Home & Garden

Selecting the Right Tool Makes Pruning Easier

Deadheading, trimming, and pruning are part of growing and maintaining a beautiful and productive garden and landscape. Make sure you are outfitted with the right tool for the job. Matching the tool to the pruning task will help ensure a proper cut, reduce hand fatigue, and allow you to work longer.

Since most pruning cuts in the garden and landscape are between 1/4″ and 3/4″, a bypass hand pruner is a must. These pruners have two sharp blades like scissors, making a clean cut that closes quickly. This helps reduce the risk of insects and disease moving in and harming your plants.

Avoid hand-held pruners that are too heavy or open too wide for your hand size. Those with a spring action return help reduce hand fatigue as long as the opening matches the size of your hand. Make sure the pruner does not open wider than your hand can easily grip. Select a tool that fits in your hand, is comfortable, has an ergonomic grip and is easy to control.

Matching your pruner to your hand size is as important as matching it to the cutting job. Opting for an oversized pruner to make larger cuts can lead to hand fatigue, frustration, and improper cuts. Measure the width across the palm of your hand at the base of your fingers. Next, measure the height from the middle of the base of your hand to the tip of your middle finger.

A pruner rated for ½” cuts is a good match for those with small hands less than 3 1/2” wide and 6 ¼” high. If your hands measure 3 ½ to 4” wide and 6 ½ to 8” high, you may want to purchase a ¾” pruner. Those with larger hands should do fine with a 1” hand-held pruner.

But size is just one factor to consider. Hand strength also influences the diameter of the stems you will be able to cut. Just because a tool is rated for ¾” doesn’t mean everyone will be able to apply the needed pressure to make such a large cut. Invest in tools with compound levers or ratchets when you need a mechanical advantage to make cutting easier.

When the job is too big for you or the tool, select one better suited to the task. Employ a bypass lopper with soft grips that fit various size hands and cuts limbs up to 1 ¾” in diameter. Loppers have long handles that give you greater leverage and extend your reach. This extra reach makes it easier to prune all parts of small trees, shrubs, and roses.

Invest in a foldable pruning saw with a pull stroke cutting action and ergonomic handle. You’ll be able to make cuts fast and easy and minimize hand fatigue. Foldable saws allow you to tuck the blade into the handle for safekeeping and reduce storage space.

Saws are useful tools for cutting larger branches on trees and shrubs that you can safely prune. Although I am a certified arborist, I only prune small trees and shrubs. I save big tree work for my colleagues that climb, have the equipment and training to do the job safely.

Using the right size tool for the job is good for the health and beauty of your plants and you. You will enjoy a healthier, more beautiful garden and extend your time in the garden by reducing muscle pain.

Melinda Myers has written numerous books and hosts How to Grow Anything DVD series and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Her website is MelindaMyers.com.

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