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Pruning Tools: Which Ones to Choose and How to Use Them Effectively

Discover a range of pruning tools that can make your gardening tasks a breeze. Learn how to select the most suitable equipment for effortless and efficient work in your garden.

by BioGrow

A question that many farmers ask themselves is: how to choose the right pruning tools? An incorrect tool could cause damage to the plant, leading to potential diseases. In one of our previous articles, we briefly mentioned the techniques for pruning fruit trees and garden plants. Today, let’s dive deeper into the various types of pruning and the essential tools needed for these tasks, ensuring efficient and safe operations. Let’s plan ahead.

Pruning Tools: Types, Features, and Uses

Pruning tools are essential instruments that make gardening tasks, from simple to complex, much easier. The challenge lies in selecting the right tools, which largely depends on the size of our spaces and the variety of tree and ornamental species in our garden.
Let’s explore in detail the tools needed for different pruning and garden maintenance jobs.

Cutting Tools

Among the fundamental pruning tools, cutting instruments hold a significant place. These tools can be categorized as follows:

Pruning Shears

The primary pruning tool that every gardener should possess is a good pair of pruning shears, always kept sharp.

Pruning tools - pruning shears

Pruning shears

Pruning shears are used for cutting smaller branches and precision work. Poor-quality shears with dull blades or spreading handles can risk tearing or breaking the branches during cutting, negating your efforts. Choosing the right pruning shears is not as straightforward as it seems. To make a well-informed purchase, consider factors such as the type of tree or plant you will be pruning, the thickness of the blades, the grip style, and the size and strength of your hands.

Ratchet Pruners

A highly precise and versatile tool is the ratchet pruner, suitable for all types of branches, especially tough ones. In fact, if you don’t have steel-like hands, this tool is most appropriate. Its unique system allows you to distribute the cutting effort gradually (available here).

Pruning tools - double-cut pruners - ratchet pruners

Ratchet pruners

This type of pruner is highly recommended for removing olive suckers, which grow at the base of the tree. These elements can become large, tough, and challenging to remove with a regular scissor.

Double-Cut Pruners

Another unique type of pruner, different from the classic pruning shear, is the double-cut pruner. This is recommended for experienced gardeners as it allows for a clean cut due to the convergence of the blades at the center of the branch. Consequently, users must have strong hands.
Double-cut pruners are highly suitable for orchards and ornamental plants (if this is the type of pruner you need, you can find them here).

Pruning tools - double-cut pruners

Double-cut pruners

Long-handled Shears

Another variant of pruning shears is the long-handled shears with telescopic handles. These shears, used from the ground, allow you to reach the tallest and most difficult branches (if you have tall branches to prune, you can find these particular shears here).
Whichever type of shears you use, remember: it is important to make clean and precise cuts. This will allow the plant to heal the wound as quickly as possible, without exposing it to the risk of infections.

Pruning tools - pruning shears with telescopic handles

Pruning shears with telescopic handles

Saws

Among the various pruning tools, one classic tool is the saw, necessary for cutting large branches correctly. There are basically two types: those with a straight blade and those with a curved blade.
In general, the saw is one of the essential pruning tools that every skilled gardener should have. It should be stored with care, with particular attention to cleaning after each cutting operation. To make proper cuts, the saws must always be well-sharpened. Over time, they can wear out, so you’ll need to evaluate whether to sharpen the blade or replace it. However, this latter operation is possible with better quality tools.
The differences between the two types of saws are quite simple:
Those with a straight blade are generally suitable for any type of plant and for vineyards (you can purchase them here).

Pruning tools - straight-blade saw

Straight-blade saw

Those with a curved blade, on the other hand, are particularly suitable for olive groves and fruit orchards (you can purchase them here).
If you decide to buy a saw, make sure it can be extended with a telescopic extension to reach higher branches. This way, you can avoid having to buy a separate tool. The models we mentioned above, of course, include the possibility of adding an extension.
Pruning saws with fixed blades (straight or curved) must be equipped by law with a safety cover. There are also foldable saws on the market; in this case, check if they are equipped with a safety button. The lock will protect you from possible accidents due to the closure of the blade during cutting.

Hedge Shears

The pruning tools used for hedges are different; they have longer and thinner blades. This structure allows for much faster, repeated, and precise cuts.
This characteristic is necessary precisely because of the peculiarities of hedges themselves. Pruning them, in fact, is a true art for many enthusiasts, called “topiary art”.

