matter what type of pruning method you favor vase,
open air, summer, winter the first step is to have
the right tools.
Costa Master Gardener Keith Silva says using the correct
tools makes all the difference when it comes to the
healing and health of the plants you prune. Here are
some of Silvas dos and donts.
When removing limbs, never cut off the collar. The
collar is the swollen area where the branch comes out of
the main trunk. Cut a branch flush with the collar, not
the tree. Removing the collar can expose the tree to
disease and pests.
There are two different types of pruners anvil and
bypass. For making cuts into live wood, use bypass
pruners. For dead wood, or cutting up pruned branches,
use anvil pruners.
Using any sort of pruner crushes the wood as the cut is
made. The bypass pruners crush only one side of the wood
while the anvil pruner crushes both.
A bypass pruner has an arched blade and a narrower,
hooked blade. When making cuts, make sure the side of
the pruner with the hooked blade is on the side of the
wood that will be removed. Use bypass pruners when
making cuts flush with the collar.
Anvil pruners make it easier to cut, and give you a bit
more stability with the pruner.
When cutting larger branches, use a lopper, which is
like a pruner except that it has long handles for added
leverage. Loppers also come in bypass and anvil models.
Sometimes you need a saw. There are special saws for
pruning, which are different from saws used in
carpentry. Pruning saws cut on the pull stroke while
carpentry saws cut on the push stroke. Pruning saws are
designed for cutting wood and dealing with sap.
If you have limbs youve removed from trees, or
branches that you want to cut into smaller pieces or
firewood, use a bow saw, which looks a little like a
hacksaw but is designed specifically for wood cutting
Pole saws are saws on long poles that usually allow you
to remain on the ground while reaching higher branches.
Silva advises against using them. "If you need to
use a pole saw," Silva says, "you probably
should hire a tree service." Silva dislikes them
because the user cant see where they are cutting,
which could create a problem by cutting the branch in a
Never seal pruning cuts. In order to heal, the wounds
need to dry out and sealers prevent them for doing that.
Sanitize your cutting implements to prevent the spread
of disease, especially if you are pruning a tree with
fire blight. Create a mixture of 9 parts water to 1 part
chlorine bleach. Dip the blades in the solution or keep
the mixture in a spray bottle. Spray the blades over a
bucket so as not to contaminate the soil.
For general cleaning, isopropyl alcohol can be used, but
not if youre cutting diseased wood.
After using your pruning tools, clean and oil them to
Keep your pruners sharp to enhance cutting. Using a rasp
file will likely damage the blade on the pruners.
Instead, use a carbide sharpening tool. Sharpen only the
curved edge of the main blade the side without the
hook by matching sharpener to the angle of the
cutting edge and scraping away from the pruner. Never
try sharpening the flat, back side of the pruner.
Be well rested before attempting to prune.
Wear protective goggles. Eye injuries usually come from
Have your cell phone with you and easily accessible if
things go wrong.
If you can, avoid ladders. Prune your trees to keep them
small and manageable.