Most pruning can be done with three pieces of equipment. The
most used piece is a pair of bypass pruning shears. These shears
will cut up to about 3/8 inch comfortably, and make sharp cuts
that don’t tear or crush. There are still anvil type shears
available, but their use is mainly in vineyards to girdle grape
vine ends. The second piece of equipment is a bypass lopper.
Loppers can cut up to about 1.5 inch wood, depending on the type
and size. If you have the money, a good set of compound action
loppers would be a good investment. The third piece of equipment
is a pruning saw. These can come in several shapes, sizes, and
price ranges. For smaller limbs, a folding or straight pruning
saw is a good buy. For larger limbs, a bow saw may be needed.
The maneuverability and ease of use are key points when
selecting a saw.
The time of year we prune various trees and shrubs is important.
Most trees and shrubs that aren’t flowering in nature should be
pruned between December and mid-March. Flowering trees and
shrubs should be done after they flower. Evergreens are best
pruned in late June. With oak wilt in the area, oaks should be
pruned in December to lessen sap flow, which attracts
virus-carrying beetles. And, any branch that hits you in the
face when you are mowing should be cut off immediately (except
on those oak trees)!
Basic pruning should serve to remove poor branches, keep the
plant growing aggressively, and do a little bit with shaping a
plant. Poor branches mean bad angles from a trunk or main
branch, dead branches, branches that rub together, or multiple
leaders. As far as keeping a plant growing aggressively,
remember that pruning is a rejuvenation process. Regular pruning
also produces more two-year-old wood that produces fruit on
fruit trees, and flowers on flowering trees and shrubs. Minor
shaping and sizing are possible, but major changes probably mean
a different plant should be selected.
When making a pruning cut, the key is to cut back to
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Branch tips can be cut back to a bud, and entire branches
can be cut back to another branch or the main trunk. When making
the cut to a branch or trunk, cut to the edge of the collar
(about a 1/16 of an inch from the other branch). Cutting too
close to the other branch destroys the water carrying tissue,
and leaving a stub will guarantee a rotten branch stub (that
will eventually rot into the main branch or trunk). Topping a
tree lessens weight, and reduces size, for a short period of
time. Within five years of topping, you will generally have more
weight and growth than you would have had without topping. If
you are making cuts on large branches, it is best to cut once
about 18 inches from the main branch, then make a second cut to
leave the 1/16 inch collar. This will help prevent the cut
branch from tearing other branches.
Hopefully these basic pruning hints will help you get started on
the right foot. Remember the golden rule of pruning “If you
think you’ve cut out too much, you’re probably about right.”
Russel Allen Garden Day
The 2016 Russel Allen Garden Day, offered by the University of
Illinois Master Gardeners in Logan County, will be held
Saturday, March 12. The featured speaker is Kaizad Irani, who is
a Professor at the University of Illinois and Program Director
at Parkland College. He will focus on designing spaces, as well
as highlighting the project at St. Jude’s Children’s Research
Hospital he led. Pre-registration is required, and may be
completed online at
Further information is available by contacting the Extension
Office in Logan County at 732-8289.
[By JOHN FULTON, COUNTY EXTENSION
DIRECTOR SERVING LOGAN, MENARD, AND SANGAMON COUNTIES]