everything you need to know about bush hogging - Northeast Georgia Contracting (2024)

INTRODUCTION TO BUSH HOGGING

Bush hogging, otherwise known as brush hogging, brush cutting or rough cut mowing, is a form of landscaping that eliminates heavy brush in order to prepare land for farming, hunting, development, and a variety of other uses.

Unlike bulldozing or standard tree removal services which agitate the ground through invasive root extraction and environmental disruption, bush hogging protects the surface of the land and promotes environmental flourishing by cutting back overgrown grass, trees and vegetation and allows the existing soil to nourish edible plants, wildflowers and other valuable wildlife.

If you have been wondering whether or not to invest in bush hogging services, have specific questions about the service or just want to learn more about the practice of bush hogging, this practical guide sets out to answer any questions you might have.

How Does Brush Hogging Work?

A well-known form of rotary mowing, brush hoggers are a unit of powered tractor machinery that typically attach to the back of a farm tractor or mower by use of a three-point hitch. Powered by a power take-off (PTO), the attached brush hog utilizes horsepower from the tractor engine and levels excessive growth, saplings, and tall grass as it’s pulled across the ground.

Unlike a traditional lawn mower which operates with fixed blades, brush hog blades are designed to shift on a set of hinges, giving the rotating blades the ability to bounce backward and inward when coming into contact with heavy, fixed items such as rocks and large tree stumps. This distribution of the rotating centrifugal force allows the bush hogger to “bounce back” upon impact and continue moving over thick areas of vegetation without becoming stuck or causing structural damage to the unit.

Why You Need Bush Hogging Services

Whether you plan to bush hog your property on your own or outsource the work to an individual or trusted landscape company, understanding what bush hogging is good for is the first step towards choosing your preferred method of getting the job done.

Most people who seek out bush hogging services do so after an area of land has gone unmaintained for a lengthy period of time. This could be due to an inheritance of unkept property, the desire to utilize land for a new or different purpose (such as hunting or beekeeping), or as simple as routine grounds upkeep performed at the changing of seasons.

Dead or overgrown land does little to benefit the property owner and may even prevent surrounding farms, parks and other environmental areas from thriving. By cutting back weeds and grasses, the nutrient-rich soil can be used to nourish other valuable plant life, which in turn allows insects and animals to return to the land and interact with flora in a favorable way.

Section Recap

Bush hogging and brush cutting is a good idea if you have any of the following:

  • Inherited land, and need help clearing/preparing it
  • Dead or overgrown land that has gone unmaintained
  • You want to prepare hunting grounds
  • You want to prepare purchased land for development
  • You want to create or maintain biodiversity on your land

How to Bush Hog

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For the most part, the act of bush hogging is clear, straightforward, and, if you do it right, fairly repetitive. Professionals will take the following steps to ensure efficient service and the peace of mind that once the job is done, all you need to do is relax and enjoy the freshly cleared land.

When preparing to bush hog, one of the first steps involves preparing the machinery. Assuming that any machinery has already been cleaned and maintained (which we’ll cover in more detail a few paragraphs down), you’ll be ready to go right out of the gate

Once you are on your tractor or mower, make a decision about how low you want to drop your blades. Unlike lawn mowing, bush cutting isn’t designed to hug the ground. You’ll want to make a determination based on the type and density of vegetation on the property, in addition to the growth of any tree saplings. A good rule of thumb is to keep the blades a minimum of six inches off the ground, which will allow you to cut back without completely cutting away or tearing up the ground.

If you’re on a patch of land that is even in terrain, it might be tempting to go faster than you would on uneven or heavily overgrown grounds. Keep in mind, however, that going slow gives you a better chance to cut everything on your first mow, preventing you from needing to double back over the ground once you think you’re done.

While cutting, particularly if it’s your first time (or ten), pay attention to the sounds and kinesthetic feel of your machinery as you drive it. Use your eyes and ears to anticipate any trees larger than one inch in diameter, in addition to any sizeable rocks, which should bounce off the rotation of the blades but also have the potential to become trapped if not seen in time. Make sure the engine isn’t being overtaxed by listening to the sounds of the motor and feeling for any excessive pulling. Black smoke or a reduction in speed is a sure sign that your engine is being overtaxed. Bottom line: if something feels wrong, stop and check it out.

