While it may seem like a good idea to maximize your time and do any necessary tree cutting after hours, cutting trees at night is not a good idea. There are many reasons not to cut trees at night, but do you know what they are?
The low visibility caused by the dark can cause you to make a mistake on yourself, your tree, or both. While you may have a busy schedule, you can take advantage of lighter times of day, such as dusk or dawn, to beat the heat and care for your tree around your regularly scheduled daily routine.
Often, cutting a tree at night will not even cross your mind but, on the off chance this is something you’ve considered, we’ll spell out why and how this is not the best plan. Stick around after to learn more about cutting trees and best practices!
Why Should We Not Cut Trees At Night?
1. Your Own Convenience – There Are No Benefits Of Cutting A Tree At Night
So, here is our first question to you: why stay up late or get up super early to cut a tree? In reality, dusk or dawn works well if you are looking to beat the heat of the day and cut your tree without worrying about the sun beating down on you in the afternoon or evening.
These two times of day are also good options when you are looking to fit in some yard work around your busy schedule. Say you have to work at 9 am and will not be back until later in the afternoon- either of these times at the very beginning or end of the day will certainly be optimal and convenient.
This brings us back to the question about why you would cut a tree in the dark, as it often indicates you will have woken up extra early or kept working well through the day to cut those branches.
Don’t get us wrong, the dedication is great, but there are no benefits of cutting a tree at night. So, why waste your precious time and energy on nighttime cutting when there are perfectly good hours of daylight?
Besides losing some precious beauty sleep, cutting a tree in the dark is significantly more painstaking than during the day when visibility is higher. Visibility makes doing yard work much easier.
Why not wait until you can see what you are doing without having to use a flashlight, headlamp, or other illuminating objects?
During the day, you will not have to worry about having the proper type of headlamp to see what you are doing. You can simply worry about the type of shears you might enlist to help you cut your tree.
Options like these Fiskars Bypass Pruning Shears are a crowd-pleaser thanks to the convenience they provide while pruning a tree since we are on the topic. The all-steel blades allow for less friction and rust resistance.
Instead of losing sleep, both figuratively and literally, focus on the other ways you can make cutting your tree the most convenient, painless process!
2. Low Visibility Can Cause This To Be A Troublesome Task
While convenience is a big factor to consider, it is not the only one.
It may seem like common sense not to cut a tree at night, in the dark, when you can barely see a foot in front of you. Many people, though, may also just take a headlamp or flashlight and get to work.
Why exactly is this such a bad idea in terms of safety?
We certainly do not want you to cause an issue with yourself (or your tree). Doing manual labor with sharp objects in a low-visibility environment is a big no-no for obvious reasons.
If a tree is close to other objects like a fence, a garden, your home, or utility lines, the low-light conditions of working at night could knock over something important. It may also crash into something you would prefer to be left untouched.
You’ve probably seen fallen trees before, whether it was a full tree after a storm or a big branch. They sometimes leave you wondering how on earth they just fell down.
Well, pruning your tree at night is a good way to increase the odds of branches falling down- especially if the structural integrity of the tree is already lacking.
You may not notice another significant structural defect in your tree in the dark. Cutting around a weak or cracked area could lead to other parts of your tree falling unexpectedly. While this could also happen during daylight hours, the likelihood of noticing will be much higher in the light.
Similarly, you could knock yourself down or even cut yourself if visibility is enough of an issue.
So, save yourself the danger of tree-cutting at night and plan to pick a time during daylight hours when you can safely (and more easily) cut your tree!
3. Trees Are Asleep At Night, And You Should Be Too
Let’s circle back to the idea of getting some sleep!
Did you know, technically, trees are asleep at night, too?
Purdue University’s Forestry and Natural Resources Extension confirms trees droop their branches at night and will lean over a bit. It’s like they are slumping into sleep for the night, as well.
You may have noticed this sort of behavior in flowers, as they appear wilted or drooping before sunrise and into the early hours of the morning before the sun dries up morning dew and flowers regain their composure.
It is no surprise, though, if you didn’t know this about trees. In fact, most people don’t.
There is an assumption trees are sturdy enough, and built so differently than delicate flowers and even certain bushes, that their composure remains day and night.
Well, like all living organisms, there must be some time for rest built into the lifespan of a tree.
At night, trees are not undergoing the process of photosynthesis and can find reprieve during those darker hours.
Cutting drooping branches, if only ever-so-slightly, is not a great idea because those same branches may be oriented a bit differently during the day.
As we now know, trees also lean at night, if even a few centimeters. The tree itself may not be as structurally sound to be climbing, cutting, or engaging with in any intensive way.
Cutting your tree at night most likely won’t cause deep damage by nature, but the night is certainly not an ideal time to do this.
Since trees are not undergoing photosynthesis, a process heavily reliant on the sun, at night they accumulate more CO2 on top of having droopy branches.
As you can gather at night is not an opportune time to be cutting your tree. The viability of cutting a tree aside, you may always succumb to your weariness and fall asleep at the blade (it’s like the wheel, but a different level of ‘bad idea.’)
Trees are asleep at night, and you should be too!
So, what else is there, on top of interrupting your sleep, potentially causing problems, and cutting branches that are not in a position to be cut (literally and figuratively, that is?)
4. You Might Miss Spots And Under Prune Your Tree
So, speaking of low-visibility again, let’s talk about outcomes less dramatic than hurting yourself or falling asleep while you cut your tree.
