Making cuts

Ensure that the tools you are using are clean, sharp and appropriate for the job – choosing the right tools for the job. Once you have the right tool, you need to use it in the right way:

The thinner blade of the secateurs should always be nearer the bud or stem junction you are cutting up to – ie next to the bit of the plant you are going to keep. This ensures that the cleanest cut is on the plant itself, not on the pruned part. It also makes sure you can make the cut as near to the plant as it should be. This may mean turning the secateurs over to get the thin blade on the correct side of the cut.

With loppers, the stem you are cutting should fit entirely into the ‘mouth’ of the loppers. As with secateurs, loppers should be used with the thinner blade nearest the plant (bud or stem junction). Holding the handles near the end will give you the extra leverage to make cutting easier. The stem should be cut cleanly with one action.

When pruning, ensure that you don’t damage any other parts of the plant (particularly when using a saw). Make each cut cleanly and tidy up any rough edges with a sharp, clean knife.

It is important to make the cut in the right place. You should prune up to a bud on a stem, or up to a joint in the stem. The cut should be a very small distance from the bud/stem – not so close that the bud or stem is damaged, but not so far away that it leaves a stub which will die back. Cuts above a single bud should be slanted away from the bud, so that water will run off away from it. Above a double bud, the cut should be straight across.

When cutting branches from trees it is particularly important to cut in the right place. The ‘collar’ (which the branch is growing out from) should be left intact so the internal structure of the tree is not damaged. If you cut 5 to 8cm away from the trunk then this should avoid the collar. This will then grow a callus over the wound and heal quickly. If you cut too far away then the remaining branch will die back and leave the tree exposed to infection or further damage as the branch rots and falls.

To safely remove the branch it should be done in several cuts – both for safety and to prevent the weight of the branch being removed causing it to break and tear the bark down the trunk of the tree. The branch should be removed in sections. Remove the final section about 30cm from the trunk by making a cut underneath the branch about ¼ through it, then finish the cut from the top. Then, if the remaining branch is still quite heavy, undercut again 5 to 8cm from the trunk (thereby leaving the ‘collar’) about ¼ of the way through and finish the cut from the top. These undercuts should stop the bark tearing. Smooth any rough edges (including where the undercut met the top cut) without enlarging the wound.