The act of mowing can be performed either in circles or in stripes, depending on aesthetic preference (or which approach is easiest for you to maneuver). Bush hoggers operate just as well on inclines and in ditches as they do on level ground – just keep an eye on your speed, in order to prevent the tractor from becoming unbalanced. Bush hoggers and tractors weigh a combined weight of several thousand pounds, and tipping the machinery could prove fatal – a fact that should be taken seriously when driving over area that is uneven or densely overgrown.

Finally, once the job is completed, don’t forget to clean the equipment to either store it or prepare it for the next job. Make sure to check lubrication points on both your tractor and your bush hog, in addition to oil and fuel levels.

Depending on the width of the bush hog blades, you can decide whether to sharpen them or not. Sharpening is usually somewhat of an infrequent task, however, as bush hog blades are built to withstand an enormous amount of force and do not need to be knifelike in order to be effective (in fact, quite the opposite).

Section Recap

  • Mow slower to avoid having to double back on your work
  • Inspect the property you are about to mow and make a determination about how low to drop the blades based on the type of vegetation or forestry growing there
  • Use your eyes and ears to pay attention to sounds of an overtaxed motor, in addition to spotting large rocks or other fixed objects
  • Perform basic maintenance on your machinery after every job to ensure problems don’t go unchecked for long periods of times

How Long Does Bush Hogging Take?

The answer to this question depends on several factors. The density of the surrounding brush will impact the speed at which one will be able to drive, with bumpy or uneven terrain slowing the driver down to 2 MPH while drier, clearer growth could push them up to 6 MPH.

How wide is the blade cutter? The width of the instrument makes a huge difference (no pun intended) in the amount of land that’s able to covered in an hour. When driving a tractor with a attachment brush hogger, expect to cover as much as an acre per hour. Hand-pushed devices such as bush hoggers rented out at home improvement stores could take three times as long – but then, you weren’t planning to mow 10 acres of underbrush with a push mower, were you?

If conditions are optimal – little to no saplings, dry vegetation, mostly even ground – drivers can expect to cover 1.5 – 3 acres in an hour.

When to Hire a Bush Hog Service and When to DIY

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When making the decision to brush hog, three options exist: hiring a service, renting out equipment, or buying the necessary equipment and doing it yourself.

We’ll start with hiring a company or contractor. No matter where you live, prices for bush hogging services vary widely, so it’s smart to make a few calls and shop around rather than settling on the first quote you get. Ask relatives or friends who have had the service done who they’ve used and if they’d recommend the company.

Many home improvement stores such as Home Depot will offer individuals the ability to rent a brush hog for hours or days at a time for a flat rate, and typically for no more than you would pay to have it done professionally. Bear in mind, however, that due to higher rates of user error and injury, many stores have stopped renting out tractors with bush hogs. The brush hog models available for rent typically look more like a push mower and are not the standard heavy-duty attachment models that are pulled behind a tractor, so ask the questions to make sure the equipment being offered will actually do the work required to clear your property.

Lastly, there is the option to invest in the purchase of any necessary brush hogging equipment and adding it to your collection of property maintenance tools. If you anticipate needing to frequently bush hog (most landscape pros would say perform the service a minimum of once every six months), or if you just like the idea of owning the equipment instead of renting it, this might be the route for you.

A wealth of online resources exist to help bush hog owners stay on top of inevitable maintenance and repairs; just bear in mind that owning and investing in any property tools is similar in scale to investing in a new car, so count the cost before opening your wallet.

Section Recap

Before you make the decision to hire, DIY or buy, consider the following:

  • How many times a year do you need to bush hog?
  • Are you aware of the equipment options available for bush hogging purposes (tractors, attachments vs. push mowers, blade width, etc)?
  • Are there people you know and trust who can provide a solid recommendation for a bush hogging/land clearing service?
  • If you buy, are you willing to commit the time and finances necessary for equipment upkeep?
  • If you rent, do you feel comfortable and knowledgeable enough to perform the service yourself?

Bush Hogging Rates

The question of what is a good price for a bush hogging service has been discussed endlessly, and really comes down to who is available in your area and what the going rate is. At the end of the day, as with most things you buy, you get what you pay for.

