Help me maintain 2 wooded acres. Please.
September 26, 2007 12:26 PM   Subscribe

We just bought a house on 2 acres of wooded land. I need help with leaf management (fall is coming soon!) and path/trail maintenance. More specifically, I think I want suggestions for leaf blowers and string trimmers/brushcutters.

My wife and I have bought a house, and we love it. The lot is very wooded (yet is near work, shopping, etc.) I just need to learn how to manage the outside most effectively. I've looked around on google, but it's hard to separate good content form crap. Basically, there are 2 main issues:

1) We have a path/trail which goes from the back of our house to the stream. It isn't terribly long, but tall grasses/weeds want to overgrow it. In some places, there are thin bushes, as well. I did a bit of preliminary work with a machete, but that doesn't work well for the grasses or weeks. I think I need a (gas-powered) string trimmer with a brushcutter attachment for the heavier bushes. Anyone have recommendations for equipment or alternative approaches?

2) Fall is coming, and all these trees will be dropping tons of leaves. I'm pretty sure I'm well outside of what I could possibly rake. Also, we have a crushed stone driveway, so a rake isn't likely to work very well. Any suggestions in what leaf blower to buy? We'd like something reliable, and since we're going to clear a decent bit of land, I think I want a backpack rather than handheld.

In recommending tools, etc, I have a preference for left-handed friendly, but really, reliability/quality and performance/effectiveness are key. Many thanks!
posted by JMOZ to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Once you get the path chopped down, you may want to put down landscaping fabric and cover it with stone/woodchips etc to keep it from overgrowing.
posted by electroboy at 1:12 PM on September 26, 2007

I grew up in a house surrounded by lots of trees. Over the years, we've used many different types of machines for collecting/mulching the leaves.

After all is said-and-done, the easiest and most effective method was to use our riding lawn-mower to mulch and collect the leaves. It has to be one of the mowers that collects grass clippings/leaves into bins on the mower itself. This involves the least amount of labor, and is easy to do frequently.

Frequently collecting the leaves is quite important. If you let them sit too long, then they get wet, and become a pain in the ass.

Other machines we've used:

- Hand pushed gas mulcher: Works fine, but more labor than a riding mower.

- Hand pushed, or hand-held leaf blower: Good for herding leaves into large unmanageable piles.

- Good old-fashioned rakes: an excellent form of exercise, but probably not good as your main weapon. Wear gloves otherwise you'll get blisters.

- Chainsaw: Solve the problem once and for all
posted by jsonic at 1:46 PM on September 26, 2007

Yep, beastly riding mower is the best way, likely for both the path and the leaves, if the path is flat enough to get a rider down.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:02 PM on September 26, 2007

Response by poster: The path is unlikely to accomodate a riding mower. It's pretty steep and there are stairs on part of it....
posted by JMOZ at 2:40 PM on September 26, 2007

For the path I would probably just rake the leaves off (into the woods), and cut back the overhanging brush either with trimmers or an electric chainsaw. You'll want to be careful with the saw if you've never used one, but I think they're handy. You can use one to cut pretty much anything that's bigger than you can cut with hand ratchet cutters. (If you're nervous about using a saw, Black and Decker makes a thing that's like a chainsaw crossed with clippers, so there's no exposed blade.)

Then I'd stack any of the larger pieces of brush parallel to the path on either side to try and mark the path. If you really want to get anal-retentive, you can then get an asphalt tamper and tamp the earth, that'll cut down on regrowth. Personally a path that has weed-barrier and woodchips down wouldn't feel like a 'path in the woods' to me anymore, and more like gross suburbanization, but that's one route if you want it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:00 PM on September 26, 2007

Links to tools:

Ratcheting Loppers (everything from the small stuff up to 3/4", maybe more if it's soft. Toro is a good brand, IMO.)
Black and Decker "Alligator" Lopper (sort of a chain saw for people who don't like chain saws, it gets mixed reviews but is pretty unique)
Stihl Electric Chainsaw (their smallest model, and IMO Stihl is the only company for chainsaws)
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:10 PM on September 26, 2007

1. Leaf vacuum, if you can. Poulan "Weed Eater" with a vacuum attachment. This thing chops the leaves up as it sucks 'em in, so you get a bunch of mulch. It won't ingest the rocks if they're bigger than about 3/4", either.

