Pruning Trees and Shrubs
In addition to our keen interest in construction and home repair, we both have a real fondness for gardening. We both like to putter around in the yard and marvel at the sight of a well-manicured garden. I guess you could say that we both have green thumbs. Sometimes in the coarse of our work, all of our fingers are green too.
Fertilizing, watering, mowing, trimming, pruning and keeping pests in check are a few of the things that contribute to a good looking garden. Each of these tasks must be performed on an ongoing basis.
Each of us has, at one time or another, run the mower over turf, scattered fertilizer and sprinkled water here and there. The one area that gives most of us trouble is pruning. The two most prevalent questions regarding pruning are where to begin and where to stop. More than one beautiful ornamental shrub or luscious tree have fallen prey to a sheer-wielding zealot with good intentions. Many of us can remember what happened in the movie Eric Scissorhands.
As with most other household tasks, pruning requires a bit of skill and the proper tools. Many people believe that a rose, ornamental shrub, hedge and tree can all be trimmed or pruned with the same tool. Wrong! Enough can’t be said for the importance of having the proper trimming and pruning tools. These can range from a small pair of hand sheers to an unusual looking saw mounted on the end of a pole. Having the right equipment will make the job easier, safer and will yield more professional results.
Once armed with the proper tools, it is imperative that they be kept sharp. A dull tool will can cause significant damage, is much more difficult to work with and can be more dangerous to use. Moreover, a clean cut tree limb will heal much quicker than one which is cut haphazardly.
Most seasonal pruning projects require only three or four tools, and these are usually affordable hand tools. Just remember, you get what you pay for. At the top of the list, and probably the most frequently used, is the simple hand pruner. This tool works well on branches up to ¾ inch in diameter. If you have hedges that need frequent shaping, manual or electric hedge shears are a must. For branches up to two inches in diameter, use lopping shears. For larger branches, there are a variety of saws from which to choose which can make pruning and tree trimming easier and result in minimal damage to the tree.
A limb saw has a long, curved and narrow blade. The blade is rough and works much like a crosscut saw. The limb saw often comes anchored to an extension pole which makes accessing tall branches a breeze.
The Grandsaw is great for trimming trees and bushes with large or thick limbs. It resembles a hacksaw, although it is considerably larger and has a bigger bow to accommodate large branches. Like the ripsaw, the limb saw and the grandsaw frequently are designed to cut in one direction. Pulling appears to be the most popular.
A saw is only as good as its teeth and their sharpness. The teeth will do the work if they are sharp. The edge of the cut will be cleaner and your arm less sore. Store the saw in a location where the blade will not be damaged by other tools. If the saw must be stored in a tool box among other tools it’s a good idea to invest in a blade guard which will protect the blade from damage.
When blades are slightly dull you can do a touch up with a triangular file. However, we recommend that you bring your saws into your local saw sharpen¬ing professional who has the proper equipment to give the saw a real thor¬ough sharpening which will include setting the teeth. It’s well worth the small investment and will keep your saws finely tuned to give you the best job for the least amount of energy.
Pruning serves many purposes, not just the visual improvement of a plant or tree. For example, heading back the scattered branches of a tree increases its density and makes it more sturdy.
Unwanted branches should be cut in such a way as to leave the shortest possible stub. Always prune away dead, broken and diseased portions of a plant at any time of the year. Left untreated, these problem areas can lead to the early demise of an otherwise healthy plant or tree.
Cuts of 1 ½ inch or more in diameter should be covered with a protective wood compound which will assist with healing.