Tuesday, June 25, 2013

New Favorite Bittersweet-Fighting Tool

Property owners lucky enough to have only a small, new oriental bittersweet infestation, who spot it and act early are well-rewarded. They can stop the spread by pulling new seedlings and vines, treating if appropriate, and with a little periodic re-checking the area they can count themselves among the fortunate few who never have to bring out the heavy artillery (all those tools you see in horror movies or in mob movies to get people to talk).

This post is for the rest of us, the less fortunate, who regularly need to haul out the loppers to fight a larger infestation. We're constantly lurking in the garden tool aisle of the hardware store searching for anything that might make the job easier, faster and less back-breaking.

This site does not endorse products or make comparisons. That said, the editorial we recently purchased a Fiskars Pruning Stik (their spelling) because it looking like it might fill a spot in the tool inventory somewhere between pruning shears and loppers. Fiskars has made this product for at least 10 years and Amazon buyers currently rate it 4.7 stars out of a possible 5 (we purchased it locally).

The tool is 62" long  and weighs only 1.9 pounds. They also make a longer, slightly heavier extendable version. The tradeoff for the light weight is that the Pruning Stik appears to be somewhat lightly made and less durable than a good pair of loppers. It also has more moving parts to potentially break. There may be comparable products that are better or worse. As always, do your own homework.

So the question is, what does this do that you can't do with the loppers or pole trimmer you already have?

Here's the big advantage. This is definitely a back-saver. The Stik has a "bypass lopper" type head that can be adjusted 230 degrees (according to Fiskars). That and the long reach make it extremely easy to cut a vine near ground level with no bending whatsoever. And because this is a stick it is very easy to get the head right to where you want to cut. There is no external rope to get tangled in things so it is much easier to use than a rope-pull pole pruner/saw. It has no provision for attaching a saw blade but there's no real need for it.

The weight and size make it a tool you can easily bring along on a maintenance walk and not feel like you're dragging along a heavy or oddly shaped tool. And of course there is the reach (both down and up, as well as into a tree), which you can't easily get with loppers.

Tried it out today and it cut a 1" black birch sapling at the base with ease. Black birch is pretty soft compared to oak or maple but harder than a bittersweet vine of the same diameter. So this should handle most maintenance-type vine cutting tasks with less effort and bending compared to loppers. Fiskars says it's good "up to 1 1/4".

Don't throw away your loppers, they should still be your standard go-to tool for heavy duty lopping work. But the Pruning Stik appears to be something to consider for that quick walk around the property where you want to "reach out and cut something" without the back-bending and effort that goes with loppers.

The 62" model retails for about $50 and the extendable version for about $100. They are available for less (mine was $43 and change). We'll see how long it holds up but in terms of making a necessary job easier on the back the difference was like night and day.

Above: 62" "Pruning Stik" weighs only 1.9 pounds. Reflective tape has been added, it doesn't come that way from Fiskars (makes the tool easier to find when you leave it in the woods; go back at dusk with a flashlight and look for the glow!). 

Above: Easily cuts vines without bending down.
If you have any surgeon-installed hardware in your back this is priceless. 

Above: Reaches overhead into a tight spot very easily. 
Here are a few video links showing the tool in use: