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How to kill off the saplings, bushes & wild raspberries to maintain several acres manually  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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Location: Quebec, Canada
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What is the long term strategy for clearing several acres full of decideous saplings, bushes and wild raspberries.  I have no mechanical means to clear this area other than hand pruning or with a hand held brush trimmer.

Last year, when we cut them back to the ground, most of them had a regrowth this year of several branches making it even more work to recut them.  How many times does a sapling need to be cut back and the frequency in order for the sapling to die. 



The evergreens are not an issue.

Please share your experiences of how you have killed off the saplings & bushes and maintained several acres without a tractor or lawn mower.





 
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Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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Pigs:
 
gardener
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Michelle Bisson wrote:Please share your experiences of how you have killed off the saplings & bushes and maintained several acres without a tractor or lawn mower.



Hire someone to mow for me, or rent a brush chopper.
 
Michelle Bisson
pollinator
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Since it will not work out to have pigs, then I have to do the work of the pigs.


We do have some areas which I use the push lawnmower but the other areas it is not suitable for using the lawnmower. 


How many times do you have to cut down a sapling or young tree to stop it from growing back & what frequency?



I am using the cut saplings as mulch for my garden, but I do want to kill the saplings so they stop regrowing, as there will be always new saplings to cut in the future.  I want to minimize how much time I spend doing this each year.






 
Posts: 325
Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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I once cleared overgrowth that was 10-12 foot tall. I used an old Mitts And Merrill 8" chipper. The cutting blades were so worn that there was too much gap, so it didn't cut clean. It tended to blow long strings of the bark off, I think, the smaller branches. I angled the trailer behind the truck and just blew the chips into the field. It did fine with the Maples. I could toss a whole tree into it 3" stump first, and it would pull the whole thing thru. However there were a lot of 3-4" diameter crabapple  that it couldn't handle. Partially because the wood was so hard, but mostly because  of their habit of growing like birds nests. A branch will grow toward the south and then turn around and head north. I cleaned up the Maples and resorted to burning the crabs. I'd build a big bonfire and throw the whole crab apple tree into it and then rake the spill over into the middle. On a lot of the crabs I'd get maybe two sticks of firewood off the base.

You can do a lot more clearing with a riding lawn mower than you might guess. With a  zero turn mower you can chop even better. The cutting decks out front and your cutting before the brambles get back to where you are. You can buy a used commercial walk behind mower really cheaply. Something like a 48" Exmark. If you buy a commercial mower like this you can use and then sell it, hopefully, for what you bought it for. Don't buy with busted up caster wheels or mower deck roller wheels, that indicates usage by someone who didn't care what they did with it, or flying off a trailer cause it wasn't tied down. I wouldn't bother sharpening blades till you relist it for sale. Check the fluids, keep the cooling fins on the engine clear of dust build up and you should have no serious problems. If your cutting heavy growth the mower deck belts will wear/stretch. A 48" mower will fit into a pickup truck between the wheel wells.

Another option is to hire a land clearing company to come in. They have HydroAxes that will mow over 4" trees. Some use them to mow and one guy I saw raised the cutting deck over a tree and then lowered running down into the tree from the top down. I got an offhand guestimate of $4000 an acre to clear the undergrowth, that was 15 years ago. That didn't include cutting the big stuff. They did that also. The outfit I watched, on a property that I sold, had a cutter that sawed a tree from the bottom while hydraulic fingers held the top. They could cut an 8" tree and then move to the next and using multiple fingers grab the next tree and saw it off. They'd cut 4, 5, 6 trees depending on the size and then lay them all down in a nice neat pile. That cutter could cut the bigger trees, but one at a time. They had a chipper on an 18 wheel trailer that blew the chips into another 18 wheel trailer. I have no idea what the cost of clearing the big stuff'd cost.

 
pollinator
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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What are you trying to accomplish?
That is, why do you want the land cleared?
 
Michelle Bisson
pollinator
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Hiring a company is not an option nor is buying a ride lawnmower (and reselling it).

We can handle cutting by hand loppers where our push mower does not go, but it is dealing with the regrowth since it comes up as many shoots, but is more work to recut than the original cutting. 

So my main questions comes down to:

How many recuts (on average) do I need to do before I kill the saplings and what frequency such as twice a year, once a year etc...

I am mostly dealing with popular & willow both which shoots up fast.

 
Michelle Bisson
pollinator
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Basicially, cutting down the saplings is to stop the land from turning into a forest.  It is to keep the native forest from expanding to keep the potential forest fires from being too close and also to keep the wild animals (bears, cougars, moose) far enough from the areas where live and work.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Around here, burning is a common method used to minimize trees growing along the canals.

The more often you cut off the new growth, the sooner the energy in the roots will be exhausted, and the sooner the re-sprouting will stop. Once a year doesn't seem frequent enough.
 
