As we move into the main pruning time of the year it is a good time to review the various tools available to make these tasks a little easier. Whether it is to reach those hard to get high, low or just awkward and prickly, the right tool can help get the job done.
Also, in these days of health and safety, if you can work with your feet firmly on the ground rather than on ladders it makes work a lot easier to organise. (See other health and safety tips at the end of the blog.)
Pruning saws: a basic pruning saw is great for cutting medium size branches, and even slightly bigger branches if pruning has been ignored for a few years. Many, particularly curved saws, come with a hollow handle making them easy to fit onto a pole to reach higher branches. This doesn’t need to be a fancy telescopic pole, although they are useful for reaching higher branches, a round wooden pole from the local hardware store can be fitted into the handle and held with a nut and bolt. Decide on the length required and that you can manage amongst the foliage, 2 metres is probably the maximum you’d want to go for.
Curved pruning saws cut on the pull stroke i.e. when you’re pulling the saw back towards you and cut very efficiently on a pole as you can generate quite a force when pulling down.
Obviously more expensive than a simple wooden pole, telescopic poles are more versatile when cutting at differing heights and can allow you to cut higher up when required.
Long Reach loppers: Like pole saws long reach loppers are great for getting into hard to reach areas.
Loppers are suitable for pruning those types of branches up to 40 mm which can be flexible and difficult to get a saw to bite into to cut. The long reach provides the advantage over conventional loppers of accessing higher branches and branches in the interior and crown of larger bushes and plants.
These types of loppers avoid the problems you get with rope and pully types where the rope can tend to get tangle while working in and amongst branches and leaves.
Electric pruning shears attached to extension poles can prune the same hard to reach areas as long reach loppers. These also have the advantage of not having to operate the lopper leavers, which can sometimes be tricky if working in tight spaces between branches and less tiering if you have a lot of pruning to get through.
Long reach tools are also useful for pruning smaller plants but those with prickles or thorns such as blackberries and roses. Cut and hold fruit pickers also work well as secateurs for light pruning jobs and have the advantage of keeping your hands and arms away from the plants, preventing (reducing?) scratches. Even the short 600 mm picker works well for pruning these types of plants.
A note on safety. When working above your head it is important that you wear head and eye protection and good, strong footwear; steel capped safety boots are recommended. Stand back from where you are pruning. Even moderately sized branches can hit with quite a force when falling from a height of 2 metres or more. Safety goggles protect the eyes from twigs, sawdust and other small particles. To avoid the possibility of back strain, don't overreach.