Pruning with a Reciprocating Saw

– Posted in: Garden chores, Tools and Equipment

Carol’s done it. Mary Ann, the Idaho Gardener’s done it. So has Mr. McGregor’s Daughter and Cindy from My Corner of Katy and M Sinclair Stevens from Zanthan Gardens. They’ve all used a reciprocating saw to prune woody plants.

Not only have they pruned with a recip saw, they raved about how easy it made pruning. I’m surprised to hear myself say this, but they made it sound fun! I have a pair of heavy-duty loppers and a pruning saw, but what I don’t have is a lot of upper body strength. Most of the time, when I need to cut back forsythias or lilacs, I reach for the nearest teenage son and volunteer him for the job.

Which is fine, when you’re talking about one forsythia or a couple of lilacs. But I’ve been eying an entire grove of Tartarian honeysuckle, an invasive shrub that has steadily taken over more ground during the twenty years we’ve lived here. It would get tedious, even for a willing young man, to cut them all down. But I figured two people, taking turns with the saw, could get the job done a lot faster–assuming it really did work on the bush honeysuckle as easily as it worked for those other gardeners.

When I tweeted that I was using my son’s saw for pruning, @torontogardens thought it sounded scary. I was already thinking about making a video about it, but her remark clinched it for me. This will take you five minutes to watch. Let me know if pruning with a reciprocating saw seems scary after you watch it:

I have already been taken to task for not wearing safety glasses and gloves, and rightly so. What was I thinking? Don’t be stupid like I was. Protect your vision and your fingers; both are irreplaceable.

I think the saw will be very helpful in the battle against the honeysuckles, but I still have to figure out if I should be replacing the shrubs with something else, or just wait to see what grows in its place.

How about you? Have you used a reciprocating saw for pruning, or for other garden chores? Share your experiences in the comments.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

Comments on this entry are closed.

Elizabeth November 4, 2009, 3:00 am

Thank you for your work in making this, the video was very informative. I will have to think about the weight issue, too, but get tired of the manual sawing and am tempted to give this a go. Food for thought!

Annie in Austin June 5, 2009, 9:45 am

Philo and I enjoyed seeing your video, Kathy – been thinking about buying one of these reciprocating saws for both house and garden.
It’s always a pleasure to see your face and hear your voice.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Annie in Austin’s last blog post..Imagining Dad In the Garden

sarah May 13, 2009, 6:54 pm

Hi Kathy, Well you make it look do-able. Thanks for the video, it’s so helpful to see you in action. This is probably the kind of thing I need to get control of the forest of lilacs on my property. It’s so fast!!

Apart from the sharpness of the saw and it’s finger-cutting-off ability, I think it’s the noise that freaks me out. But it certainly does the job.
Probably some steel toed boots along with the gloves and eyeguard would be better safety-wise too.

Kathy Purdy May 13, 2009, 10:03 pm

I think the noise was worse on the video than in real life. It’s certainly not as noisy as a circular saw or a chain saw. Closer to noisy kitchen equipment, like a portable electric mixer. And, of course, you can wear hearing protection. They sell hearing protection that blocks out the harmfully loud noise, while still permitting you to hear speech.

Barb February 19, 2010, 12:22 pm

I’ve used the reciprocating saw for lopping branches off some cedars and have been looking for a slightly smaller version ever since. I think the saw works amazing and don’t know why one hasn’t been created for pruning.


Mr. McGregor's Daughter May 13, 2009, 4:54 pm

It’s so fun to be in at the beginning of a new way of doing things. I agree with Carol that Mary Ann was the first one to recommend using a reciprocating saw. I have just one caveat – don’t go crazy with it and cut everything down at once. A little at time is the way to go. My index finger is so sore after yesterday’s buzzfest.

Mr. McGregor’s Daughter’s last blog post..The Lazarus Plants

Helen May 13, 2009, 1:07 pm

Hey, Kathy — does this count as a re-tweet? Glad my sister inspired you to add the video. That’s the beauty of this great online gardening community! I’m going to ask my husband if we own a reciprocating saw. It’s the least we can do… to reciprocate.

Gail May 13, 2009, 8:26 am

Kathy, I didn’t get to watch the whole video…my server turned it off! But I got the gist of it! We have to cut and then poison honeysuckle or like a hydra it will sprout ten heads where one was! gail

Carol, May Dreams Gardens May 13, 2009, 8:01 am

I love using the reciprocating saw for pruning. I think Mary Ann, the Idahogardener, was the first person I had heard of using one. By the way, I weighed mine for you, a cordless Porter&Cable brand, and it was 6 3/4 pounds with the battery.

Donalyn May 13, 2009, 7:24 am

Being married to a carpenter definitely has its advantages – I have any number of powerful cutting power tools available, and sometimes, even an expert to wield them. In some spots here, that darned honeysuckle is begnning to choke out the bamboo – a mixed blessing! Great video Kathy

Karen May 13, 2009, 2:52 am

I haven’t, but those uni-directional pruning saws scare the crap out of me too, so maybe just spending less time with the blade going is worth it! I got wood dust in my eye drilling without eye protection when I was building my worm bin, I won’t make that mistake again, ow!

Karen’s last blog post..Clematis Rehab

Jim K May 12, 2009, 11:02 pm

A few years I started cutting away our back hill, which was also overgrown with shrub honeysuckle and poison ivy. I am very proud to announce that it was this spring that the stumps were finally rotted enough to remove with a few swift steel-toed kicks. The only thing more satisfying than removing such a large area of invasives is seeing the incredible variety of native plants that are miraculously springing up in the absence of the competition (so far tiny spruces, wild strawberry, rasberry, redbuds, and sassafras.

Katie May 12, 2009, 10:48 pm

Great video Kathy! Glad that the sawzall worked for you.

Katie’s last blog post..Waspinator Video Review