Pruning Shear Options
Different Types of Hand Pruners and How to Use Them
By Cherie Dawn Haas – When your grapevines return from their dormant state in the spring, you’ll want to get your hands on the best pruning shears you can find. There are several reliable brands on the market. While the purpose of the pruners is the same, know that each has different qualities that will speak to you more than others.
At our vineyard of 250 vidal vines, my husband and I usually start our spring cut-back using the best pruning shears from the previous season, and we both have our favorites. But before long, we find ourselves shopping for a new pair and joke about which pruners belong to whom. Like us, you will likely have your favorite set, but having the information in this article will help you better understand what is on the market and what makes hand pruners different from each other.
Depending on your climate, you might be pruning the grapevines for the first time since prior to your harvest. This means that your hands have been given quite the break from this type of work and it can be easy to get blisters. Because of this, consider the type of handle on a set of pruners. The best pruning shears for this work will fit comfortably in your dominant hand and have a slightly softer surface to grip. Some of the pruners we have used came with a metal-only handle, so we wrapped the handle pieces with tape to give it a better grip.
There are several sizes of pruners available. The intended use for various sizes might not be listed on the packaging, but we found that pruners for grapevines should have approximately a one-inch blade. These will also come in handy if you are growing blackberries, which is easy to do within your vineyard, and you can use them when it comes to blueberry bush care. You may also use a good pair of pruners for an inexpensive goat hoof trimming tool.
While you will be doing most of the cutting with your hand pruners, it’s also a good idea to keep a set of loppers close. This way, you can save your hands and your shears and do the larger cutting with the right size tool. For example, if one of your vines has died you can cut it back to the ground and patiently wait for new sprouts to come up, then train them to your trellis system.
One of the distinctive qualities of pruners from different manufacturers is the open/close feature. This detail may not seem relevant, but on our small farm, it makes all the difference. You want to be able to open and close your pruners quickly and efficiently with one hand. In my experience, I’ve seen that the best pruning shears have a metal loop that latches onto a hook on the opposite handle. This feature is reliable, as opposed to pruners that function with a plastic piece that slips up and down to open and close. The plastic piece can become loose sooner than you would think.
At our farm, all of the pruners we have used are built essentially in the same way as a pair of scissors: they have a set of blades with handles that are held together by a screw. Depending on how many vines you have and how much pruning you knock out, it’s possible for the screw to need tightening by the end of your day. No matter which kind you decide are the best pruning shears for you and your grapevines, when you finish using your pruners at the end of the day, give the screw that holds the two pieces together a quick tighten with a flathead screwdriver if needed. This way, they are ready to work for you on the following day.
You want to buy a good set of pruners for your vines because some varieties of grapes can grow up to six inches in a single day! At our vineyard, we first prune in April while the vines are still relatively dormant; in June, we prune again to tame the vines and contain the nutrients for the grapes; and our final prune is in late July, just before we cover the vines with nets to protect the grapes from our feathered friends (or foes, depending on how you look at it). This means that our pruners get quite a bit of mileage put on them in a single season.
After your harvest, my advice is to keep your old pruners, even if it’s nearly time to retire them. Put them into an extras box and keep them handy for when you have helpers come to either prune or harvest the grapes.
When the last grapes have been picked (or ideally, throughout the season), take some time to clean your pruners. This will help to remove any unwanted diseases such as black rot or mildews from the blades and handles, and it will keep them like new for your next season.