Posts: 74
Location: San Diego, California
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Sounds like woody brush/saplings that just won't die after annual cuttings is perfect Coppice wood - if you let the suckers grow large enough, cut them every couple years for firewood, fence-posts, etc. and you'll never have to scrounge for firewood again.

One of our main tenets around here is turning one problem into a solution for a different problem. 


OR, dig them out - in my experience, you'll never be able to do enough constant chopping on certain persistent bushes/vines to kill them by pruning alone.
 
Michelle Bisson
pollinator
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Yes, this is my goal.

"The more often you cut off the new growth, the sooner the energy in the roots will be exhausted, and the sooner the re-sprouting will stop. Once a year doesn't seem frequent enough. "

Now to figure out how frequently I should go back and cut back the new growth.


Anyone knows the frequency rate of cutting off the new shoots to exhaust the root system? 

Most of the saplings are less than 1 inch in diameter.
 
Dustin Rhodes
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Next level could be to plant trees you DO want around that will shade out the smaller stuff eventually.
 
John Duda
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Rereading your original question, I guess I wasn't very responsive.

I didn't have a problem with regrowth. If I had to guess, I'd guess I spent 10 0r 12 years clearing 2, 3, I doubt it was 4 acres with a chainsaw. For the most part I left the large trees so there wasn't a lot of sunlight assisting growth, or regrowth. But it depends on what you're clearing and how thick it is. I remember cutting a field of solid crabapple maybe 18" apart. I cut a field maybe 100x150 in one day and never handled a single one. They supported each other even after being cut. But then I'd guess it took me another 2 or 3 years to clean up that mess. Usually I'd cut off the bottom high enough to keep the chainsaw out of the dirt, but then that left stumps high enough that I didn't want to mow there. The only parts I ever remember mowing was the areas that I either had a garden or were the pigs ran.

I also can't image mowing any woody plant unless soon after a weed sprouted. I had a weedwacker with a 10" saw blade that I used on woody stuff up to about an inch in diameter. As I remember most of that small stuff was were I put the garden. They said I couldn't put a garden were there were woods, but I did and it grew very well even the first year.

I heard stories that the early settlers used pigs and cows to clear the land. However I can't image pulling huge stumps, 2 3 feet in diameter even with a couple oxen. The best my cows did on their own was to use their horns to start pealing bark off a maple in the spring and then peal it up the tree 10 or more feet. Some of those maples died in the next many years, but a lot were still there 15 20 years later with the damaged bark.

I didn't have experience with poplars and willows, but don't those trees send up shoots from the roots once they've been cut. They'll do that for many years, I can't tell you how long.

 
Michelle Bisson
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"I didn't have experience with poplars and willows, but don't those trees send up shoots from the roots once they've been cut. They'll do that for many years, I can't tell you how long. "

This is what I am afraid of.  


Hopefully, someone knows the answer.




 
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Those roots are HARD to kill.

Have you heard of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) of trees in drylands? Particularly in the Sahel, Africa. From wikipedie

"Existing indigenous vegetation was generally dismissed as 'useless bush', and it was often cleared to make way for exotic species. Exotics were planted in fields containing living and sprouting stumps of indigenous vegetation, the presence of which was barely acknowledged, let alone seen as important.[15]

This was an enormous oversight. In fact, these living tree stumps are so numerous they constitute a vast 'underground forest' just waiting for some care to grow and provide multiple benefits at little or no cost –and each stump can produce between 10 and 30 stems each. During the process of traditional land preparation, farmers saw the stems as weeds and slashed and burnt them before sowing their food crops. The net result was a barren landscape for much of the year with few mature trees remaining. To the casual observer, the land was turning to desert. Most concluded that there were no trees present and that the only way to reverse the problem was through tree planting.[16]"


The key point is that after decades of regular cutting the roots were still there, and when the cutting stopped they regrew to full sized trees. And this too in an incredibly hostile arid environment.

Our place has an area of about an acre that grew up to dense saplings of willows within 2 years from when the farmer stopped caring for it. Short of digging the roots out they seem unkillable. I have a stump sprouting from beneath my bonfire spot! Rather than kill them, I have decided to work with them. Some have been left as posts to secure chicken fencing to. Others have been cut to ground level, and allowed to resprout. We beefed up the fencing in the area and now periodically let the sheep in for a week at a time. The browse back the regrowth and are encouraging the transition back to mostly grass, with some canopy.

It sounds like your primary aim with this land is to keep it unforested, for fire prevention purposes. I would, therefore, propose that you follow a similar approach. Get your fencing and water supply up to scratch and make a deal with a local farmer. Our arrangement is that they run their sheep on our land spring and autumn (resting in summer) and they keep our freezer stocked with lamb. Everyone wins. If the land is of a decent size consider making two separate subdivisions so that the sheep can graze one area intensively, before being switched back to the other. With sheep in place doing most of the hard work for you, all you will need to do is periodically come through and hand prune any that got too big for them to handle.
 
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