2. Kadin2048 and I will illustrate the long-standing Husqvarna v. Stihl partisanship, which makes Ford v. Chevy look quite bland. A Husky 326 string trimmer with a "grass blade" will go right through 1/2" hardwood seedlings. A Husky 350 chain saw with a 20" bar is very good for felling trees under 18" or so in diameter, and it's light enough for lopping.

3. If you 'solarize' weedy patches that will kill weeds and seeds. A fabric weed block underneath path coverings will prevent weeds from poking through it.
posted by jet_silver at 5:04 PM on September 26, 2007

I'm on two acres. I use a garden tractor with mulching blades to maintain the grassy area (not a "lawn"), an electric leaf blower with extension cord (lighter, less expensive less noisy, needing less maintenance than a gas model, and easily powerful enough) to blow the leaves into the brush at the side, where they weather away by next spring, a gas chain saw for trees and limbs, a gas brush cutter/trimmer, a pole saw (electric because I use it very infrequently) and loppers. Of course if you have a show lawn and/or formal edging, that wouldn't solve the leaf problem.

I also maintain a cut brush pile and rent a chipper when needed - spread that over the path and you don't need to worry about clearing it.

I do have a lot of extension cords.
posted by Neiltupper at 5:09 PM on September 26, 2007

Got any kids? Train them/pay them do it. Growing up I lived on 5 acres of which about 2 was wooded/ lawn area. Raking/mowing/hauling was SOP on weekends for me & siblings from age 9-17. We used rakes & a bagging/riding mower. "Mt. Leaf-More" was an inexhaustible supply of worms and compost.
posted by pgoes at 5:25 PM on September 26, 2007

I have a preference for left-handed friendly
Trust me, you are shit out of luck there when it comes to garden equipment.

A line trimmer can be used to clear the path of leaves, as it will work sort of like a rotary broom, flicking all the leaves off to the side. That way, you only need one tool to keep the weeds down and sweep the leaves. Won't work on a gravel driveway, though, I guess. Don't buy electric garden tools unless you like tripping over.
posted by dg at 8:03 PM on September 26, 2007

Once you get the path chopped down, you may want to put down landscaping fabric and cover it with stone/woodchips etc to keep it from overgrowing.

That's what I was going to say. Old cardboard boxes laid flat under woodchips will work for a season or so, and then you'll just need to add new woodchips. Or you could go buy some dg or gravel.
posted by salvia at 9:41 PM on September 26, 2007

Best answer: Just a comment on the gravel driveway. Mine is made of little pebbles a little bigger than found in a fish tank, and a rake works OK. A blower is a little easier and more fun. Basically with either the first pass clears the leaves, the second pushes the pebbles back into place on any bare patches.
At my place we have long, low mounds of rotting leaves on either side of the drive and paths, it looks natural rather than manicured, but is fine if that is acceptable.
posted by bystander at 3:40 AM on September 27, 2007

Husquavarna makes excellent chainsaws as well as backpack blowers, weed whips, and brush cutters. A backpack blower is going to be your most versatile option for getting leaves out of tough spots.
A lot of state parks here in the finger lakes have nature trails that get inundated with leaves. For the most part they leave them. I would really caution against grass under heavy shade. The grass will lose almost always. Go the wood chip, or road gravel route. Use an angular gravel so it locks together. Then if you get any encroachment, a weed whip or some round-up would do a quick job of it.
posted by greenskpr at 1:19 PM on October 1, 2007

Response by poster: All the comments were helpful, especially when taken as a whole together. Thanks to everyone for their help!

I ended up buying a Stihl hand-held gas blower (BG55) for blowing off the driveway/back of the house (too much for a rake, not enough for a backpack blower) and a Stihl string trimmer with a brush-cutting blade for the path. So far, they're working great, but I think a chainsaw may be in the not-too-distant future. I'll probably stick with Stihl since (a) they seem to be pretty great, and (b) it'd make life easier to use the same fuel/oil mix in all my yard equipment.
posted by JMOZ at 7:52 PM on October 2, 2007

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