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.

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