This is the big month for pruning deciduous fruit trees and vines. Basic guidelines for winter dormant pruning are to remove crowded or crossed branches, to open the center for good light exposure and airflow, to repair structural weakness, to remove vigorous vertical-growing branches (waterspouts), and to reduce the height or width of the tree to keep harvesting easily within reach when standing on the soil.
Take care to not leave stubs or to overprune in any single year, as this encourages excessive new foliage and less fruit.
An excellent, inexpensive, and easily-used disinfectant for pruning tools is rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol. Wipe shears with the alcohol after pruning every several cuts to avoid spreading any diseases. Clean the blades extra well before moving to another tree or bush.
Pruning cuts that are under one-and-a-half inches across don't need protective covering. Paint larger cuts with an off-white or sand-colored interior latex paint that has a matte finish, not a glossy one – paint must be latex-based for interior use since exterior-use paint is oil-based and will suffocate tree pores.
Never use black asphalt substances or dark-colored paint, especially on south-facing surfaces, since they will concentrate the sun's heat, baking and killing the tissue that the tree is trying to heal.
Pruning citrus trees requires a different approach. Remove entire branches at the trunk. Heading branches back--cutting off only portions--will remove wood that would have blossomed and set fruit this coming season and stimulate more bushy growth.
Cane berries are most easily pruned when all their leaves have fallen off and the buds have just begun to fill out and show their light pink color. The dead canes and the plant structure are then quite apparent, and the thorns are more easily avoided.
When clipping away all the dead growth at the base of the plant, be careful to not injure the new pink shoots at the crown. Then prune each strong cane from the root crown about six inches above its point of attachment to the top horizontal support of the trellis.
Prune side shoots just after the third strong bud. This second-year growth is where most of the blossoms and berries will set.
Spread and re-anchor the upright canes evenly along the trellis in order to keep the area open for good ventilation and promote the even spread of developing foliage.
This pruning and trellising procedure will encourage strong growth of fruiting vines but not of unnecessary foliage. Another approach, cutting down all dead and growing vines at the soil level in a clean sweep, is an easy approach, but it encourages weak bushy growth resulting in only a few berries setting very low on the plant.
The choice of pruning approach depends on the specific varieties and trellis structures you have. Generally, grapes will bear on second-year growth, so prune to encourage this.
Pencil-sized grape cuttings with at least four nodes can be used to start new vines. To identify which end is which, cut the bottom (root end) of the cane flat across, and cut and the top (foliage end) at a slant. Bury the lower two nodes in the soil. Don't be concerned if new foliage doesn't appear from the upper nodes until very warm weather, as the strong root system develops first.