Fri February 24, 2012
Garden Report

Tools and Tips for Tree Pruning

Pruning is not only beneficial for trees, it’s also a great excuse to get outside for a little sun and exercise. But as KUNC Gardener Tom Throgmorton tells us, it’s important to have the right tools for the job.

Late winter is an excellent time to prune most trees.  The structure of the plant is easier to see and shape when it doesn’t have leaves.  Weak or mis-directed growth is more evident.  Pruning is a great excuse to get outside on a sunny day and take in some vitamin E. 

Pruning can be dangerous.  Utility wires and pruning tools don’t mix.  If there are wires in your tree, or nearby, call in a professional. 

Branches are heavy.  Their weight can knock you off balance.  Not a good thing when you’re on a ladder.  They can break furniture, windows and cars.  Before you cut be sure you can control the branches fall. 

Pruning tools are sharp.  Hand tools can cut fingers as easily as a branch.  Power tools can cut through leather as quickly as they can through wood. Be careful, the body part you save is probably your own.

Use hand pruners to remove small broken, damaged or competing branches in young trees.  Competing branches are growing in the same space as other branches.  Eventually they will rub together and damage one another.  Find a hand pruner that fits your hand.  If you’re left handed use a pruner design for lefties.  Bi-pass pruners make the cleanest cut.  Use anvil style pruners for cutting dead wood.

To develop a strong trunk, the lower two-thirds of the tree should hold at least half of the leaf area.  Don’t limb-up or cut off lower branches too early.  Hand pruners can cut off a lot of the lowers branches.  As the branches get bigger in diameter, loppers are the tool to use.  Loppers rated to cut an inch and one half diameter branch are most useful.  Don’t use loppers for branches larger than they’re rated for.  You’ll make a messy cut and ruin the tool.

If you need to cut branches larger than an inch and one half, consider a pruning saw.  These serrated wood saws make quick work of branches up to three or four inches in diameter.  There are folding saws and straight bladed saws. 

Use hand pruners to keep a single dominant trunk, or leader, in the upper part of young trees.  A single leader will make for a stronger older tree.  A ladder usually is enough to get you to the top of a young tree to make a cut with a hand pruner.  If the top is too high for a ladder, consider a pole pruner.  A pole pruner has a pruning head on an extending pole.  This is a useful tool as your landscape matures and your trees grow taller.   




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