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30 plus Leylandii to get out.

Lois & I have just been up to the house that we have bought, and for the first time we have realised that all of the hedging is Leylandii. Which although has been managed and cut/pruned regularly, it still needs to come out as neither of us are keen on what I consider to be the scourge of modern gardens and nothing more than a tall, woody weed.

OK, so far I have a hedge cutting attachment for the strimmer, and I can buy a chainsaw type pruning attachment for it. Luckily none of †the trunks are above 8 inches/ 200mm in diameter, and my plan is to take †out the trunks and branches then †and dig out the root ball manually at the rate of 1 leylandii †per week through the coming Autumn, Winter and early Spring, a lot of hard manual work I know, but that is what Lois and I have decided.

The second decision that we have made is to replace the hedge with a traditional English one: Hawthorn and Black Thorn, etc. and where possible we will source young plants from the many Heaths, Old Railway lines, and waste ground areas in and around Norwich.

What I would like to know is the following.

What will I have to do to "repair the soil after I have removed the Leylandii as I have heard that virtually nothing will grow afterwards on soil fouled by the dropped needles and leaves etc.

I have plans for the timber recovered from the hedge, and for the root balls. The timber will be reduced to charcoal for local bushcraft iron workers, the same with most of the root balls, but I also want to recover some Tar and Pitch if possible for planned future "Gareth projects." For this little endeavour I shall build myself a single barrel retort charcoal Kiln as previously covered here on OTG by Bodger and me in 2007.

The brash from the Leylandii will be passed through the garden shredder that I am about to rush out and buy (Ryobi of course ) but is there anything I can do with these chippings; adding them to the compost heap is not an option.

Thing is that with the needle drop, you will find that the soil is acid and that it will suit ericaeous loving plants such as rhododendron, heathers, blueberries and things of that ilk. So you are going to have to change the pH of the soil to be able to grown native items such as hawthorn.

Try reading this article as a starting point and go from there.

Watch what you're doing with burning leylandii..............If it's not well-seasoned, the fumes it gives off are toxic!  Lots of tar-laden sooty smoke  

By my reckoning I will need to: rake away as many Leylandii needles as possible before I start, then fell the trees and remove the stumps, add some Hydrated Lime to the worked over soil to redress the pH imbalance from an acidic condition to a neutral or slightly alkaline one. Leave it to stabilise for a couple of months, dig in some horse manure and leave it for another couple of months before planting the saplings for the new hedge, and then top dress with Blood, Fish & Bone-meal to help the young hedge grow. ... ... ... ... ... does that sound about right?

But what can I do with all the raked up needles and other Leylandii brash? .... these will be too acidic to compost and then add to the garden as a mulch. However, all the needles and brash will be passed through the new shredder at least once; there must be something that I can do with them.  

Can't you compost them in a separate heap? Added lime will bring the PH up, & you can then add more organic material to get the heap going

I was going to buy an 8 inch chainsaw type pruner attachment to fit my new Expand-It petrol strimmer, but trawling the Internet this evening I've found a brand new 40cc, 16 inch bar, Ryobi petrol chainsaw for £79.99 (free P&P) so I've bought one ...... well, it was only a tenner more than the pruner attachment ..... †think "More Power" from TV's Tim Taylor Home Improvement show from about 15 years back †

While on another trip up to the new house this afternoon, I have found that some of the Leylandiis are pushing over the fence at the bottom of the garden. No real problem .... I was planning to put a 1 metre wide steel fabricated gate somewhere about there, to lead into the Park area and Lions wood, thus making access with dogs and a rig, and our bicycles considerably easier. I also acquired a 1 ton capacity builders bag this afternoon, and I have now decided to use this to store the shredded Leylandii brash. The other side of the fence is overgrown ground; nettles 4 ft high, brambles, Laurels, etc. and 6 or 7 large Horse Chestnut, Sycamore and Ash trees. I think that I will cut a path through this overgrown area with the strimmer, and use the shredded brash to make a pathway.

Woodsmoke wrote:
Watch what you're doing with burning leylandii..............If it's not well-seasoned, the fumes it gives off are toxic! †Lots of tar-laden sooty smoke †

I shall be seasoning the timber for about 6 months maximum. That is the main reason I will be "Baking" the Leylandii timber into charcoal in a retort style kiln: I'll be able to draw off tar during the initial firing of the kiln, until it reaches "wood gas" temperatures. Then the retort system comes into its own..... drawn off wood gas will then become the primary fuel for the charcoal making process. Please take a look at the series of photographs and the write up in the link in the first post.
old ploughman

With the greatest respect - unless you already have, the first thing you want to do is get some training in how to safely use the chainsaw and then how to safely fell small-medium trees! Next thing would be to buy some safety kit. Sorry to be patronising but have seen too many people with injuries from chainsaws and trees falling the way that wasn't expected.

I have more experience than most casual users with a chainsaw, was first trained and certificated as a chainsaw operator back in 1984, and have been retrained at least every three years since; My last retraining was less than 2 years ago.