While you are pruning your tree, the goal may be one of many things:
- Reduce the possibility of branches falling and causing damage
- Rid your tree of a diseased limb or two
- Reduce the amount of weight on one side of the tree
- Make your tree look more aesthetically pleasing
- Remove an infested section you cannot save
Whichever reason you have for cutting your tree (or if you have one not on this list), your baseline goal of pruning is to help your tree.
One of the most important aspects of pruning, cutting pieces of your tree away, is to see what parts of your tree you are removing.
If you cut your tree in the dark, you might miss spots and under prune your tree. This creates a whole deal of extra work for you later. It can make infestations harder to eradicate, the canopy can appear lopsided, a branch could break off and fall on your car, or whatever other scenarios may occur.
These things are avoidable so long as you cut your tree when you can see what you are cutting down.
On the flip side, cutting trees in the dark could lead you to be overzealous.
5. You Might Cut Something That Didn’t Need Cut And Over Prune Your Tree
If you cut your tree when it is dark out, you may do the opposite of underpinning, and cut too much off of your tree.
Picture this: it’s 9 pm and you head out and prune your tree (for whatever reason that may be.) You’re pruning away, and suddenly you see a dark spot on a branch and think that it must certainly have some sort of decay happening.
You decide to cut the branch down and then head off to bed. In the morning, you see the branch looks perfectly fine and realize it must have been a shadow you saw.
Low-light situations lead to lots of tricky shadowing and visibility issues. This can cause you to cut off too much of your tree’s canopy.
The University of Florida tells us removing too many low branches at one time, or over pruning, can lead to complications like masses of sprouts popping up in the area and causing the tree to appear disfigured.
Another complication of over pruning, or incorrectly pruning, is it can cause damage to the tissue of the tree, leading to open wounds not properly closing. This can then translate to decay, disease, infestation, and more.
Trees need their branches to survive. They are necessary to the tree’s survival, so proper pruning is a must!
6. Cutting A Tree At Night Increases The Difficulty And Amount Of Work
Finally, just remember cutting a tree at night significantly increases the difficulty of the task, with no benefit. You’ll also likely be doing much more work than you would during the day, causing a strain on your body, your eyes, and your tree.
We don’t want you to get in over your head, and trying to prune your tree at an inopportune time could quickly go wrong for many reasons.
If you are still wondering what other options you’ve got, keep on reading to find out!
What Should You Do Instead Of Cutting Trees At Night?
This one is easy!
Read a book, watch a movie, go on a jog, paint a picture…
We’re joking, sort of.
Really, though, this is a simple answer. Just wait until morning.
As we mentioned above, dawn and dusk can work as substitutes for nighttime tree cutting when you are trying to beat the heat or a busy schedule.
Otherwise, make a weekend activity out of your yard work and cut your tree around mid-morning, so you are not overtired and can do so safely.
On that note, how does one properly cut trees during the day?
Great question, reader! Let’s dive in:
How To Properly Prune Trees (During The Day)
When you can safely decide to cut your tree during the day, you should know how to do so properly.
So, what are the right steps in this case?
First, safety is still key in this situation. While cutting trees at night is considerably more dangerous, difficult, and painstaking overall, there are still factors to consider when you cut a tree during the daylight hours.
You’ll want a good pair of shears, like those Fiskars we mentioned above, or perhaps a longer-handled pair such as the Centurion 3- Piece Lopper, Hedge Shear, and Pruner Combo Set, which gives you access to 3 tools in one for the price of well, one.
You’ll also want to factor in the time of year, and you should not attempt to prune your tree during the winter months unless you live in an extremely temperate area with steady weather patterns.
You can read our guide on the best time of year to prune large trees here.
What else should you be aware of during this process, though?
Things To Be Aware of When Cutting Trees
There are multiple things to consider when you go to cut down a tree, and those considerations go far beyond the time of day you decide to bring out your shears.
We talk about needing to prune certain branches because of decay or breakage, but you should inspect the limbs first to see if they will fall at an odd angle or potentially hit something on their way down.
Cracks of trees may house more decay than you realize, or animals you do not want to harm during your branch removal process.
If you do not feel comfortable inspecting these things, or feel shaky on the ladder when you decide to get up there and check things out, reach out to a trained professional.
It’s great to take the initiative and do these things to care for your tree, but there is also no shame in getting help. Especially if pruning your tree puts you at any sort of risk.
That’s All for Now
Thanks for sticking around to learn why exactly you should avoid cutting your tree at night, as well as some ways to prune successfully at any other time of the day.
When all else fails, remember these six reasons not to cut trees at night:
- Your Own Convenience
- Your Safety
- You Should Be Asleep, So Is Your Tree
- You Might Under Prune
- You Might Over Prune
- You’ll Be Increasing Difficulty and Workload
Remember, you should do this instead:
Cut your tree during the day to avoid lots of extra strain on your eyes, your tree, and everything in between.
With that, we wish you all the best on the rest of your tree journey, and hope we can help again soon!
Mitchell, D. L., Gallagher, T. V., & Thomas, R. E. (2008). The human factors of implementing shift work in logging operations. Journal of agricultural safety and health, 14(4), 391-404.
Narwoko, B. P. (2005). Implementation of Tree Cutting Best Practice Based on Reduced Impact Logging Guidelines for Indonesia on Tangguh LNG Project.
Download My Free E-Book!
If you’re new to planting or want a refresher, take a peek at my guide on choosing and planting your very first tree. It specifically details planting trees in your yard and goes over the wide variety of options you have to start your #treejourney!