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Monday, November 21, 2011

Preparing Your Equipment for Pruning

I know most people dont sharpen, adjust or sanitize their equipment but plants are alive. You are cutting into living tissue. Would you like it if your doctor didn't have sharp or didn't sanitize his/her equipment? You are now a plant surgeon. Sharpen, adjust and sanitize your equipment before pruning. If a plant is obviously diseased, sanitize before moving to the next plant. Do these three steps at the beginning of each new day pruning.

Pruners should be the bypass-type, not the anvil-type. Bypass pruners cut by passing the sharpened flat blade past a bar. The other type, called an anvil pruning shears, is not preferred. An anvil type pruner cuts by pushing a sharp blade through a stem by pushing against the opposite side of the stem with a bar. The anvil type is not prefereed by reasoning that this pushing of the bar against the stem damages the stem where it is being cut.
Hand shears and loppers. Recommended brand names include Corona, Felco and Fiskars.

  • Sharpen. Sharpen one side of the blade only (the beveled side) holding the stone at a consistent angle and running it along the beveled edge as you slide it across the bevel. If you are not comfortable using a stone then you might consider something like an Accusharp Gardensharp tool designed for pruning shears. These can be purchased for $10 or less and are much easier to use. Make sure you buy one for garden shears NOT the one for scissors or it will ruin your pruner's blade. It sharpens only ONE side of the blade unlike the one for scissors which sharpens BOTH sides of the blade.

If you are doing alot of trees you might have to stop and "put an edge" on the blade (just a two or three slides across the blade).
  • Adjustment and Lubricate. An adjustment nut that holds the pruners together is tightened or loosened to allow for easy opening and closing of the shears and lopper. Too loose and the shears or loppers tears the branch. Too tight and it creates early fatigue of the person pruning. Use a wrench to tighten the bolt until the blades move with some very slight resistance. You may need to tighten this nut a few times during the course of a day's work so carry the wrench with you.
  • Sanitize. Alcohol is sprayed or wiped on the cutting blades of the hand shears and lopper. You can use bleach but be sure to oil the equipment after its use or it will corrode the metal. I sometimes just use alcohol in spray bottle. A chef friend had no alcohol when we were pruning his fruit trees so he used Absolut vodka.

Now you are ready to prune.

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