Cutting Back: Fall Cleanup

Stihl hedge trimmer.

This gas powered hedge trimmer saves many hours and sore muscles . It not only prunes hedges, but is great for fall cutback.

Most of the garden cleanup for the year is done in fall.  Of course, we rake the needles and leaves.  A few of us grind those up and add them with green material to the compost pile.  Some of us put them in large black yard waste bags and may even use a few bags to insulate a tender plant or two we are trying in our gardens. Not beautiful to see garbage bags in the garden, but those who use the trick often succeed in growing a special, but tender plant.  Most of us, however, put the yard waste in the recycle bin or take it to clean green.  We take many loads to clean green every season thanks to our busy life with plants.

The advantage of fall cleanup is appearance…a neat garden for winter.  In addition, we leave less cover and food for pests over the winter.  Many people take longer than necessary cutting back their gardens.  If you use proper tools, it does go quicker.

Photo of Okatsune short handled shears used to cut back a garden or prune.

These Japanese shears by Okatsune are my favorite tool for fine tuning shearing of perennials, boxwood and so on .

A trusty pair of Felco #2 pruners will do the trick for a really small garden or patio, but when a full yard or landscape is being cut back, that’s just too slow.  A few things can be cut back using a line trimmer.  The disadvantage of these is that they can’t handle any woody material and are hard to control with finesse.  There are 5 tools I find indispensable and that we use regularly at Tower.

  1. Gas powered hedge trimmer.  This tool is stronger than the electric ones, and more portable.  It also can handle small woody stems.  This is the place to begin in the cutback.  Take the hedge trimmer through the garden and get all that you can cut down by this method.  Leave up grasses and other items for winter interest as you see fit.  They can be cut back in March.  After you cut, cut, cut, then use the next 2 tools.
  2. A leaf rake.  Clearly requisite.  I like the steel tine ones, but plastic rakes work, too.
  3. A tarp.  If you put the material you cut back on a tarp, it is so much easier to handle.  Easy to get into a truck or bin.  And, it holds a lot.
  4. Good shears.  I use Okatsune short handle shears.  They are SHARP, a precision instrument.  Light weight.  Easy to use and hold their edge well.  Sorry, Corona…you don’t match up. We special order these for some of our clients at their request.  After the quick hedge trimmer cleanup, I use my shears to fine tune and make the garden neat.  Actually, I am so fortunate that my employees now do most of the garden maintenance…thanks Chessy and David!
  5. A backpack blower.  Backpack blowers are stronger than the hand held ones so do a better job.  They clean the little debris off the lawn that is left behind, and if your fall work is mostly raking leaves, you may use this tool as  the first as well as the last step in fall cleanup.

Obviously, there are circumstances for chain saws, pruning saws, pole saws, shovels, and more working in the garden regardless of season, but the tool list above will get you through the fall cleanup lickety split.

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