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Garden Tools: The Pruners


By Stan V. Griep, ARS Certified Consulting Rosarian
Photograph Anne K Moore


There are many helpful tools for the gardener on the market today. With the proper care, those tools can last for years. We know one of those tools as pruners and it is very helpful. I have a few different types of pruners, from the big lopper type to my rosebush pruners. All of my pruners are of the by-pass type. The anvil type pruners squeeze and crush the living tissues as one uses them and thus can leave some significant damage at the cut and just below the cut.

It is important to keep our pruners “tuned up,” so to speak, so they are ready to go when we need them. One of those “tune-ups” I like to do is to keep the cutting blades disinfected. Even with a brand new pair of pruners, I will wipe the cutting blades down well with either a Clorox or other type of disinfectant wipe prior to using them. During pruning and deadheading times for my rosebushes, I will wipe the pruners down with a disinfectant wipe prior to starting.

I prune one entire rosebush and then wipe the pruners down again before moving on to prune another rosebush. In some cases, there may be a cane or two on a rosebush that looks to have something like a fungus upon it that needs pruning out. Even though I am still working on pruning the same rosebush, I will wipe the pruners down well before making any other pruning cuts on that same rosebush. After wiping the pruner blades down well each time mentioned, I swish the pruners back and forth in the air a few times to help dry the disinfectant left upon them by the wipes.

Wiping the pruners down with the disinfectant wipes goes a long way towards preventing disease transfer from bush to bush. Dirty pruners have been the culprit of nasty diseases sweeping through more than one rose bed! When I finish the pruning chores, I wipe down the pruners twice with the disinfectant wipes and allow them to air dry between wipe downs. Once they are dry, I spray the blades and working parts with either WD40 or some Silicone Spray Lubricant and set in their proper place, so it is easy to find them next time. Before using them the next time, I wipe down the pruners again with a disinfectant wipe, to remove the protecting oils left on the pruners.

Another of the tune-ups I do is to check the pruner blades sharpness. Dull pruners will cause some of the same squeezing and crushing damage that the anvil pruners produce. It will also leave messy pruning cuts with fragments of the cane or branch sticking out in various places. Dull pruners can also lead to stripping back the outer protective surface of branches or canes when the pruners are pulled back from the cut and an uncut portion is caught in the blades.

Some reasonably priced pruner sharpener tools on the market make it easy to sharpen our pruners when needed. I purchased one like the one shown at this link: http://www.gardengatestore.com/sharpener.html and have found it to work extremely well.

My Felco pruners have replaceable cutting blades so that when they get too dull or have been sharpened too many times, I just change out the cutting blade and I am ready to go again. This is a great feature if the main cutting blade becomes bent somehow.

At the end of each season, I inspect all of my pruners again for sharpness and sharpen those that need it, to be ready for the next use. Each is well cleaned and wiped down with the disinfectant wipes and let air dry. Final touch is to spray them down with the lubricant/protective coating and store them away in their proper place.

One tip I would offer on hand held pruners, hold them in your hand and operate them a bit prior to buying them. Make sure they feel comfortable in your hand and that you can operate them easily. If you have to use them a lot they really need to be comfortable in your hand and easy to operate.

Check the blade alignment as well. If you can see light through the blade to the cutting surface at any point when the pruners are closed, the alignment is off and you will most likely have future problems with them. If the pruners are in a package, ask a store staff person to take them out for testing. If they won’t do so, keep looking.

Stan Griep is a Colorado Native Rosarian (40+ years), and a member of the Denver Rose Society, Loveland Rose Society, and the American Rose Society. He is also an ARS Certified Consulting Rosarian.

 

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