Pruning tools - topiary art

Topiary art

In this case too, for choosing the right pruning tool, you can make distinctions based on the type of blade and the presence of extensions to reach the most difficult points.
The choice, therefore, lies between the classic hedge shears with a straight blade, for simple and straight cuts (you can purchase them here).

hedge shears with straight blades

Hedge shears with straight blades

And the shears with a wavy blade, which allows for better shaping and effects on your hedges. This second model (you can purchase it here), is obviously more suitable for artistic needs.

hedge shears with wavy blades

Hedge shears with wavy blades

Gas-Powered Mechanized Tools

In small gardens, it may not be necessary to use gas-powered pruning tools for the work. However, the need arises when the spaces and the number of interventions become significant. For example, in an olive grove, it is challenging to do without a chainsaw. This is also true when dealing with large trees that require frequent cleaning work. Think of pines, oaks, chestnuts, or poplars.

ordered olive grove

Ordered olive grove

The important thing to consider when using this type of pruning tool is to handle them appropriately. Avoid pretending to be an expert woodsman and practice with someone experienced in this field. Chainsaws are probably among the most dangerous tools, and they must be used properly.

Chainsaw

The cutting of a chainsaw should be done by utilizing the weight of the tool, with a wrist movement, up and down, applying oscillating pressure on the branch or trunk with a vertical movement. Never use chainsaws like regular hand saws, making a horizontal longitudinal cut. The risk is that the tool might slip and, in the best-case scenario, damage the tree or the blade.
For pruning work, the chainsaw must be light, manageable, and easy to hold with one hand. If you plan to buy one, we recommend choosing a product of professional quality. This will guarantee its durability over time, without the need for repeated and costly repairs (you can find a good product here).

Multi-function Tools

In addition to the chainsaw, which is one of the most common pruning tools, taking care of a garden also requires hedge trimmers, extensions, and brush cutters for grass cleaning. One trick to save on costs is to purchase a multi-function tool (of good quality, nonetheless). A tool that covers the range of pruning and cleaning work for a medium-sized garden can be found here.

Electric-Powered Tools

Alternatively, you can opt for electric-powered pruning tools. However, these are usually dedicated to small-scale work in an area where electricity is readily available.
In any case, regular maintenance of the tools should be carried out periodically, especially after periods of inactivity. Have the engine checked by a skilled mechanic and ensure that filters and air intakes are clean.
The engine of pruning tools is powered by gasoline. Therefore, you must use a specific gasoline and oil mixture. Follow the dosages indicated, using a measuring cup. It is essential that the mixture be prepared according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Otherwise, there is a risk of damaging the engine.

Machete and Axe

machete

Machete

One of the pruning tools that I personally love to use is the machete.
When cutting down entire trees, perhaps following a fall caused by snow or wind, it becomes necessary to strip the branches and then cut them and obtain firewood. Doing this operation with a chainsaw can be dangerous, as you move among the branches of the tree. Additionally, it is costly and laborious. With the machete, you overcome this problem. With the use of this tool, you can move with ease. It is also possible to remove the smaller and useless parts of the tree.
A machete can be fitted with an extension to use it to make your way through brambles and impassable areas. Be careful with how you use this tool; you should practice gradually. The recommendation is always to avoid cutting towards your legs. The cut should always be made outward. You can find a good machete here.

Pruning tools - classic axe

Classic axe

In my grandfather’s olive grove, he never went without his axe among the pruning tools. It is indeed a useful tool for cutting small and medium branches and can also be used alternatively to the machete. You can find a reliable axe here.
The final recommendation can only be the most obvious: pay attention to how you handle the pruning tools as they can be truly dangerous. In our next article on pruning work, we will address the topic of safety equipment and clothing for work in orchards and gardens.

Further Reading

  • University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources: “PRUNING SAFETY” – This resource discusses the potential hazards of pruning tools, which have sharp edges and pinch points and in some cases an additional electrical hazard.
  • West Virginia University, Environmental Health and Safety: “Pruning Safety” – This resource also discusses the potential hazards of pruning tools, emphasizing the importance of understanding the information provided by the pruning tool manufacturer.
  • Pennsylvania State University: “Orchard Safety: Tips for Safe Pruning” – This resource provides safety tips for pruning in orchards, including the use of various tools like loppers, hand-held shears, pole pruners, and saws.
  • Oklahoma State University: “Pruning Safety” – This resource discusses the different tools available for pruning and their unique purposes. It emphasizes the differences between hand pruners and loppers.
  • Northeast Iowa Community College: “Pruning Safety” – This resource provides general safety tips for pruners, including using proper lifting techniques, avoiding awkward postures, and using ear plugs when working around power tools.

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