Monday, December 15, 2014

How to Sharpen Hand Pruners

Your pruning tools should be clean and sharp at all times. Sharp tools will make your pruning job easier and protect your tree from disease. Broken branches or branches that have been damaged by dull pruning shears are more susceptible to pests and disease.

Most gardeners discard pruning shears when they stop cutting well, but a quality pair of shears, if cared for properly, should last you several years.

How to Sharpen Hand Pruners

 In this blog post I will show you how to properly sharpen pruning shears, but first let me ask this question. When will you know that your pruning shears need sharpened? The answer can be found by following this link:

I like to take advantage of the slow winter months and sharpen my shears before the busy spring season, but sharpening should occur on a regular basis as it is needed. Below you will see an image of extremely dull shears. These are a pair I used to cut roots out of irrigation trenches, so you can see how the dirt and rocks in the ground have made nicks in the blade. Don’t worry these shears are not too far gone.

Dull, Chipped Pruning Shear Blade

 The first step to sharpening your shears is to take a file and file out all of the nicks in the blade to reestablish a good cutting edge. You can see at the bottom of the image above, to the left, a faint line where the former “factory edge” was located. Try to make you new edge as close as possible to the factory edge.

File Blade to Reestablish New Cutting Edge

You probably noticed that only one side of the pruning shears has an established edge. The other side should remain flat so that it can rub tight against the lower jaws of the shears. The problem with establishing one edge with the file is that a heavy bur will occur on the flat side of the blade. This bur will make your newly sharpened blade feel not so sharp, so it is important that you remove this bur.

Heavy Bur on Flat Side of Blade

Removing the bur is not difficult, simply run the file over the flat side of the blade and remove the bur. If you find the bur just bends over the sharp edge you may need to alternate back and forth lightly with the file until the bur has been completely removed.

Alternate File Lightly on Either side of Blade Until Bur is Removed

That’s it! Regular pruning will ensure that your trees are healthy and productive and regular sharpening of your shears will ensure that your pruners remain in good working order for years to come.

Final Edge of Pruning Shear Blade

The final step to hand pruner maintenance is a quick shot of lubricant at the pivot point and you will be ready to go for yet another season.

If you have any questions about fruit tree pruning or fruit tree pruning tools, please email me at or comment below.

When Should I Sharpen My Pruning Shears?

You will know that your pruning shears need sharpened when they no longer make a clean cut. If you find that your shears are crushing, pinching or braking off branches, then you will know that you have waited too long to sharpen them. The first indicator that your shears are beginning to dull is that you will cut a branch, but the bark on the other side of the blade will often hold on to the branch that you are trying to remove, leaving a long strip of bark attached to the branch. It will look something like the image below.

First Indicator of Dull Pruning Shears
 If your pruning shears are sharp they should cut branches clean and with little effort.
Clean Cut from Sharp Pruning Shears

It is important that your shears are sharp and clean to minimize your trees exposure to disease. Broken, crushed, or bruised branches are more likely to get diseased then are branches that have been cut cleanly.

The winter months are a great time to clean and sharpen your tools so that they will be ready for the upcoming season. You can learn how to sharpen your pruning shears by following this link:

If you have any questions about pruning or pruning tools please email me at or comment below.

Hand Pruners

Hand pruners are a gardener’s best friend. They are not only used for pruning fruit trees, they are a great tool for harvesting cut flowers, dead heading spent blooms, and cutting back perennials in the fall. They are used to remove tags, cut open pots, and even cut bamboo stakes for your flopping Peonies. Sometimes they are even used to cut hose, pipe, twine or even wire, although I highly recommend not cutting wire with them. Also, make sure you keep your shears out of the dirt. Dirt and rocks are an enemy to pruning shears, slowly grinding away the moving parts and dulling the blade with nicks.

