The winter months make it pretty obvious that landscaping is in need of pruning from summer growth and cold damage.

By observing bare branches, we can get an idea of the natural shape and structure of shrubs and perennials as well as define the size dimensions we want from evergreens and trees.

Pruning and soil preparation are an important part of gardening, even though they may not be the favorite part.

So the easier it is to accomplish, the less effort and frustration we might experience.

Sharp tools are key to making the job easier.

Now is a great time to get garden tools — shovel blades, pruners, loppers, hoes and spades — cleaned and sharpened.

Cuts and digging are less punishing on your hands, elbows, wrists, neck and back when sharp tools work smoothly and quickly.

Sharp blades also are less dangerous because you don’t have to fight and slash while making cuts and moving soil.

Sharp tools are better for plants, too. Pruning is an extreme action for plants, so the cleaner the cut, the easier it is for a plant to recover.

Dull cuts can rip and shred limbs and tissues, causing unnecessary damage.

Clean tools are important for reducing the chances of spreading disease or weed seeds.

Safety first

Some knowledge is required before sharpening gardening tools. Safety is also an important aspect.

Many websites can take you step by step through the process, or seeking a professional is always an option.

For you “do-it-yourself” folks, several pieces of equipment are needed, such as clean rags, wire brushes, metal files, a whetstone, mineral oil or WD-40, an anvil, gloves and eye protection.

Keep in mind all tool blades are not alike, so you must notice whether they are straight or curved and flat or beveled.

While pruning is a necessary evil, its extreme effect on your plants can make all the difference in creating attractive, well-blooming, well-shaped specimens.

And sharp tools can make all the difference in making the process more enjoyable.

Darla Horner Menking is a Texas Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at

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