Tool advice for garden?

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Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
4,754
738
Lancashire
Ok new house offer is in and we're determined to win this house and move in asap. Garden needs work. Overgrown by trees, shrubs and ground plants. Lots of cutting and possibly grubbing things up like roots to allow replanting or clearing to creat a lawn. Land is fairly steeply sloping such that there's steps all over the place. Loads of narrow paths twisting up and left or right to little seating spots. Halfway up there's a funny, plastic fake wood slats fencing with a small picket gate into an upper garden area that's much the same but more natural/less landscaped. Leading to another picket gate off the back of the property onto a footpath track.

So I've got basics such as fork, spade, loppers, various types of secateurs, hand axe, possibly a Dutch hoe and basic diy tools. My parents have a fairly new/decent looking Flymo mower for the small, front lawn area. What am I missing to get the job done?

My ideas are now saw, folding saw, possibly a larger axe but probably not, a borrowed electric chainsaw. I'm thinking there could be groundwork to grub out roots, lift concrete blocks (some steps consists of these), etc. That'll be a pick axe or Mattocks I think. Is it worth getting billhooks or power tools taken over with a strimmer instead?

Basically, I'm asking what do you think I need?

Btw if I'm clearing it I want to cut in winter in thinking while the sap is down, right? It's 10 weeks to Xmas. Currently searches take 8 weeks so we might not be in until 2021 which doesn't give much time. Any suggestions to get the job done??

PS my partner said pay someone else to landscape it. I want the work right now but halfway through I'm not guaranteeing? As someone said, I used to do national trust so I'll be up for it. She meant I did btcv volunteering so I've done easy tree clearance or thinning before?
 
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Toddy

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Jan 21, 2005
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All those steps and wee paths.....strikes me that though the garden might well be overgrown, that perhaps the people who lived there knew just how tricky that land was and built safe dry footing to be able to access the garden all year long.
Might be worth a loooong look before you rip stuff out, iimmc ?

Strimmer might be the only other tool I'd consider just now, and a decent folding saw. Even a little Laplander will take down a tree. Been there, done that.
A good bowsaw is much easier though.
If you get a decent strimmer then it'll mulch down everything you prune bar thick branches. Look at garden clearing videos on youtube for examples....and that mulch is a great starter in a new compost heap :)

Best of luck with it :)

M
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
4,754
738
Lancashire
Are shredders any good? Compost, aiui, needs a mix of green and woody material. I think I read 60 woody to 40 green but perhaps that's misremembered. I know as a kid our compost was mostly green and never really amounted to much more than somewhere to hide the waste.
 

British Red

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Dec 30, 2005
25,573
459
Mercia
Most electric shredders are very time consuming, big petrol ones are great, but pricey! Beware removing too many roots on a slope because roots hold the soil together. However for trees of a reasonable size, bow saw, basic hand axe, small folding saw, trowel and mattock are needed. Bow saw to cut down the tree. Mattock to dig around the roots, trowel to scoop out soul from under roots. Small axe and hand saw to cut through larger roots. A pry bar or lever to get the stump out us also helpful.
 
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Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
3,942
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Mid Wales
My advice would be don't rush in. The garden sounds like it could be excellent for wildlife. Hidden corners and areas make gardens much more intriguing and interesting.

I appreciate you may want a lawn area for kids to play and sitting out, but it takes at least ten years for a garden shrubbery to mature. Unless mature trees are casting too much shade or are dangerous I would leave them in until you are 100% sure of what you want for the future. I would think, watch, and plan over winter then get going on it next year.
 

Broch

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Jan 18, 2009
3,942
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Mid Wales
Sorry, didn't answer your question though. I am looking after some 20 acres and, ignoring the wood and scrubland, it includes meadow, shrubbery, orchard and grass (and a veg patch). The tools I couldn't do without are spade, fork, mattock, bowsaw, folding saw, large handled loppers (will cut through 30mm stuff faster than a saw), secateurs, the Stihl bushcutter (usually with the blade fitted, sometime cord), rake, grass rake, and wheel barrow. I have a heavy duty shredder but never use it. I have recently converted to an electric chainsaw for the light work but rarely use it in the 'garden' area.

Anything mechanised that you're only going to use during the clearing phase can be hired.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
4,754
738
Lancashire
Yes, roots are important. The issues with steep garden running down to the house is water run off in heavy weather. I fear a French drain might be needed if we take too much out. Water run off could be more of a worry with climate change. Vegetation and trees are a very good buffer for the real heavy downpours.

The garden has plenty of twisty paths and little flat areas to sit. I think we need to trim back the big stuff more than remove. I suspect a tree surgeon might be needed, how much for that I wonder, to top a few trees to give light into a few spots.

The best way to describe it is a kids jungle with hidden den spots. My grandparents had a few paths on between and under shrubs/ trees. One led to a flint gravel circle lined with small rocks border within the plant border under trees. Made for a dry spot in light rain too. Under conifers. As a kid it was heaven! Real fantasy place. I still remember it now. This garden right now is an overgrown version of that. Our 7 year old's face was lit up looking around it. We spent more time looking at the garden than the house. The estate agent clearly expected it because he really didn't try to sell the house just move us quickly outside.

The first job is to remove the ground covering plants. There's a lot of tough, woody, rambling stuff that grows close to the ground. It's real trip hazard. Then there's cutting back the worst of the growth over the edges of paths. Not all as I prefer shrubs to slightly grow out to soften hard features if that makes sense.

It's on the edge of a rural village with mixed range of land from open, woodland, coastal and rivers. Beautiful. If you know Arnside it's the road past the station back towards yealand hamlets. Past the milnthorpe turn off heading away from village. You'll be able to see the surrounding land on Google maps with satellite. I think you'll be able to find where we're moving to as in the correct address from that but it doesn't matter I reckon. If it's not good I'll delete.

