March is the month for pruning trees of all kinds. Wait for a nice day when the weather warms up a bit, especially on the weekend when you really feel like doing something outside. Hopefully that warmer day will happen early in March because you really want to get the project done before the buds on the trees get to swelling up. Save seed planting, such as tomato seeds, etc. for a later date… preferably in April.
Now I know that everyone thinks that they have no business pruning back trees, as they are no experts on the subject. Well that is true for larger trees but for smaller ones, it is just not that tough and it is much easier to visualize what you are about to do when there are no leaves on the tree. Simply stand back and look at the shape of your tree, trying to see which branches are going the wrong way or which ones stick out too far. Look for areas where the branches are too thick or possibly rubbing together during windy weather. And cut off lower branches completely if they get in the way of walking or mowing.
Pruning paint is not necessary in most cases; in fact new statistics show that pruning paint is not recommended anytime you have a clean cut as it inhibits healing. Try to make all of your cuts clean, as torn bark and limbs tend to draw insects and disease. Better to re-cut than to paint. Keep in mind too, that when you cut back branches, it will most likely be necessary to cut them back all the way to the main trunk. Eliminating and thinning branches is what you are doing, not just shortening the length of a branch.
Why do you think that you cannot do the job better than the city when they cut and butcher the trees up by the road? Those trees seem to come back just fine, however it may take them an extra year or two. While you are pruning, look for suckers and remove them all. Suckers do not just grow from the base of the tree as some grow straight up from horizontal branches. Use pruners for the thin branches and a tree saw for the larger ones. Using a carpenter saw will not make the job easy. When cutting larger, heavier branches, start by cutting up from below the branch at least 1/3rd of the way up, then cut from the top…this helps prevent tearing the bark. Cut the same way when using a chain saw. Try cutting a heavy branch by first cutting it off and leaving a couple of feet of stump, then cutting the stump back to the trunk.
These pruning rules apply to most trees with the exceptions of maple, birch and black walnut trees as their sap will run in the spring; better to prune them in the early fall. Also, grapevines tend to bleed if pruned too late in the spring so forget waiting on a warm day and get the job done today. February is really the time for pruning grapevines. Applying a top dressing of composted manure on your grapevines as well as your rhubarb plants would be another job for the month of March.
One more time…save the seed planting for April.