Ideas to Help Manage Your Brush and Weed Hotspots

By Staff

Sponsored by ECHO
March 2018

If you live on a farm or own rural acreage, clearing underbrush and heavy weeds constitutes a never-ending task. In a few short months, what was once a pristine pasture or fence line can soon become choked with brush and weeds. Places such as wooded areas, trails, and even areas around your sheds or out buildings soon become cleanup nightmares.

String Trimmer

String trimmers and handheld brush cutters are two of the most important and commonly used tools for clearing unwanted growth. Clearing grass around buildings, trees, fence posts, and fence lines can be a time-consuming task. You can greatly reduce the length of time you spend trimming with a quality string trimmer.

Most people are familiar with a string trimmer; it consists of a two- or four-cycle gas engine attached to either a curved or straight shaft that ends with a trimmer head that holds spools of heavy nylon “strings” or cord. The type of string trimmer typically used by homeowners tends to be more of a light-duty trimmer, with a smaller engine and a curved shaft.

Heavy-duty straight shaft trimmers or brush cutters are a good choices around the farmstead or rural acreage. These tools typically have a more powerful engine than is usually attached to a standard grass trimmer. These trimmers have a larger engine displacement – think horsepower – than the lighter-duty trimmers. When the trimmer head is interchanged with a cutting blade, the unit may also be equipped with a loop or bike handle configuration to aid in control of the added weight and to help ease arm strain with prolonged use. In this scenario, the brush cutter replaces the string trimmer with a circular saw-type blade. Matched with the correct power head, these brush cutters can make quick work of overgrown brush or saplings up to 2 inches in diameter. The brush cutter allows you to get into areas up against buildings or fences that would be difficult if not impossible to reach with other types of mowers and cutters. The straight shaft on the trimmer even allows you to reach under decks or overhangs to get at tough-to-reach areas.

In addition to the dedicated shaft model, there are split-boom or multi-tool shafted products on the market that use one power source that allows  the interchanging of various attachments. This economical way of building your tool arsenal, makes the brush cutter attachment an ideal choice.

Walk-Behind Brush Cutter

If the area that you need to clear brush and heavy weeds from is quite large and you don’t have access to a tractor-mounted brush mower, you may want to consider renting or purchasing a walk-behind brush mower. Different manufacturers offer  several models, but they all are self-propelled and capable of cutting tall weeds and grass, brush, and saplings up to 3 inches in diameter. Most have a 26- to 32-inch cutting area with anywhere from a 10- to 18-horsepower motor with electric start. The mower deck and blades are heavily constructed and are built to maneuver over flat or rough terrain with ease.

Some great features that walk-behind mowers provide include maneuverability, ease of use, and the ability to conform to small areas. A disadvantage is the mower’s cutting swath. If you are cleaning up a small area, a walk-behind mower is a good choice. However, even though the mower is self-propelled, cutting large areas of an acre or more requires a lot of walking and a surprising amount of physical labor (to turn and manipulate the mower). If you find yourself maintaining a larger area for brush management, there are a couple of other options to explore.

Tow-Behind Mowers

Pull-behind mowers designate a class of brush mower that is designed to be pulled behind another vehicle, such as a riding lawn mower or an ATV. There are a variety of cutting deck sizes compared to walk-behind mowers. Cutting widths of 44 to 60 inches can be selected in tow-behind mowers, with engine configurations of 12 to 20 horsepower V-Twin electric start engines. The mower may be pulled directly behind the towing vehicle or offset to cover more area. Most of the tow-behind mowers incorporate an easy-to-adjust cutting height lever with 2- to 6-inch cutting increments.

Three-Point Tractor-Mounted Mowers

One of the significant benefits of using a tractor-mounted mower to maintain your property is the power that a tractor brings to the job. Large fields with tall grass and weeds, or even brush-filled meadows, are no problem for a three-point mounted mower matched with the proper-sized tractor.

There are a variety of cutting sizes to choose from, starting at 48-inch decks up to 84-inch widths. The size of the three-point mower is matched to the Power Take Off (PTO) rating of the tractor. There are features such as a slip clutch available in some units that will disengage the gearbox of the mower if an obstacle – such as a big rock or tree stump – comes in contact with the mower’s blades, to avoid damaging the mower. A lot of the mowers have a shear pin or “bolt” that is designed to break if the blades encounter damaging torque.

Develop a Plan for Clearing Brush

Regardless of the type of clearing method you need to manage brush and weeds on your property, it’s a good idea to deal with brush and weed growth in its early stages. Periodic clearing of brush in troublesome areas makes for a much easier cleanup than waiting until brush is in late-stage growth and requires more horsepower and more of your valuable time to knock down.