Carol Chernega has been a writer, lecturer, and professional gardener for over 20 years. Her business, One Garden at a Time, specializes in hand pruning. She works mostly in the Eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA See her in action at:

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Pruning Tools  

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Pruning Tools
by Carol Chernega - posted 05/01/17


Are you heading out to buy pruning tools? Here are my tips for choosing the right ones.

Most homeowners only need Three Basic Tools.

First, hand pruners. These can be the anvil type (one cutting blade hitting a flat surface), or bypass pruners (shown in picture) which work like a pair of scissors – two blades passing each other as they cut. Many people avoid the anvil type because they can crush the branch rather than cut it. But if the pruners are sharp and in good condition, they should work just fine. The factor that causes crushing is when people try to cut a larger branch than the pruners are designed to cut. This can crush the branch as you struggle to make the cut, and it also strains your wrist.

Follow this rule of thumb: Only use hand pruners to cut branches that are less than ½ inch in diameter. If you find yourself struggling to cut a branch, you should move up to a lopper.

A lopper is a long-handled tool which makes it easier to cut larger branches with less effort. It allows the tool to do the work. You can cut branches up to an inch and a half with most loppers. You can also find extending reach loppers (tool in middle in the photo.) These open up and extend the length of the lopper so you can reach higher.

For thicker branches, move up to a hand saw. I like a folding saw that has a good sharp cutting blade.

If you have a lot of tall trees and shrubs, you might want to consider a pole lopper, which will help you reach branches up to twelve feet off the ground. Anything higher than that, and you should consider hiring a professional.

Notice I haven’t mentioned hedge trimmers. I rarely use them except for pruning boxwood and cutting down ornamental grasses. This will be discussed further in another post.

Keep your tools clean – after each day’s work, clean the blade in soapy water, rinse, and dry thoroughly. Then apply a light coating of household oil to the blade to keep it from getting rusty.

If you’re good at sharpening, you can sharpen the blades after about twelve hours of work. If doing the sharpening yourself doesn’t interest you, take them to a professional sharpener.

That’s it. Those three tools will help you accomplish 80% of your pruning tasks.


NOTE: No endorsement is implied on any particular brand. It’s important to buy the best quality tools you can afford. With proper care, they should last for years.



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