Working Wood

Fall Cleanup
Taming a feral yard isn’t easy—especially in the fall, when the garden and surrounding area are bursting at the seams with summer growth. But there are several pieces of equipment that can help any homeowner process an overabundance of plant material with efficiency and ease.

Chain Saws
Powerful, fast, and efficient, a chain saw makes quick work of cutting trees and limbs. But chain saws, more than any other type of cutting equipment, require certain skills and strength, prohibiting the use of some models by the average homeowner. Randy Kennedy, an avid gardener who also runs a professional tree cutting and removal service in central Iowa, uses professional-grade chain saws for his clients. But in his own yard, he frequently plugs in an electric chain saw to trim ornamental trees, such as crab apples. "For small jobs, I like electric chain saws," he says. "They are a little safer and have a low power-to-weight ratio."

Many chain saw manufacturers make small models, with 12- to 14-inch guide bars. These are lightweight (around 10 pounds) and easily maneuvered by most people. They are well suited for removing small trees and emerging saplings or suckers, cutting low-hanging limbs or dead branches, and slicing the large limbs that mature trees drop from time to time.

You’ll spend $200 on up for a small gas-powered chain saw, less for an electric one. There is a third option on the market, too—cordless chain saws come in 12- to 18-volt models, and range in price from less than $100 to around $300.

For homeowners with a large number of trees (particularly, messy ones that drop branches), a chipper-shredder is a great way to recycle debris. Able to grind tree branches nearly five inches in diameter, a chipper-shredder can create all the mulch you’ll ever need. Randy Kennedy uses wood mulch in his garden, and believes the best mulch is made of "elm

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