Extension Agent for Horticulture
Serving home gardeners and Green Industry professionals, including commercial fruit & vegetable producers.
Advisor to: Christian County Master Gardener Association; Downtown Hopkinsville Farmers Market.
Trees are valuable components of our ecosystems, not to mention the cooling and other benefits they can provide around our homes. But sometimes you may need to cut one down. From a wildlife perspective, the best time to cut down a tree is in the winter. All else being equal, I prefer removing trees in the early to mid-winter, rather than later in the winter.
What Are Some of the Reasons to Cut Down a Tree?
There are many reasons why you might choose to remove a tree from your property. Some common reasons include:
It is a hazard tree which poses a safety risk to people or personal property. If it is a safety risk, it doesn’t matter what time of the year it is. The tree should be removed to make the area safe.
The tree isn’t a safety risk – yet, but you can tell that it is going to be and you’d rather take care of the problem before it becomes critical. Whether you can wait until winter will depend on the circumstances.
You want to manage your property for a prairie / grassland habitat, a savanna habitat, or an open woodlands habitat. Prior to European settlement, much of the eastern U.S. was a complex matrix of habitats ranging from open prairie / grasslands to closed canopy forest. Today, grasslands and shrublands are some of our most rapidly disappearing habitats as they are developed or allowed to grow up into forests.
You want to do a timber harvest.
Why Is Winter the Best Time to Remove Trees?
During the spring and summer, trees may be used as maternity or nesting sites. We all know that many birds nest in trees. Many of our bats also form maternity colonies in tree cavities or under loose bark. Baby birds and baby bats can’t fly. Cutting down a tree in the spring or summer risks killing any baby birds or baby bats in the tree.
In the winter, we don’t have any nesting birds or bat maternity colonies to worry about. Few, if any, of our bats hibernate in trees so you aren’t likely to disturb any bats by cutting down a tree during the winter. Birds may roost among the tree’s branches or in small cavities, but those are transient roosts. Winter birds can, and often do, move from one place to the next. So, if a winter roost disappears, the birds will just move to another. However, many of our owls and some of our hawks will begin nesting in late winter or very early spring, which is why I prefer to remove trees in early to mid-winter, if possible.
There are many reasons why you might need to cut down a tree. Those reasons will vary from person to person and may include safety, economic, and habitat management considerations, just to name a few. Cutting trees in winter, especially the early to mid-winter, will typically have the fewest negative impacts on your local wildlife.
Many Kentucky gardeners grow tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes for their own use or for sale in local farmer’s markets. Pests are sometimes challenging to identify and even more challenging to manage.
The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment advocates for a sustainable approach to managing pests by combining biological, cultural, physical, and chemical tools in a way that minimizes economic, health, and environmental risks. A key part of that is to continually scout and monitor your garden to identify problems before they result in a significant loss.
The UK Cooperative Extension publication ID172—An IPM Scouting Guide for Common Pests of Solanaceous Crops in Kentucky—may help you identify common pests. The publication has a variety of photographs that show exactly what to look for in your crop.
Some of the items the publication covers include:
Physiological and nutrient disorders such as vivipary, gold fleck, catfacing, zippering, sunscald, blossom end rot, blotchy ripening, yellow shoulder, and white core.
How much is too much? When a wintery storm is forecasted, our thoughts turn to potential hazards. Naturally, we start to worry about ice on our sidewalks and driveways. Are we, in our excitement over the storm, applying too much deicer? Exactly how much deicer is effective?
Gardening is often thought of as a spring and summer pastime, but you don’t have to give up your gardening hobby just because winter is approaching. Continue working your green thumb this winter with an indoor container garden.
Think of fall in the eastern U.S. and fall foliage is likely to be high on the list of things that come to mind. People will drive for hundreds of miles to admire a forest ablaze in bright red, orange, and yellow leaves. More than one vacation, wedding, or other special event is planned each year with the hopes of hitting peak fall color in an area. Kids love tromping through the fallen leaves and making them crunch as loud as they can. And I’ve yet to meet anyone who enters the woods during the fall and proclaims how ugly the woods look with so many leaves on the ground.
It’s hard to miss the basketball-sized clusters of green leaves decorating the bare upper branches of trees as they reach up to the winter sky. Those basketball-sized clusters of leaves are most often mistletoes. There are several different species of mistletoe in North America, and even more in other parts of the world. Some prefer conifers. Others prefer deciduous hardwoods. Probably the most common species that prefer hardwoods in the eastern half of the U.S. is the American mistletoe, also known as the oak mistletoe (Phoradendron leucarpum). This is the species I’m most familiar with and that decorates the trees on our farm and in the surrounding region.
Trees are often an overlooked asset in the home landscape. Many homeowners fail to realize that their trees can translate to real dollars when it comes to real estate value. Studies have shown that the presence of mature trees in a well-maintained home landscape increases property values by 7%, on average, over comparable properties without trees. This benefit extends beyond the property line.
On Wednesday, October 26, the Horticulture Webinar Wednesdays presents Great Native Alternatives to Invasive Trees with Dr. Ellen Crocker, UK Forestry Specialist. The webinar begins at 12:30 pm EST/ 11:30 am CST.
With ghosts, goblins, and vampires on the prowl in October, it’s the perfect time to plant your garlic for next spring. Garlic has long been viewed as a way to ward off vampires, according to European folklore. Whether that is fact or fiction, one thing is for sure, October is the time to plant garlic. Planting in the fall produces larger bulbs and more complex flavors. Garlic enhances food recipes and is seen as a traditional medicine in some cultures.