Dull Blade with Nicks
As you already know, hand pruners are a very useful and versatile tool so it’s important that you purchase a quality pair and maintain them well so they will last. To learn more about maintaining and sharpening your pruning shears follow this link:

There are two types of hand pruners on the market. First, are anvil pruners. These shears have an upper cutting blade that pinches down on the lower jaws. This type of pruning shear is not recommended for pruning fruit trees, because they will often crush or bruise the branches that are cut by them, especially if the blade is at all dull. They are best used to cut down twigs and debris so that it will better fit in the trash. They can also be used to cut back perennials in the fall.
Anvil Pruners Verses Bypass Pruners
The second type of hand pruners are bypass pruners. These shears have an upper cutting blade that bypasses the lower jaws. These shears are what I use to professionally prune fruit trees in Utah. They make a nice, clean cut with little effort

It is important to understand your tool’s limitations. Hand pruners are only designed to cut branches up to 1 inch in diameter. Cutting branches larger than 1 inch may cause the blade to bend away from the lower jaws making them unusable. Also, cutting larger branches with your hand pruners will often damage the surrounding bark and cambium layer leaving it susceptible to disease. I might also mention the added effort and strain that is required to cut branches larger than 1 inch in diameter. Loppers and pruning saws are great tools that can be utilized for larger cuts. Make sure you use the right tool for each cut.

When choosing a pair of hand pruners comfort is probably one of the most important factors. Find a pair that is comfortable and not too big for your hands. If you have small hands, you might need smaller shears. If you need to remove larger branches than your small shears can cut, just use a different tool for the job.

Remember, your pruning shears are like you best friend, clean, sharp and extremely useful, so pick a good pair and take care of them. You’ll be glad this coming season to have them by your side.

If you have any questions about fruit tree pruning or pruning tools, please email me at or comment below.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Protecting your Trees from Deer

When you think of fruit tree pests, the first thing that comes to mind is probably an insect, blight, or fungus. In many urban and rural areas though, deer will cause significant damage to fruit trees, making them a destructive pest for some gardeners.

Deer are Fruit Tree Pests in Many Urban and Rural Areas

You can easily identify damage caused by deer. Deer do not have incisors on their upper jaw so they will grab hold of a branch with their lower incisors and upper gums and jerk their head to break off the branches they eat. If you have deer damage on your fruit trees, you will be able to see many broken branches up to 5 feet from the ground. Deer are capable of standing on their hind legs to reach taller branches, but only do so if they are extremely hungry, there is a large population in your area, or a shortage of food. If deer are really hungry, they will also use their lower incisors to strip the bark of your fruit trees for food. Deer are usually a larger problem in the winter because they congregate in lower elevations to avoid deep snow and to seek out new food sources.

Fruit Trees are More Desirable to Deer in Winter Months

To protect your fruit trees from deer, there are three types of products on the market.

First is blood. Spraying blood around your property sounds kind of gruesome, but it is an effective way to deter deer. The smell of blood will trigger a deer's natural flight responses because the smell usually means a predator is in the area.

Second is urine. Predator urine can be purchased and sprayed around your property and works in a similar manner to blood. The smell of predator urine will naturally deter deer as they will avoid the area for fear of their life.

Third are taste deterrents. Like any other animal, deer will eat what they think tastes good. So if you make your fruit trees taste bad, in theory, they will go elsewhere for food. If deer are really hungry this type of deterrent becomes less effective because deer will eat almost anything if they are starving, whether it tastes good or not.

All three of these deer repellents are natural and quickly break down in the elements. For this reason they do not work for long periods of time, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Deer are intelligent animals and will quickly learn your methods, especially if you are using the same product over and over. They become accustom to tastes and smells, especially if there is no real danger. It is important to rotate these products throughout the winter months to keep the deer on their toes.

Another problem with deer that is less common in urban settings, but will happen on occasion, are deer rubs. Deer will rub their antlers on small trees when the velvet begins to peel. This behavior is also a way for male deer to mark their territory and show dominance to other male deer. When deer rub trees, it will cause severe damage to the tree and may even snap the tree off at the trunk. To protect your fruit trees from rubs, you will need to build a small fence around the tree trunk.

It is possible to protect your entire yard from deer if you build a tall enough fence. Deer are capable of clearing eight foot fences so a fence taller than eight feet will need to fit into your overall landscape design. 

So, whether large or small, pests come in all forms and all compete with you for the same food source. Luckily, you are now better prepared to stop the four legged ones that wander onto your property this winter.

For more information about fruit tree pruning and care visit our website at and under the services page, click education.