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  1. #1
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    Best tools for clearing baby trees

    I'm planning to build a trail (or at least clear some land) in my back yard. It won't be long enough for biking, but will be fun to take my daughter hiking on it.

    The biggest initial challenge is that a lot of the space is covered with baby trees. The trees are too big to pull out by hand. What tool would you use to take out the trees?

    Also, things grow like wild fire. One year I cleared some land, and that summer a bunch of trees started sprouting up. Any recommendations for slowing or preventing the growth?


    Any other tips that could be helpful?

  2. #2
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    Dig them out if they are going to be in the trail tread area. Pickaxe or rogue hoe.

  3. #3
    MTC rep for LPCPCAC
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    Shoot puller - Kind of bulky and heavy to carry long distances but it pulls the whole thing out including the roots
    Best tools for clearing baby trees-img_1400.jpg

    OR

    a set of loppers. They will leave a stump at ground level unless you want to dig them out.
    Best tools for clearing baby trees-pc110.jpg

    Once you get ahead of it, it is easy to pull babies by hand.
    Apathy will get you exactly what you deserve

  4. #4
    Off the back...
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    Scorched earth:


    Seriously though, loppers work reasonably well. If you're actually building a bench cut trail, it's possible to hack through them with a mattock or a Rogue Hoe.

  5. #5
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    I googled shoot puller but got a bunch of unrelated things. The extratigator seems perfect but am not sure I want to spend $154 unless I decide to do a lot of the area. I have a pitch fork so I'll test out a few of the trees to see how difficult they'll be to remove. I'll probably pick up a pickaxe or rogue hoe.

  6. #6
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    pitch forks are for digging potatoes, turning mulch, and tossing hay. Not sure what you expect to accomplish using one on a tree. I guess if you want to break your tools, go ahead.

    Digging the trees up is really the only effective way to do it. Cut your trail wider than what you actually intend to use. It will help keep maintenance down. The more you use it, the better the tread will resist new growth. Soil compaction keeps new sprouts out. You will only need to trim back the growth along the sides of the trail. A weedeater, brush mower, and/or loppers can take care of that.

    Some plants are harder to dig up than others. I had a place in TX with a woodlot out back. That woodlot was FULL of greenbrier. They grow FAST and have vicious thorns. In a month, new shoots could be 20ft tall. The roots are damn near impossible to dig up, but it's the only way to truly get the plants from resprouting. I dug one up in a flower bed once where the tubers weighed about 22lb. They could resprout from that for YEARS.

    You could herbicide, but the consumer grade stuff at the home store is no good for large areas like that. You need a LOT of it, and in a higher concentration to be effective. And it's really toxic $hit at those concentrations. Might require an applicator's license just to buy it. Should really use a respirator and other PPE to apply it. Would need to keep kids and pets away for awhile. Plus, what it leaves behind will look like garbage.

  7. #7
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    I just went out there and realized I can get out most of the pines by hand if my put my work gloves on with rubber palms/finger, crouch down, put my elbows on my knees for extra leverage and use my whole body to pull.
    I have a few hand tools -- good cutters, a hand saw, etc that I can to clear some branches and other things.

    The maples and other trees have wider roots, but I should be able to build the trail to avoid most of those.

    I don't want to use chemicals as the trail is for my young daughter and is also on a ravine that leads to water.

  8. #8
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    A sharp rogue hoe or Pulaski is the easiest way to remove tough saplings by hand. The specialized pullers don't work half as well as you would expect, are heavy, and awkward. You are also limited to very small trees whereas the other tools are not. The other tools are also multipurpose and really something anyone should have around if they are serious about building trail.

  9. #9
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    What sort of technique is used with a rogue hoe or Pulaski to remove the trees?

  10. #10
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    This is from the IMBA Trail Solutions book.
    ---
    Removing Trees and Brush
    When small trees and bushes are growing in the middle of the future tread, don't cut them flush with the ground. They must be dug out, roots and all, or else they'll become dangerous "pungee sticks" when the tread compacts around them. Cutting them at waist level leaves a handle for levering them out. Fill and compact the resulting hole to match the tread.

    Best tools for clearing baby trees-img011.jpg
    Trees, bushes, stumps, and their root balls must be completely removed from the trail tread. Cutting them at waist level leaves a handle for levering them out. When trimming tree branches, always cut to the outside of the bark collar.

  11. #11
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    Adding to the IMBA method, cut around the root ball 6-8" from the stem (10-12" for larger trees) to sever the roots. Don't try to cut the roots right at the stem because they are the thickest here. With a rogue hoe, cut on the back side of the root ball so the blade is cutting towards the center of the stem and will cut tap roots. This is not always possible with larger trees.

    Trail building x-ray vision: Wiggle the stem back and forth before you start cutting while paying attention to the ground around the tree. Many times you can see where the largest roots are at, and where to target the cutting, because the soil directly above them will move.

    The wire of a marking flag can be used to locate/trace roots below grade by doing a little probing (won't work well in rocky soil). This trick is handy when benching if you don't want to impact trees you suspect have shallow roots that intersect a trail line. If a large root is found, you can then build over it by filling instead of cutting away soil.

  12. #12
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    Best tools for clearing baby trees

    Killing baby trees? The best way is to spray the roots with oils made from baby seal blood.

  13. #13
    Delirious Tuck
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    Quote Originally Posted by old_MTBer View Post
    This is from the IMBA Trail Solutions book.


    Click image for larger version. 

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    Doubles as a medieval club when removed.

    Loop the top at about 2.5'-3'.

    Rogue hoe or Pulaski the roots.

    Pull.

    Keep handy for Zombie apocalypse.

  14. #14
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    Weedwrench.com. or pulaski:-)

  15. #15
    cowbell
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    Not weedwrench. He's no longer doing that. Seems a shame, but I understand where he's coming from. I'm just glad I got my order in under the wire before he quit making them. They are great tools.

  16. #16
    featherweight clydesdale
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    We have a Pullerbear, its a weed wrench alternative. It's heavy, you really have to be in a situation where you say I need to go out and pull saplings the whole time or have someone pull saplings. It's too heavy to just wander about and pull one here and another 50 feet down the trail.

    If you're just pulling an occasional one, use a Pulaski. Tip, don't put the ax side into the dirt unless you can actually see the root. That keeps it sharp for when you really need it.

    Also, someone mentioned leaving a 2.5-3' lever, fine for a 1"-2" thick sapling. If you have to take out a 4" thick one, you'll appreciated an nice 4'-5' lever!
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  17. #17
    cowbell
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fattirewilly View Post

    Also, someone mentioned leaving a 2.5-3' lever, fine for a 1"-2" thick sapling. If you have to take out a 4" thick one, you'll appreciated an nice 4'-5' lever!
    This even goes for taking a larger diameter stuff with an excavator if you get a chance to machine build. Fattirewilly knows this, but if you leave some lever sticking up, you can use a small EX to take out something much larger than you'd think, if there's still some trunk. Part of a property I'm on got hit by a weak tornado a couple years back, so we have a lot of 6-8" trees with 10-12' of trunk sticking up, and lots of brush in some of these areas. We're "harvesting" some of the tree trunks for log rides and such as we put trail through that section, and a little 4000lb ex is doing all the work.

  18. #18
    I build my own.
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    Something with a bit of a curve to the blade like a rogue hoe or EZ pick. Pulaskis and mattocks tend to want to slip off the root when you hit it.
    True TemperŪ - Dig EZ Pick
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