So now that you know why we prune and have brushed up on how to prune, it’s time to take a look at the tools you need to get the job done. Luckily they aren’t terribly expensive and good with proper care, good pruning tools can last a lifetime.
For trees and wood shrubs, you can’t beat bypass pruners. Bypass pruners normally come in sizes rated for 1/2″ to 1″ caliper (this is the thickness of the branch you want to cut). I normally opt for a 3/4″ because it covers the majority of branches I need to cut and will fit my smaller hands. Bypass pruners get their name from their curved blades that bypass (slide past) each other as they cut. This will give you a cleaner cut on trees, roses and other woody shrubs than anvil pruners. A couple of things to keep in mind, keep them clean, keep them oiled and keep them sharp and they will last for years. Pruning shears are like sewing shears and you only what to cut what they are intended to cut. Don’t cut wire, plastic or branches bigger than its rated caliper size. Also don’t leave them on your clippings pile and through them out. I may or may not have done that a time or two.
Here are some suggested pruners you can purchase off of Amazon. Obviously the expensive ones will last you longer and make the job easier, but if you treat the cost conscious models well, they can last years. I still have a pair of Fiskars that I leave outside to quickly grab and snip when I see something in need of tidying that I purchased over 20 years ago.
Felco pruners are Swiss made and what I have used professionally for over 20 years. I like the way the ergonomic design fits in my hand, the blades keep a sharp edge and you can even purchase replacement blades. The pruners com apart completely which make sharpening and cleaning a breeze. My preferred model is the bypass F13. Not too heavy, fits my hands well and always do the job.
Corona pruners are similar in style to the Felco pruners but not quite as ergonomic. But they are almost half the price. For home use where you are probably not pruning all day long, however, they would be fine. They still offer replacement blades, cut up to 1″ caliper branches and fit small to large size hands. The model BP15180 is my preferred style.
Fiskars is certainly innovative with their pruning shear designs. They make nice beginning gardener shears with an orange and black color combo that make them easy to find in the garden. They don’t tend to have as much steel in them so they are lighter in weight which can be helpful for those with smaller hands or shoulder issues. But don’t abuse them. For larger branches always switch to loppers or a pruning saw because these will be the first to brake. The model 79436997J soft-grip bypass pruner is my preferred style.
Loppers are a step up strength wise and used for cutting larger branches. The longer handles will allow you leverage more strength into your cuts by using two hands and also allow you to reach inside branches better. Loppers are especially helpful if the trees and shrubs haven’t been pruned in several years. The Corona AL 8462 is a nice model for the home gardener.
I prefer working with a folding pruning saw because I always find myself needing to put it down while I prune. The ability to fold it and tuck it in my back pocket means it won’t get lost in all the clippings. The Corona RS16120 is a nicely designed mid-price saw that will cut branches up to 3″. They also offer a limited lifetime warranty.
As I’ve aged, I’ve come to appreciate power tools in the garden more. They allow you to continue working even with some of the aches and pains that come with age. Chainsaws can really help with larger pruning chores but I find many home gardeners are terrified to use them. For those clients I’ve suggested a hand held reciprocating saw and most have found it life changing. Most kits don’t come with pruning blades but they are readily available. Just charge these babies up and get to cutting. Quicker than a pruning saw but still light enough to use single-handedly while standing on a ladder. Shorter than most chainsaws and larger reciprocating saws you can easily maneuver them inside tight spaces. The Dewalt Atomic 20 model DCS369B is my preferred choice.
Want to keep your tools nice and sharp but think sharpening is complicated? Try this style of sharpener. You basically drag your blade across the proper groove and the tool holds your blade at the proper sharpening angle. It works with knives, pruners and scissors. Could you do a better job with a sharpening stone? Yes. But would you? It takes a bit of time and finesse to learn how to sharpen tools properly with a stone and this little tool makes it fast and easy.
You need to keep your tools clean and disease free inbetween plants and even inbetween cuts if dealing with a diseased plant. Gardeners used to use bleach but we’ve found that can be corrosive to your pruners. Rubbing alcohol works just as well and doesn’t cause the same corrosion as bleach. Plus you can get handy alcohol wipes that you can just keep in your pocket.
Such a handy product to have in any homeowners tool box. A quick spray on the blades and springs will help keep your tools from rusting and will also make sap less likely to stick. I like the little 3 oz. cans because they fit easily into my gardening tool tray.