Gearing Up

Keeping the growth of grass, weeds and resilient trees at bay or at least under control is a continual battle. Mowers, trimmers and brush cutters all can help in the seemingly daily fight against these green invaders of manicured lawns and trails.

In the quest to be “greener” about maintaining landscaping, consider an electric lawn mower. Since there are no belts, hoses, oil, gas or fumes to contend with, it is a low-maintenance option--merely plug it in and let it charge. Fully charged, an electric mower can run for an average of 80 minutes--covering about an acre of mowed grass. “With the price of gas creeping back up, an electric mower helps alleviate the fuel costs,” says Brad Unruh, product manager with Hustler Turf Equipment.

“We see the benefits of battery-powered landscaping equipment,” he adds. “Alternative energy is definitely here to stay, and we are looking at creating sustainable products.”

When You Are Finished Mowing

Trimmers range in size from 21.2 to 42 cubic centimeters (cc), and are available in curved and straight shafts. Straight-shaft trimmers provide a little more reach as the total length of the shaft is longer than a curved shaft. “Some users prefer a curved shaft, if they are trimming in a tight space,” says John Powers, product manager with Illinois-based Echo Incorporated, which manufactures hand-held outdoor power equipment.

Trimmers typically come with a line-feed system, but can be converted to accept a plastic or metal blade. Besides the addition of the blade, the conversion kit also has a different shield.

A step up from weed and grass trimmers are the heavier cousins--the brush cutters, which can clear heavy brush, including small trees up to 1 inch or more in diameter. The metal-blade brush cutters are typically used for trailside maintenance or clearing new areas.

A Comfortable, Safe Trim

Lugging around a heavy trimmer all day can become a pain in the neck. Four-point harnesses are available to distribute the weight of a trimmer over both shoulders. Other ergonomics include loop handles that are adjustable to fit an operator, rather than the other way around.

To improve field safety, all trimmers and brush cutters should have a throttle lock-out. This safety feature prevents the accidental engagement of the trimmer. The throttle lock-out is typically a two-part trigger, where the trigger-release is located in a different area, for example, on top of the grip.

Chewing Up Trees And Brush

When you need to do more extensive work in clearing land, a mulching or masticating machine will grind up most anything in its path. Also known as forestry mulchers, masticating machines are used in a variety of different applications, and are an easy, cost-efficient way to remove trees and brush in a non-invasive manner. The system works just like a mower, but with more power and less manpower.

While you may think this is too much oomph for your application, keep in mind all those miles of trails, roadsides and right-of-ways you do battle with every year. Masticating heads are used in cities and parks for trail- and land-maintenance projects. For example, “widow makers”--semi-fallen trees that rest precariously against nother trees--create hazards for hikers on the trail. While a “widow maker” is tricky to remove, a mulching head mounted on a nimble skid steer can easily and safely grind the tree into mulch.

The benefits of mulching are that nutrients are readily available to the soil, and the mulched material is not a potential fire hazard. Mulching heads range from 50 to 70 inches in cutting width. The mulching head makes the process of clearing a trail, right-of-way or space for a fence much easier and cleaner. Another benefit of mulching versus tearing trees out of the ground is that the soil integrity is kept intact, reducing the possibility of future erosion. In masticating or mulching trees, there are no residual obstacles to work around or debris piles to distract from the natural beauty of the woods, making long-term maintenance much easier.

Mulching Invaders

If invasive honeysuckle and multi-flora rose are taking over your property, mulching heads can be used to economically reclaim the land. “In Ohio, invasive honeysuckle is a nuisance. It is really difficult to remove by hand or with a chainsaw,” says Bob Candee, regional manager with Ohio-based Fecon, Inc., a manufacturer of forestry mulchers, forestry track carriers and bio-mass harvesting equipment. Mulching heads can drastically trim the time it takes to remove such nuisances from your property.

If you have a few back-burner projects, such as land reclamation, trail clearing or invasive plant removal, the mulching heads work well, even in severe weather, like the off-season, when temperatures dip into single digits, and snow is on the ground. “Parks departments use the Bull Hog during the winter time to clear or reclaim the land,” says Candee. “The foliage is off the plants, and since everything is frozen, the mulch is much finer.”

Whether you have a few acres to mow, a few thousand things to trim or a couple hundred miles of forested trails to maintain, there is a machine that can help you accomplish the job more efficiently, saving you time and money.

Tammy York is the owner of LandShark Communications LLC, which specializes in media and public relations for outdoor recreation businesses. Her book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cincinnati, is available online and in bookstores. You can reach her at