Land Clearing Basics - Ranch Hand Tips
How to Clear Land by Hand
Overgrown lots with underbrush and large plants can be hard to manage, especially without large equipment. It might seem impossible at first, but farmers have been clearing land without large tools for many years. To make the process more manageable, you can divide the land into quadrants and focus on one section at a time. You can also break your work into sections depending on what you are hoping to accomplish, such as clearing trees, brush, and underbrush, fertilizing the land, or removing stumps.
Clearing Trees and Brush
Use an axe or chainsaw to remove larger trees.Always be careful when using these tools. If you’ve never used one before, have a friend or family member who has had more experience give you a short lesson before you begin working.
Cut a 45 degree angle into the tree about one foot from the ground.You should plan on cutting the tree on the side it will fall toward. The wedge should cut about one third of the way into the diameter of the tree.
Cut a 45 degree wedge on the opposite side of the tree.On the opposite side of the first notch, you will chop another 45 degree wedge slightly higher than the first notch to create a hinge. This cut should reach about halfway into the tree
Cut into the notch and use your hand to push the tree to fall.If the tree does not immediately begin to fall, you may have to continue chopping or cutting into the second notch until it becomes unsteady and begins to fall.
Hire a professional for removal of very large trees.If the tree is very large (over 10-15 feet tall) and you don’t want to keep it on the land, it will likely be in your best interest to look into having it professionally removed to avoid hurting yourself or damaging the land in the process of removal.
- Search for certified arborists or tree specialists in your area. Remember that certification doesn’t always mean that they will do the best work, just that they have demonstrated their knowledge of tree removal.
- Contact multiple businesses and ask them to evaluate the job and provide you with a price quote. Be wary of professionals who are willing to quote you a price over the phone.
- Ask for proof of their insurance and certifications, and check their references who have had similar work completed.
Dig out the stump using a shovel for smaller stumps with shallow roots.If the tree has shallow roots and if the stump is small enough, you can normally dig it out. Dig until you expose the roots, and then use an axe or pruning shears to cut and pull out larger roots. Once you’ve cut all the roots, you can pull the stump out directly.
Use a stump grinder for large stumps with stubborn roots.Stump grinders are large power tools that reach underground to sever the roots using sharp metal teeth. Sometimes, you can rent them from a home improvement store, or you can contact a professional if you have a lot of stumps to remove.
- Make sure you know how to safely operate the stump grinder before using it. The home improvement store will likely teach you about the specific instructions for the machine before you rent it.
Remove the stump using chemicals if the tree has been dead for over a year.To do this, drill 5-6 holes into the top of the stump. Then, pour powdered potassium nitrate into the holes and fill them with water.
- You can find potassium nitrate tree stump removal at most home improvement stores. Always make sure you wear gloves and safety glasses when handling chemicals.
- Wait 4-6 weeks for the stump to rot, and then break up and remove what’s left of the stump with an axe and a shovel or spade.
Cut down large underbrush with a pruning shear, chainsaw, or hatchet.Try to cut as close to the root of the brush as possible, but you may have to remove very large brush, such as bushes, in sections. Take your time to ensure that the entire plant down to the root is removed before moving onto the next one.
Pull small weeds, and remove sticks and debris by hand.Make a small pile on a clear piece of land where all of your debris will be stacked for removal. You can create a compost box or pile if you would like to use the debris for fertilizing the land.
- If you aren’t going to create a compost pile, you should bundle or bag the debris to be removed by waste management or taken to a dumpster.
Dig out stubborn weeds with a shovel or spade.If there’s a weed that can’t be removed by pulling or cutting, use a shovel or spade to dig it out by the roots. Dig a circle around the base of the weed and reach under it using the spade or shovel. You can also try pulling on the weed occasionally to break the roots further.
Use a weed removal tools to remove brush close to the ground.Tall grasses and other weeds can be cut down using a manual weed whip or gas-powered weed trimmer, which will maintain the integrity of the soil while giving your land a cleaner look.
- It’s okay to leave short grasses because they help to keep nutrients in the soil. If you plan on farming the land, you will likely be tilling or digging which will remove the smaller grasses when you are ready for planting.
Use a rake to gather clippings and excess debris from the ground.This will help to gather most of the cut underbrush into one pile before placing it in containers for removal or adding it to the larger pile of debris. It’s okay to leave some grass or sticks, because they will be mixed in with the soil during tilling or fertilizing.
Discard of any collected debris using a waste management system.Most local waste management systems will accept yard debris if properly prepared for pickup. You can place your debris for pick up at the curb in a few different manners:
- Loose containers, which can be dumped into a collection truck.
- Compostable plastic bags that can be found at most home improvement stores.
- Brown paper collection bags that can be found at most home improvement stores.
- Clear plastic bags, if your waste management company allows for this. You should check their website, as some companies will not pick up debris in non-biodegradable bags.
Tilling and Fertilizing
Check the pH of the soil.You can check soil pH using a test kit from a home improvement store or garden center. This will let you know if your soil is more acidic or alkaline, which is an important factor for deciding on how to fertilize your soil.
- Start by digging a small hole 2-4 inches into the ground. Fill the hole with distilled water, and wait for some of the surrounding soil to make the water muddy. Then, insert the test and wait for about a minute.
- A reading of less than 7 means that the soil is acidic, and higher than 7 means that it is basic, or alkaline. Most plants grow best in a pH range of 6.5-7, with some exceptions, and applying compost can return your soil to this level.
Till the land if you plan on planting crops.If you’re planning on growing crops, tilling helps to mix the soil so that the lower soil is on the surface and the upper level of soil moves down into the ground. You can do this by using a gas-powered rototiller for a lot of land or a large pitchfork for a smaller area.
- If you don’t have a rototiller, you can rent one from most home improvement stores. Make sure you know how the machine works before using it, and if you have any questions, ask the home improvement specialists.
Mix compost into the soil.Natural compost is a great way to fertilize your soil and get it ready for growing. You can make compost yourself using biodegradable food scraps and yard debris. You’ll need to let your compost sit for 2-3 months before it’s ready to be used.
Spray the land or apply commercial fertilizer for fast results.You can find commercial fertilizers at most home improvement stores that will improve the levels of phosphorus and nitrates in the soil. Although this method is easy and works quickly, it can be potentially harmful for the environment, and most people find that using compost alone is a good natural alternative.
- Always follow the directions on the packaging for use and application of fertilizers, as improper use can harm the water under your soil and potentially damage your land.
- Always use the proper safety gear when handling power tools and chemicals.
- If you have outdoor allergies, always be aware of your surroundings and stop working immediately if you feel that you’re having an allergic reaction.
Video: CLEARING LAND WITH CHAINSAW
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