Now that it's finally warmed up enough to spend time outdoors, I'm finding some landscape surprises. The latest: a huge broken branch on my small back-yard maple tree, that apparently cracked under the weight of all that winter's snow.


Time to rent a chainsaw and cut off the damage, I figured. So I decided to do a little research first. Spring is not the optimal time to prune, according to (, a web resource provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Trees are putting their energy into leaf production at this time, and pruning them now puts the tree in a stressed state and at greater risk of disease.

Summer months and later winter or dormant season are the best time to prune, according to Mntrees. But having that cracked branch dangling for several months didn't really look like it was in the tree's best interest either. So I called arborist and plant pathologist Mark Stennes of S&S Tree Specialists (

Stennes has seen a lot of snow-ravaged trees this year. "There was quite a bit of early damage, particularly to columnar arborvitae," he said. If the damaged tree is not a safety hazard, it's generally optimal, at this point, to wait until the dormant season to prune.

But after I described the state of my sad maple, Stennes said waiting probably wasn't the best option. "With a crack like that, you should cut it off." Assuming the tree was healthy to begin with, it should weather the procedure just fine, Stennes said. "We're pruning all the time."

So I guess I have my work cut out for me this weekend. How about you? What winter weather fallout are you facing this growing season?