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Landscaping Ideas and Resources

altLandscaping Companies' Methods of Land Clearing

Is land clearing a DIY project? Does it have to adhere to rules and regulations? Where should you start? What is the equipment you need for this job?

If you have recently purchased raw land with intention of constructing on it, chances are that it needs to be cleared of rocks, trees and bushes. You might have all the above questions in your mind. The thing is: land clearing is a complex task involving heavy equipment. The raw land has to be graded following a comprehensive surveying process by the landscaping company of your choice. Today, the methods of land clearing have undergone tremendous change. While in the past, landscaping companies simply resorted to techniques like burning and bulldozing; today, residential property owners have various methods available at their disposal.

Many of these modern techniques of land clearing are environmentally friendly and offer safer alternatives to traditional means. The list of land clearing equipment can range from simple hand held tools to large bulldozers. The larger the trees are that need to be cleared, more powerful and commercial tools will be required. If you ask experts as to which land clearing method is the best; chances are that you will get varied answers. The method chosen depends greatly on what is done with the cleared trees and bushes. 


For most residential property owners, choosing landscaping services depends on cost and time. From this viewpoint, especially for large properties, bulldozer method is the cheapest. However, simply pushing the bushes and trees does not kill them; moreover it leaves the soil uneven. Large bulldozers are not easy to maneuver too and often knock off the bark of hardwoods and oaks leaving them susceptible to oak wilt. Hence smaller machines are required to be used like skid-steer tractors (BobCat) with hydraulic shears. These machines are driven into trees like cedar, cut-off at the ground, picked with shears and carried off for burning. This method ensures less damage to surrounding hardwoods. 

Chain Saw Method

Chain saw method for tree removal is an alternative to bulldozing although it is slower and also a bit expensive due to the fact that you need to hire someone. Chain saw is definitely not for the weekend warrior - it requires training. This method is often considered a better alternative to bulldozing as it leads to less land disruption and erosion. The tree stumps are basically left as they are and this provides leverage to bulldozers to pop the stump off the ground. You can also be selective and choose to cut one tree but leave the next and also opt for a barrier between you and your neighbors. Large trees like cedar, once removed, can be burned, chipped into mulch or hauled off.


Mulching is a suitable land clearing alternative as it does not harm the top soil, uses no chemicals and does not use the harmful burn and slash methods. Mulching simply involves covering the soil with protective organic or inorganic materials. Examples of organic mulches include saw dust, hay, pine needles, grass clippings, leaves, and compost or bark wood chips. Using mulch significantly curbs weed growth and can save you hours of weeding. The weeds like rhizomatous grass do still manage to make way through organic mulches but these are significantly easier to pull.  Inorganic mulches like black, clear and red plastic as well as newspaper layers are also preferred as they provide far better control against perennial weeds. A combination of newspaper and sawdust mulch is also used and makes an excellent weed control around pathways.  Mulches provide uniform climate control in gardens and also warm soil in spring allowing for early plant development. Most types of mulches are inexpensive, add nutrients to the soils and are readily available. Pine needle mulches are perfect for use around shrubs, trees and other areas where long lasting mulch is desired. The only drawback of mulches, especially some inorganic ones, is that they require replacement every two years. In unseasonable frosts too, blossoms are more severely injured where mulch is used than where it is not. You also need to hire mulching operators which are about twice as expensive as slasher machines. 

Earth Grading

Your building site also has to be graded and freed from rocks and low growing plants to make way for your lawns and driveways. For this purpose you need large backhoes and skid loader equipment. You can choose to filter large rocks during this process and use them later for landscaping purposes. The dirt can also be reused later for finishing the grading, once the construction is over. Lawn mowing services providers can guide you regarding this aspect.

Silt Fencing

Silt fencing is a temporary barrier of geotextile fabric, which is placed in land clearing projects and construction sites to prevent sheet erosion. The disadvantage of this is that it requires maintenance and also is susceptible to UV deterioration. Forest and wildlife laws require you to place the silt fence to prevent mud and construction waste from going into neighboring property. 

Before You Proceed

Before you proceed with your land clearing project, it is of importance to see if you have valuable timber on the grounds. In case you do, you can get timber buyers to do the clearing for you. 

Regional Regulations

Apart from these considerations, land owners need to check with their local, provincial and state officials as there may be several rules regarding timber permits, silt framework, mulching, burying organic materials etc. Some regulations allow you to destroy the trees by fire while others might require you to pulverize the foliage and undergrowth into manure.  For example, St John’s Florida has following regulation regarding tree removal:

“Tree removal on lots less than one acre with an existing home do not require a tree removal permit, as long as the tree does not lie within a conservation area or buffer. However, the lot where the tree is to be removed must maintain a minimum of 80 cumulative tree inches per acre.”

Environmental Aspects

Once the land has been cleared owners must plant some seeds and grass to prevent erosion. Experienced lawn care services provider or landscaping companies may be able to advise you in this matter.

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