The lone voice of horticultural reason

Welcome, comrades.

Day after tomorrow, the world!

RENEGADE GARDENER is the Web’s best site for gardeners seeking truth, hope, and one lousy sign that someone unfettered by industry prejudice is helping you become a better gardener.

Originally designed to help gardeners banished to the forgotten USDA Zones 2-4, bold content has made it one of the Web’s most-linked gardening sites. Gardening is gardening, design is design, dumb is dumb, and truth conquers all!

The Renegade Gardener is Don Engebretson, an award-winning Minnesota garden writer and designer.

The Story of the Renegade Gardener

NEW! Click HERE for Don’s 2017 
national speaking schedule


Carefree Cuts: How to Prune Shrubs

Shrub beauty, health and longevity come from proper pruning.

People will buy an expensive piece of leather clothing and take it to a specialist across town for cleaning, they’ll pay trained mechanics for simple stuff like oil changes and tire rotations, even call an electrician when a circuit trips, but still stagger out into their yards with grampa’s dull hatchet and flail away at their overgrown shrubs as if they have an advanced degree in botany. Year after year, the shrubs look worse.

I don’t get it. Pruning is not complicated, once you know about a dozen things, a dozen things you are about to learn. Herein I will detail pruning techniques for both deciduous and evergreen shrubs. Put on a pot of coffee and break out the beanbag chairs, this is a long one.

Proper Tools

A hatchet is not one of them. Nor is an axe, a handsaw made for lumber, or knives of any kind. If you own a yard, you own shrubs, and if you own shrubs, you need to own the following tools:

Bypass lopper top, bypass pruner bottom.

Bypass Pruner – This is your number one tool. It is so named because the top, curved cutting blade bypasses the wider, curved bottom portion that secures the branch you are cutting. Buy a good one – at least thirty bucks – with replaceable blades. It should last for decades. Good bypass pruners come right-handed and left-handed. A right-handed model has the blade to the right as you look down on it; reverse for left-handed. This is important, as we shall see.


Current Column will be updated from the Archives on November 1.

The 10 Tenets of Renegade Gardening

Full version is required reading: CLICK HERE.

  1. Gardening should be challenging, relaxing, and fun.
  2. Renegade Gardeners are cautious and wise when perusing the plethora of products and plants sold by the commercial gardening industry.
  3. Gardening involves commitment.
  4. Renegade Gardeners learn the Latin names of the plants they grow.
  5. Gardening is not always easy.
  6. Renegade Gardeners come to realize that lawns are essentially a dumb idea.
  7. Gardening and rock music do not mix.
  8. Renegade Gardeners buy first from local growers.
  9. There is nothing wrong with cutting down a tree on your property.
  10. Irreverence is essential.