Whether you’ve owned the property for years or just found your forever home, yard maintenance is inevitable. Most of the time, it’s as simple as trimming the bushes and mowing the lawn. Sometimes, though, things have gotten a bit more out of hand and you’re left deciding how to clear your overgrown land.
This step-by-step guide will give you the information you need to know for clearing brush from your backyard, from the best hand tools and brush clearing power tools to an alternative method that will help you double-up on your tasks.
You wouldn’t build a home without blueprints and a game plan, and clearing brush from your yard should be no different.
While you don’t need a map of your backyard, you do need to walk through and determine the best way to clear the brush and undergrowth. Mark any trees you want removed and note areas that appear particularly thick in overgrowth. It’s also a good idea to note any spots of your yard that might be hard to work on such as swampy or rocky terrain or overgrowth intertwined with a fence.
In some areas a permit may be required for you to work on clearing brush in your yard. It could be needed for any number of reasons, from needing a dumpster on the street for cleanup to removing a tree, so check with your local zoning and planning department to be sure.
Pro-Tip: The typical cost of a permit is $50-$200.
Depending on the scope of your project, your weekly trash collection might not be able to handle cleanup. Or, you might not want to wait to clear the brush until it coincides with your area’s next brush collection day.
Consider some alternate strategies such as composting or a yard waste dumpster rental. From dirt and limbs to shrubs and brush, a dumpster rental is an easy way to get rid of your overgrown yard on your schedule.
There’s one thing for certain when it comes to clearing brush: you’ll need some tools. Whether you plan on clearing brush by hand or using power tools, there are a variety of instruments available to help you out.
Pro-Tip: Don’t lock yourself in on either hand or power tools. It will probably take a mix to get your project done.
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Important Safety Tip: If you aren’t comfortable or trained to use these tools, please consider hiring a service instead to avoid injury to yourself or your property.
You’ve put together a plan, gathered your tools and now you’re ready to start clearing your backyard. But where do you start? The general rule of thumb is to start big and work down to the small.
In the prep section, you marked the trees you wanted to cut down. Here’s the last chance for you to change your mind, as tree removal is the first thing that needs to get done.
Important Safety Tip: Removing small trees is simple enough to do by yourself. However, medium and larger sized trees can be dangerous to take out without proper equipment. For larger trees, consult a professional tree remover first.
With the trees cut down, stumps need to be removed to completely clear your land of brush. There are plenty of ways to go about it, but it all depends on the size and quantity. Here are a couple of ways to get rid them:
Whether you use a shovel or a stump grinder, be sure to fill in the hole with dirt or topsoil so that you have a flat surface.
Pro Tip: If you’re using a dumpster for brush disposal, be sure to check with your rental company before tossing trees. In some areas, there are restrictions on the length and circumference of tree limbs and stumps.
Once larger items are cleared, it’s time to get into the thick of things. Tall grass, weeds, small shrubbery and vines are still in the way, so it’s time to bust out your string trimmer/weed wacker, scythe/machete and tree pruner and get to work.
Important Safety Tip: If you haven’t been wearing pants and long sleeves yet, be sure to wear them at this point. They will help protect your skin from plants such as poison ivy and oak that might be hidden.
The last part is simple. Cut the remaining vegetation using your string trimmer or scythe. You want to cut as close to the ground as you can. If the overgrowth is particularly high, cut it down about halfway on a first pass and then trim it to the ground on a second pass.
If the brush you need to trim is particularly thin, you can use a lawnmower to take care of this step. However, you may need to clean out the deck of your mower more often.
Pro- Tip: As you trim, be sure to keep an eye open for any shrubs or thicker vines you may have missed while thinning out the brush.
In some areas, the use of goats for clearing overgrowth has become a popular tactic. Bonnie L. Grant of Gardening Know How notes that the digestive abilities of goats make them fantastic for clearing brush.
“Goats will eat almost any vegetation and have a capacity to digest even plants with stickers and thorns. Goats will even eat poison ivy and many other pest plants.”
Bonnie L. Grant | Gardening Know How
Grant also says that this option will be a bit more time consuming, stating that “a herd of 30 goats can clear half an acre of brush and weeds in three or four days.” However, as the goats are munching on the brush and overgrowth, it frees you up to handle other tasks, such as removing a vine intertwined with a fence or even removing some more trees or shrubs.
Goat rentals are more available than you might think, with rates varying based on the time needed as well as the number of goats rented. Just keep in mind that goats may not be allowed for brush removal in some areas, so it is always best to check with your local government.
The end is in sight. It’s time to grab your rake and finish clearing the brush.
There’s really no right or wrong way to rake up the trimmed brush. Just remember that the brush will need to be disposed of, so make sure you create piles with your disposal method in mind — whether that be a compost pile, your weekly trash collection or a yard waste dumpster.
The final step is up to you. Perhaps it’s time for some hardscaping? Or maybe there is another DIY project you have in mind to make your backyard an outdoor oasis? You have a blank canvas with a world of possibilities.
Have other spots in your yard you would like to fix up? Check out our Complete Guide to Yard Cleanup for more tips and ideas.