Winter Tree Maintenance Tips


People tend to forget about trees during the winter months. We assume that’s because the trees are dormant, they don’t have growing leaves or flowers, and little maintenance is required. However, winter months can, and should, be utilized by those of us who may be concerned with the health of our trees and those of us who just want to connect with trees year-round!


Wintery weather is coming back to Grand Rapids making us wonder: have you checked in with your trees yet? With storms, ice, de-icing salts and temperature fluctuations in our future it is time to connect with your trees, let see how:


First, if you have a Gator bag or other watering bag around your tree, it’s best to remove it during the winter months. During winter, these gator bags can attract mice and other small mammals who may like to snack on the bark of your young tree. Remove gator bags until we are past frosty weather.

  1. PRUNE

The natural winter dormancy of many trees, as well as improved visibility of a tree’s limbs and structure when leaves are gone, make winter a good time for pruning your trees. Here at Friends of Grand Rapids Parks we believe the main reasons to prune a tree are for safety, health and aesthetics. Let’s go over the tips for pruning your trees:


First, you will want to assess your tree and determine if it is developing a healthy branch structure. Producing strong structure should be the emphasis when pruning young trees. Visit the International Society of Arboriculture’s (ISA) young tree pruning guide to learn more about young tree pruning. Remember that pruning newly planted trees should only be limited to the removal of dead or broken branches. All other pruning of young trees should be withheld until the second or third year post-planting, when the tree has recovered from the stress of transplanting, and has established itself in the new environment. Pruning should take place during these early years to limit the number of larger branches that will need to be removed later in a tree’s life. Removing a large limb is a lot more damaging to a tree. This is why it is important to anticipate the growth of a tree and handle structural issues early in a tree’s life.



Remove any damaged or diseased limbs, crossing branches or branches that are growing too close together.

in our neighborhood forester pruning and maintenance class, participants learn how to use the 3-cut method of pruning trees:

  • CUT 1: UNDERSIDE Make a shallow cut on the underside of the branch that needs to be removed, near the branch collar. This cut will stop any bark that attempts to rip down to the main trunk.
  • CUT 2: BULK Remove the bulk of the branch’s weight. Cut about 5 cm further from Cut 1.  The second cut should be outside the first cut, all the way through the branch, leaving a short stub.
  • CUT 3: PRECISION Make a precise cut just outside the branch bark ridge/branch collar, eliminating the majority of your stub.

Take note of branches that could fall and cause injury or property damage, as well as branches that are growing in or towards a utility line and call an arborist for consultation if concerns are identified.


Join us at our next Pruning and Maintenance class at Harmony Hall from 6-8pm on February 15! Learn more about the event and RSVP HERE!

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