We’re finding ticks any time we’re over 4 degrees. Do you see anything wrong with moving most of our pruning to the late winter? Obviously every shrub and tree have their own best times for pruning, as do perennials, and I do intend to still prune in warm weather, but all the hoops I need to jump through, not to mention protective clothing I’ll have to wear, as well as articles suggesting I cut down tall grasses, add more gravel, etc. is taking away the joy I used to associate with gardening in good weather. What would you recommend to a gardener wanting to keep her chin up?


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.

Unfortunately, because of climate change and the milder winters that we are currently experiencing gardeners are seeing ticks  in greater number and earlier than normal.

Ticks prefer cool, wet, shady places. By creating open, sunny areas by pruning trees to let in more sunlight, keeping a well-maintained yard free from debris and cutting back overly long grass, most gardeners can keep the pests at bay.

 Typically, the best time to prune many deciduous trees is late winter while the buds are dormant or very early spring before the sap runs and buds break. Pruning at this time of year stimulates new vegetative shoots. When you cut back a dormant branch this results in the loss of apical dominance and causes two or more side shoots to emerge below the cut. As a result, winter pruning is done if you want to force new shoots to fill in empty spots or to shape your tree by cutting off large branches.

Pruning your trees or shrubs in the summer has the effect of mildly stunting or dwarfing your trees or shrubs. The partial removal of leafy branches in the summer means there are fewer leaves to convert sunlight to stored carbohydrates allowing the gardener to control the overall size of the shrub.

Of course, there are always exceptions in general:

Shrubs that bloom in the spring such as Lilac, Rhododendrons and Azaleas should be pruned just after the flowers fade. Pruning these shrubs too early in the year will result in removing the years flower buds.

Shrubs that bloom in summer or fall such as the paniculata type hydrangea can be pruned in early spring since the flower buds are formed on “new wood” (current years growth)

Lastly, dead, diseased, dangerous and damaged wood can be removed any time of year as needed.

I have found a number of links on preventing ticks in the yard:

Creating a Tick-Resistant Garden, Avoid Lyme Disease While Gardening, Preventing Ticks in the Yard,

Gardens play an important part in our well being. A garden might serve as a tranquil retreat or private escape from the demands of everyday life. After a stressful workday I find a few hours of  pulling weeds can be a great release for stress and excess energy. I am forever amazed at the beauty of nature whenever I stroll through my garden. With a little change in when you prune and creating open sunny areas will renew your love of gardening and keep these pesky critters at bay.