Rich in Fairfax Station writes: “I help a neighbor lady who has a large river birch that’s very close to her front door. She wants to remove some branches that are beginning to have an impact on her access. They are not small branches. When is a good time to remove them, and how should we seal the cuts to prevent disease from entering the tree?”
You are very wise to ask before cutting, Rich. Now through the beginning of winter is the worst time to remove healthy branches from a tree, especially one as magnificent as a river birch.
Pruning during the growing season always stimulates new growth, and during summer’s heat, having to produce that ill-timed new flush of growth greatly stresses a tree. Pruning in the fall is even worse, as it prevents the tree from going into a natural dormancy.