Just so stoked but we have our offer accepted. Sold stc. Fingers crossed nothing happens.

Is it too early to go out buying the tools?
 

Toddy

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Jan 21, 2005
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S. Lanarkshire
Third vote that a shredder is a waste of time. I bought a decent Bosch one and it sits idle. If you want it, and you can get up here to pick it up, it's yours.

Compost heaps come in different varieties. Mine are cold heaps, inside those big black plastic dalek things. We're too shady here. They are full of brandling worms and they produce gloriously rich soil. Not quickly though, and they don't get hot enough to kill weed seeds, so I have to be choosy about what goes into them.
If you can get a hot heap going though, that'll devour pretty much anything you put into it.

M
 

The Frightful

Full Member
Apr 21, 2020
257
40
Essex
As above, treat with care, please dont go in all guns blazing. A friend of mine bought a house with a real chelsea garden show garden. Only about 12m x 12 m, several 40' palms, pond, waterfall, bamboo as thick as your arm, like stepping into cape trib, must have been 50k all day long, all now leveled and laid to lawn, he's a very happy bjnny but im still devastated 6 years on, all personal choice of course. Good luck I'm sure it will turn out lovely
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
4,754
738
Lancashire
The advice is always to see what you've got for a year but you have to be able to safely get around your garden. It's likely we're moving in in the new year early on. It's winter, sap is down. AIUI that's a good time for trimming trees and shrubs. Either way we have to clear the paths as I nearly tripped twice badly too. We're talking foot hooked under a woody vine that only just released before i went flying. We can't have that with our son potentially running around in the garden. A steep garden at that.

The plan is trim back to a safe level. There's a lot of paths to cut back though. A good set of tools will help. Strimmers come with plastic cable for cutting but looking today in homebase in saw little plastic blades like aerofoils in the parts section for strimmers. There's also steel bladed ones. I'm thinking battery ones purely because it's uphill and round little paths to the left and right. Dragging a cable will be hard work even before the extension needed is considered? What's a good style of battery strimmer? Cable or blades? Any recommendations?

I saw a probably cheap and nasty qualcast bow saw and folding saw pack for £8!!! Nearly bought it as a cheap starter but resisted. I'm probably not talking about getting lifetime use tools just something to get started with as I no probably don't know what I actually need. A starter pack if you like of medium quality perhaps not that.
 

Toddy

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Jan 21, 2005
35,972
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S. Lanarkshire
Time to Google compost making. There's a way to make liquid feed from waste too. What's that called and how is it made?

It's just liquid fertiliser. You make it, from carefully chosen plant varieties, like a strong tea. Nettles, comfrey and the like are very good.

If you have a wormery then you can get a liquid feed from that too. I'm just chuffed I get decent soil from whatever goes into the compost bins :) My garden is heavy blue clay, it devours anything organic as I try to keep the soil open and not either a potters puddle or a cracked claypan in Summer.
I 'think' I'm winning, so far :)

Just now standing out in the garden is a rain of birch and sycamore seeds, and the leaves have started to come down too. It's the sad untidy end of the year and pretty much, apart from still collecting Autumn fruiting raspberries, brassica leaves, etc., I'm just tidying up as things die back.
My greenhouse is full of Swiss chard and pumpkins :rolleyes3: I think I'll be quite happy to see them die back.

M
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
3,942
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Mid Wales
On the subject of strimmers - electric/battery ones are OK for tidying grass edges but not powerful enough to cut back scrub (nettles and heavier stuff.) IMO. I've not seen an electric one that claims to be able to handle the metal blades (bushcutters) and I've never found the plastic blades to offer any advantage over good quality plastic cord (don't buy cheap stuff). If there's a lot of heavy cutting back I suggest you hire a petrol bushcutter.

A 24" Bahco bow saw is only £15 from Screwfix - it's the blades you can't skimp on mind. Make sure you buy a blade for green wood not seasoned wood or it will constantly jam in your cut if you're cutting anything thick.
 
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Winnet

Forager
Oct 5, 2011
129
31
Aberdeen
As Broch has said, buy decent quality equipment. If your garden is big and with a decent amount of work it will be worth it. We have bought cheap garden stuff in the past and ended up having to replace it quickly.

Current play toys here are a spade, shovel, quality wheelbarrow, long spirit level, pick axe and trenching spade. Some of the gear must be 50 years old given I can remember dad having it when I was a bairn.

G.

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Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,706
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McBride, BC
This is like shaking hands with an octopus. One thing at a time. The octopus sets the pace.
Clear the existing paths for good footing and anything that beats on your head.

As you go, you will understand the need for other tools. British Red's list in #4 is as good as the best.
One I can't live without is a Fiskars pole pruner with the attached saw blade.

Next, wait and watch.
Give the established wildlife a chance to show themselves. Snails and bigger.
 

TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
1,198
506
Vantaa, Finland
One I can't live without is a Fiskars pole pruner with the attached saw blade.
If you find one made in Finland it would probably be ok. Ones made in Poland have had some quality issues lately, I don't quite understand how as the parts are factory made but a month ago at a store they rather sold me a cheaper German one instead of Fiskars.
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,706
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McBride, BC
I have a little brand loyalty here, my Fiskar's tools are durable. As such, they are old, like 20 years old.
Just this summer, I replaced my bypass pruning shears after I do not recall how much work over at least 20 years.
In that time, I stoned the edge maybe twice. Now it appears chipped of all things.

The pole pruner takes the place of risky moves on an extension ladder.
I bought some replacement saw blades and made a short handle for arm's-length convenience.

Buy good tools. Learn to keep them factory sharp. They get to be a pleasure to use.
 

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