can "Ask a Master Gardener" by e-mailing or call your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at

- JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.


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