Rules of Thumb For Using Pole Pruners
The first and most obvious thing is that you want to prune trees where the branches are out of your reach. Many home gardeners decide to get up on a ladder or into the tree with a chainsaw or other power tool to remove branches. And this what a relative did - but fell out of the tree, winding up in a wheelchair for the rest of his life (broken back).
Rule of Thumb
If you ca't reach it from the ground - you do't use power tools on ladders unless you're professionally trained to do so.
Yes, it may cost you money in the short run to have some high-pruning done by a pro. And yes, "maybe" you could do it.
But then again - maybe you'd hurt yourself like my relative did.
What's the cost of a pro worth then? And yes, I'd rather have foresight than hindsight in this case.
Having Said That
Using a pole pruner allows you to extend your reach from the ground to reach upwards of 12-15 feet into trees to remove branches without having to climb.
There are manual pole pruners and mechanized pole pruners. The mechanical ones are simple to use - they extend up into the tree and will handle branches up to 3/4-inch without flinching.
The power tools are mini-chainsaws and will handle any sized branch the saw can reach.
I have both a hand-powered unit for quick and light work and an electric unit for heavier work.
If I'm shaping an apple tree or trimming the odd small branch here and there, I take the hand unit. It's fast, easy to work with and does't require any setup or safety equipment other than the obvious hard hat.
If I have larger work to do I take the electric model because it will chew through any sized branch I need to work on. But it does demand all the attention of any other chainsaw - from respect to where and what you're using it (kickback on this system can be a serious problem when the saw is above your head) right through to hardhats and face protectors (you're dropping sawdust on your head and into your eyes).
My electric unit also requires a power cord - another potential tripping hazard when you're working with your face in the air.
So - smaller quicker jobs get the hand-unit. Bigger jobs get the chainsaw unit.
Real Bottom Line
For the average home gardener, a power pole pruner is overkill. Go with the easy to use manual pole pruners instead. I have an old-fashioned one (a family hand-me-down and a modern Fiskars pruning pole. Guess which one is easier to use, reaches further and is lighter? I'll never get rid of my antique one but it never comes out of the shed either. :-)
Sources Resource for This Article
A range of Pole Pruners depending on the height and money you want to spend
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