Top 10 tools for fall cleanup | Living the Country Life
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Top 10 tools for fall cleanup

Now is the best time of year to rid your property of Mother Nature’s debris. These products help you get the job done fast.
  • Chipper/shredder

    Choices choices! Our advice: skip the under-$500 machines (they’re only effective on leaves and small twigs, and are simply too slow for rural property owners). For lots up to five acres get a well-built, gas-powered unit you can simply push from place to place or load onto a small trailer. It will cost you $500 to $2,000, but you’ll be rewarded with fast chipping and years of durable service. For a property over five acres, consider a heavy-duty model pulled behind your truck, tractor, or ATV. Costs range from $2,000 to $7,000 for machines that chip branches up to 5” in diameter.

     
    Date Published: July 31, 2012
    Date Updated: October 11, 2013
  • Chainsaw

    The best saw for you depends on the size of the largest tree you’ll typically cut up, your own size and strength (a too-big saw will wear out your hands and arms in no time, potentially contributing to unsafe work habits), the tree species you cut (hardwoods require more power than softwoods) and how often you’ll use the saw. We suggest a gas-powered saw with a 14-18” long bar for most users. Expect to spend $100-$400, sticking to machines in the high end of that range if you intend to use the saw frequently.

    Date Published: July 31, 2012
    Date Updated: October 11, 2013
  • Log splitter

    When you want to split lots of wood fast, with minimal labor, get a log splitter. Most splitters worthy of acreage work have to be towed or moved about on a tractor’s 3-point hitch, and have a hydraulic ram with power provided by a gas engine. You can buy machines with electric motors if you plan to keep the machine near an AC outlet and want to avoid the noise, fumes, and maintenance of a gas engine. Better-quality splitters start around $1,000 and the electric-motor option could add $200 to the final price.

     
    Date Published: July 31, 2012
    Date Updated: October 11, 2013
  • Blower

    To get leaves and other loose material out from along buildings, you need a no-nonsense gas-powered blower. A handheld machine will suffice so long as you don’t use it for stretches beyond 30 minutes. For greater comfort (and extra power) during extended blowing, get the backpack type. They move heavier debris, such as twigs and leaves, further distances with less strain on you and the machine. You’ll spend $200-$600; at the higher end of that spectrum you’ll get a unit that starts easier, lasts longer, and blows harder.

    Date Published: July 31, 2012
    Date Updated: October 11, 2013
  • Rotary broom

    If you have a lot of paved surfaces that get covered in debris, a rotary broom is what you need. Attach the broom to the front of your compatible garden or compact tractor and sweep a 45-60” swath as fast as your tractor will go. You can even sweep away light snow (up to 2”)! Typically the broom can be set to a number of angles and is driven by your tractor; higher-end models include an electric lift mechanism on the broom housing. Expect to pay about $3,000 for a quality unit including the hitching accessories.

     
    Date Published: July 31, 2012
    Date Updated: October 11, 2013
  • Tow-behind dethatcher

    Over the summer, grass clippings build up a suffocating mat on your lawn. The result: a thick layer of thatch that can choke out your grass, leaving you with bare or weedy spots in the spring. This economical attachment ($100-$400) brings the thatch up to the surface where you can collect it with your sweeper, mower, or vac. Pull the dethatcher behind your garden tractor or ATV. 

     
    Date Published: July 31, 2012
    Date Updated: October 11, 2013
  • Tow-behind lawn sweeper

    A lawn sweeper provides a fast, low-cost ($200-$350) way to collect leaves and other debris from your lawn. With most you can dump them while staying seated on your tractor. And some collapse so you can stand them vertically against a wall to save on storage space. However, they don’t shred leaves, so they’ll fill up faster than a rear-bag mower or vacuum of similar capacity.

    Date Published: July 31, 2012
    Date Updated: October 11, 2013
  • Rear bagger

    Combine mower action with a rear bagger and you have a leaf-crunching, high-volume debris collector, that’s highly maneuverable compared to a tow-behind accessory. The best units have a driven blower (powered off the deck, by PTO, or separate engine) that draws leaves and clippings from the mower deck’s discharge chute, mulches them and forcefully propels the debris to fill the bags completely. Cost: $1,000-$2,000. 

     
    Date Published: July 31, 2012
    Date Updated: October 11, 2013
  • Trailer vac

    Like a rear bagger, these have a hose that attaches to your mower deck’s discharge chute. They also have a blower, typically driven by its own gas engine. Capacity varies from 24 to 40 bushels, with prices from $1,000 to $5,000. Better units have larger and heavier-made impellers with heavy-duty engines for powerful suction. They tip back for easy dumping, and some convert to a utility trailer by simply removing the top trailer housing. Many units also have an accessory hose for hand-vacuuming leaves. A few even have a built-in chipper for hand-feeding small-diameter branches.

     
    Date Published: July 31, 2012
    Date Updated: October 11, 2013
  • Composter

    You can buy rotating barrels that hold up to 18 bushels and will produce compost in a few weeks if you manage them correctly. When buying a tumbling-type composter, it should be completely enclosed with a locking door so critters can’t get inside. It should be sturdily built and easy to turn with a crank or hand pressure; and it should have drainage holes so excess water can escape. Include a mix of green and brown (dried leaves or straw) material in every batch for best results. During the fall, when you have only brown material, replace the green component with another material high in nitrogen such as manure. Large tumblers cost $400-$500.

    Date Published: July 31, 2012
    Date Updated: October 11, 2013

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