I also worked in the agricultural and horticultural engineering trade for over 15 of the previous 30 years and have been serviced trained on; Stihl, McCulloch, Husquavanna, Jonshred, Partner, and Western Power Chainsaws and related products, and on Oregon and Sandvik Chains and related consumable products.

I already have the ballastic material (kevlar) trousers, jacket, and boots. along with the anti Vibration mitts .... the only thing that I need to replace is the hard hat and face screen .... I have managed to loose that during the last few months: I may have left the hard hat on a North Sea support vessel I was working on last winter, as I was wearing it without the screen or ear defenders when out on deck..
old ploughman

thats ok then   I did say no offence was intended.

I was over in NZ earlier this year and was horrified that you could buy a top handled saw over the counter with no requiremnt for training - even the telly adverts show operators using saws with no protective equipment  

Absolutely no offence taken by me, as your post is an excellent reminder to other casual chainsaw users reading this thread, about the necessity for proper and correct training and safety gear when using a Chainsaw. I have been lucky as I have never seen either a Chainsaw or Brushcutter accident in the flesh so to speak, but the training videos and photos that I have seen were just a little bit gruesome to say the least.

Shame I have only just noticed this thread Gareth - you could have borrowed Tims chainsaw. Love Lizzie

By the way we too ripped out a 20 metre run of leylandii when we moved here. Grubbed up the roots and dug in mountains of compost, horse muck and Fish Blood and Bone. I planted straight away and everything is growing really well and establishing nicely. Love Lizzie

I am already to go now, new; Lawn mower, Strimmer, Hedge Cutter, Shredder and Chainsaw.

and the Chicken house for Lois' chucks (after I have built a wire mesh covered run);

All we have got to do is move into the house: we get the keys this Friday.

The hedge trimmer attachment and the shredder have already been pressed into service. We have a house warming party this coming Saturday, and so I thought it would be a good idea to trim the long face Leylandii hedge, just to tidy it up and allow a little more room for the marquee; 75 ft of frontage and 3 ft or so off the top.

It didn't seem that much until Lois & I started to clear away the trimmings, just over an hours work with trimmer took another hour or so for the two of us to heap up at the end of the garden and then almost another 7 hours of work for me to put it all through the shredder over the following 3 days; producing 124 trugs   (each of 45 litres capacity) of shredded Leylandii greenery. I have also cut the lawn twice in the last 10 days, and that has produced almost 30 trugs of cuttings.

For almost 2 hours last night; just before the heavy rain struck, I mixed the Grass cuttings and Leylandii chippings together and have built a wall using them almost 2.5 metres long x 1 metre wide X 1 metre high (although this wall has now settled considerably overnight due to the rain). At 6 am this morning I nipped down to the bottom of the garden and urinated upon this heap for the first time, and whilst I was relieving myself, I noticed the first small wisps of steam from the composting process escaping into the coolness of the early morning, so I have decided that a tarp screen will be erected around this heap, and for the duration of our house warming party on Saturday it will become the Gentleman's convenience.

The chipper that I have bought has a 10:1 mulching ratio according to the handbook, and although it has not decimated the Leylandii brash into fine shreddings, it did chip the woody bits over 1/2" in diameter into coarse pieces of about 1/8" †in size and has broken the surface on the straggly twigs and bruised all the leaves. I recall from my Combine Harvester straw-chopping days that reducing straw and brash to virtual dust does not help the organic breakdown process; it's all about an open surface area along the fibres that allows the bacteria and fungi into the material to do it's thing.

The first couple of trugs of Leylandii brash after being passed through the chipper:

A close up of the bruised straggly bits and leaves.

The results of decomposition at the first turning of the heap:

A week after the heap of Leylandii chippings were used as the gentleman's convenience during our house warming party, I am very pleased with the results gained by several people urinating upon the heap. Yesterday (day 5 after the party) I turned the heap over using a garden fork to aerate the heap. Whilst doing this I noticed; the slight ammonia smell caused by the copious amounts of urine, the initial breakdown of the green leaf matter, and the heat that had been generated within the heap. This morning whilst enjoying the first cup of tea of the day I watched 3 Jays, a couple of Magpies, and a Grey Squirrel taking it in turns to flick over the surface layer of the heap and pull out tasty things to eat, no-doubt; slugs, leather jackets and other insects.

Now, I come from a mixed farming background: Dairy/Arable/sheep/deep litter broilers and I don't mind seeing Jays and Magpies; in fact I like to sit and watch them, Grey Squirrels on the other hand I consider to be a (tasty) pest that needs eradicating. Living in a built up area firearms are out of the question, and so I have embarked upon some Internet research regarding squirrel control. So far I am favouring the methods employed in this 4 minutes long video:

OMG don't plant Blackthorn. It puts shoots out from the roots that hold the most wicked thorns on you'll ever see. They're like metal spikes and will go straight through a good pair of wellies. I've ruined so many pairs of boots walking the dogs in our local farmers field where their hedging is Blackthorn, and had a few stuck in me feet too....horrid stuff!

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