Whether you are looking to hire out the service or figure out how to lay out your bush hogging rates, here are some good considerations to keep in mind:

  • Some companies charge hourly or by the day, while some charge by acreage. Make sure to ask about the price structure up front and be prepared to provide a clear answer about how much area you would like prepared, in addition to the type of brush growing there.
  • Consider the time of year. Land clearing is much more difficult in the summer, after vegetation has had time to grow and root itself into the earth. Opt instead for mowing in either the springtime, fall, or winter, when saplings and other growth are still at a minimum, and weeds and grasses aren’t as tall.
  • Bear in mind that contractors and individuals setting their prices for bush hogging must factor in elements including labor, transportation, maintenance of equipment, the amount of fuel burned per hour, and the amount/condition of land being serviced. And since bush hogging may be performed every 3-12 months to keep property growth to a manageable level, it’s important to find someone you trust and would want to work with repeatedly.

How Often Should I Bush Hog?

This depends entirely on how large of an area you have to maintain and what you plan to use it for. Generally, for areas such as pastures and hunting grounds, cutting every 6 – 12 months is considered standard. If you have saplings that grow quickly, every three to six months is a better bet, and will prevent trees from getting too large and needing to be dug out by hand.

For land that has never been cleared, you can expect your first mow to be more of a “primer” for the land, as you’ll most likely need to go back over it at a lower clip to catch what you missed the first go-around. Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer for everybody; at the end of the day, you know what you want the property to look like, and should brush cut it accordingly.

Benefits of Bush Hogging

everything you need to know about bush hogging - Northeast Georgia Contracting (3)

Whether you intend to use your bush hogged land for agricultural use, personal enjoyment or aesthetic pleasure, keeping your grounds cut and maintained comes with many far-reaching environmental benefits that impact more than just you and your property.

The following is a short list of a examples of the ways bush hogging can be used and benefit you:

  • Clearing tall grass
  • Cutting saplings 1 inch or less in diameter
  • Maintaining overgrown back forty/pasture areas
  • Preparing land for property development
  • Clearing vines, weeds, brush, and other excessive plant growth
  • Promoting biodiversity on the property and surrounding areas

For farmers who have an interest in beekeeping, the act of brush clearing provides an area conducive to hive growth by naturally encouraging the interaction between bees and flora. By removing weeds and other growth that uses up valuable soil nutrients and supporting the growth of diverse wildflowers, land occupied by and pollinated by bees will increasingly thrive and flourish.

Open clearings and level pastures also naturally attract wildlife such as deer, providing hunters and wildlife aficionados the opportunity to more easily spot wild animals, as they much more likely to wander onto territory that isn’t dense with weeds and overgrowth.

After the Job Is Done

Once the job is done, you will have anywhere between two months to a year before you will need to repeat the process of bush hogging (depending on the purpose of the land and how you plan to use it). Before you retire your tractor, here are a few departing facts to know about what will happen in the weeks and months to come.

Cut vegetation promotes steady regrowth of wildlife. All material from bush hogging, with the exception of some trees and rocks, is left on the ground and acts as a natural erosion barrier. In time, grass will begin to grow from the leftover cuttings, and if your property is being used for cattle grazing, edible plant life will regrow at heights more palatable to livestock.

Trees can usually be cleared upon request. If you outsourced the bush hogging work and your property contained an unusual amount of saplings, or if you came across one or more stumps that you’d like removed, you can ask your contractor for help. Small trees can usually be cleared as a part of the bush hogging rate, but forestry mulching and stump removal are likely to be extra services. Ask and see if you can work out a deal to have both done at once, or get a good rate for the combined work.

Resist the urge to bulldoze excess materials. Bulldozing leftover material disturbs the ground, and is not recommended. Mulching, a service that is offered through most landscaping companies, will help the ground to heal and prevent erosion of the soil, while also helping save you or your contractor the time of sorting through rocks, dirt and other materials.

Set a time estimate for when you’ll need to bush hog again. Depending on what is growing on your land, your next bush hogging session may be weeks or several months away. Different types of vegetation will grow back at different rates. Some cut trees may not grow back at all. Cedar and pine trees are not likely to grow back after being ut down, whereas other trees such as hardwoods will grow back more leafy, making it easier for them to be cut back on the next go-around.

CONCLUSION

Whether you are a professional landscape contractor or an every man interested in beginning the process of accumulating machinery and performing the job of bush hogging yourself, the process of bush hogging is a great way to make sure land is kept and managed for the benefit of the property owner and surrounding landowners.

While many options exist to get the job done, hiring a professional landscape service is arguably the quickest way to simplify the process and get great results. By putting the project in the hands of someone with experience, you will have peace of mind knowing the job has been done with skill, credibility, and know-how, ensuring beautiful property for years to come.

everything you need to know about bush hogging - Northeast Georgia Contracting (2024)

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