[Market-farming] Equipment for pruning large fruit trees

Glen Eco Farm glenecofarm at planetcomm.net
Thu Aug 28 22:16:01 EDT 2008

I have a small fruit tree orchard consisting primarily of European and Asian pears, three apricot trees, and one Gala apple tree.  The trees are now getting big enough to be a challenge to prune even from a pallet elevated to the optimum height with a tractor front end loader.  Considering the fact that I soon will be embarking on my sixth decade of life, I have begun to question the wisdom of continuing to climb around on shaky ladders and front end loaders, especially since the orchard is situated on a moderate slope and I don't really have that much accident and life insurance.

I have done some checking into what is available to make it possible to prune 15' -- 20' tall trees with both feet planted firmly on solid ground.  Basically this kind of equipment falls into two categories: 1) hand operated saws and (or) shears on the end of poles (fixed or extendable) and connected to the operator via cables or ropes and 2)  small chain saws on the end of a power shaft pwered by a two cycle engine much like those on moderate to large sized string trimmers and brush cutters. 

Units designed specifically for that purpose often have telescoping poles capable of reaching up to 15'.  A chain saw cutter head is availble which fits onto the drive shaft of an ordinary trimmer which is capable of reaching about 7 or 8 feet.  I have considered that if were to use powered equipment, one of these operated from a pallet raised 4 or 5 feet off the ground might be fairly safe.  Otherwise, investment in additional powered equipment to do this job starts to look expensive.  Another angle to consider about using powered pruning equipment on the end of long poles.  Am I going to do damage beyond cutting off the intended limbs and branches?

Common sense logic suggests that  using hand operated tools would be much more precise than power equipment and less likely to do unwanted damage.  It appears that the appropriate hand operated equipment would cost roughly the same as the power saw attachment that could be used with my existing brush cutter.

I have no experience using anything beyond a large pair of loppers capable of taking off a 2" diameter limb requiring the use of two hands.
I would be interested in hearing from those with experience using the various types of tree pruning equipment., what kind of featues to look for and which ones to avoid.

Marlin Burkholder
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