Many trees and shrubs should be pruned in winter. The plants are dormant and, , cut branches will generally not “bleed.” For others, a winter pruning ensures a great flush of growth in the spring.
Pruning is both a science and an art and having the “right tool for the right job” is very important as it can save time, money and the plants’ overall health.
Some of the main categories of pruning tools are:
•Hand pruners: These tools are available in assorted sizes and come in two configurations. Anvil bladed pruners have a straight cutting blade that presses onto an expanded flat platform to sever the stem and often damage tender bark. Bypass bladed pruners are recommended for tree pruning because the curved blade makes a clean cut on the bark and the pointed tip will reach into crotches to make close cuts.
All hand pruners have a size limit of branches they will cut, generally one-half inch. If you find yourself using two hands to squeeze the handles to make the cut, you are using the wrong tool. Pruning holsters are a good place to safe-guard hand pruners and can be attached to your belt.
• Loppers: Generally used for cutting larger branches, from one-half inch to two inches in diameter, they come in different sizes, with larger blades and handles for cutting thicker branches. The handles are available in either wood or metal.
• Tree Saws: May be used on any size branch and are required for larger branches. Saws with folding blades are becoming popular because they are safer to store and transport. If you select a rigid saw, you will probably want to purchase a scabbard (sheath) to slip the saw into when not in use. The scabbard may be attached or snapped to your belt or loops of your pants for easy carrying and quick access when up in the trees. Tree saws have one main peculiarity: you pull the blade to make the cuts and gently push the blade back to reposition it for another pulling cut. Always wear safety goggles and gloves while pruning any plant.
• Pole pruners: Are modified hook and blade loppers on an extension pole, operated by pulling a rope downward. This allows a person to stand at ground level and prune small to medium size trees with a maximum reach of about 10 to 12 feet. These generally have spring-action and should be well lubricated to keep a rebound of the spring movement.
• Pole saws: Pole saws are similar to pole pruners, but a saw blade is attached to the end instead. Some manufacturers make telescoping extension rods for poles and others use sectional extensions with snapping locks. A pole may be extended up to 20 feet if you are strong enough to manipulate it safely.
• Chainsaws: Can be dangerous and should be used only by professionals. There are many standard straight blade hand-held chainsaws that come in various blade lengths. There are also light weight extended pole chain saws that have many practical uses but as always, power chainsaws must be handled with knowledge and safety in mind at all times.
When your pruning project is too large and overwhelming, call a professional arborist to assist you. The landscape around your home is an investment, so protect it with proper care and stewardship. Always think safety first with any type of pruning tool.
Roger Boddaert is a Certified Arborist who can be reached at (760) 728-4297.
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