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Forest Products Extension

Tis' the season for cutting trees?

Historically, winter has been a time when people cut trees for the simple reason that they were generally too busy in the warmer seasons with farming and other pressing concerns. Nowadays we have the freedom to log in every season and indeed logging activities take place nearly year-round. But the question remains: Is there a best time of year to cut your trees?

In terms of the quality of the wood itself, it makes very little difference what time of year the tree is felled. Experience has shown that timber cut in the cooler months is less likely to develop sapstain and other fungal infections. However, this is because the cold weather isn't favorable for the rapid growth and reproduction of the fungi – winter-cut logs would stain just as quickly if they were exposed summer weather. It is always a good practice to mill and dry logs quickly but a number of additional steps can be taken to discourage mold and stain in warm weather: end-coating the logs to prevent exposure of the wood to spores, sprinkling of log yards to keep it too wet for the fungi, and dipping fresh-sawn lumber in fungicide solutions.

Some people have speculated that wood cut in the fall and winter should weigh less, since the “sap is in the ground.” However, the water content of wood is roughly the same year-round. It is true that it is much easier to remove the bark from a log in the spring but this is because the weak layer of newly-formed, unlignified cells under the bark is easily broken; the log isn't wetter or weaker.

The fall is a busy time in the logging industry. Sawmills and lumber-using operations try to build up their raw material inventories before the wet conditions in the late-winter months make it difficult to access the standing trees. As inventories are drawn down in the early spring, there may be a premium paid for accessible timber at that time. However, there are so many factors that influence the market for logs that trying to predict timber prices is a very tricky business.

In the end, the best time for cutting trees is the same as it's always been: Whenever is most convenient for you.

Wood moisture content is only one factor affecting how many logs this truck can carry.

For more information, contact:

Adam M. Taylor
Tennessee Forest Products Center
2506 Jacob Drive
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996

Phone: 865-946-1125
Fax: 865-946-1109

Adam Taylor's email