hack, grind, shear, cut: clean!

It's finally time to clean up the garden, removing last year's remnants, making way for the soon-to-be-emerging new growth. This is a task that is relatively big in my yard, with perennials to cut back, grasses to chop, and groundcover bamboos to "mow". It seems like an overwhelming task, but I never start the day thinking "I'm going to clean up everything today" -- that would be daunting. Instead I just focus on one job, and when that's finished I move on to another if I feel like it.

On this day I decided to start with this "groundcover" bamboo, but ended up doing quite a bit more.


This Pleioblastus viridistriatus isn't completely dead (it didn't "top kill") as it still has some green leaves, but they're so ragged and winter-worn it's best to remove them all. Treat this like an ornamental grass and shear it to a few inches tall.

I've already rhizome pruned it by digging along the perimeter of the patch, severing any rhizomes that are trying to escape into other parts of my yard or into my neighbor's.

This patch is roughly 100 square feet in size so I'd really like to take the lawn mower to it, but unfortunately that machine is not easy to get to with all of the plants still in the garage. So I'll have to turn to my hedge shears, the only garden tool I own that I hate using.

Why do I hate this tool?

This blade. It's a blunt edge with "teeth", supposedly to help grip the branches being cut. The other blade is the one that does the cutting:

Every time I use these shears I feel like I'm working twice as hard as I need to, as they just don't cut that well. Every time I use them I think to myself "I'd really like to grind this blunt edge into a sharp one!"

Since my neighbor was outside working on his garden (we were essentially working side-by-side) I asked if he had a pair of shears I could use, explaining my problem with the cheap ones I had.

He said he was sorry that he didn't have any shears, but mentioned that he did have a bench grinder that I could borrow if I wanted to try and grind that stupid toothed edge down.

I jumped at the chance!

After maybe 15 minutes or so of applying the grinding wheel to this, I had converted it from a blunt toothed edge into a finely-honed blade:

Okay, maybe not finely-honed, but it was sharp. I also sharpened the other blade a bit, and the now-keen tool cut through the woody bamboo culms with much less effort. It still wasn't easy, but it was a heck of a lot easier than it had been!

With that task finished and "new" tool in hand, I wasn't ready to stop working yet. On to the other bamboo patch, the Pleioblastus fortunei:

That was easy!

To take down the large Miscanthus grass I did not use the hedge shears -- I used the chainsaw. After discovering how easily that gas-powered tool cut through the mass of these large grasses, I don't use anything else anymore.

With that task finished and a warm chainsaw at the ready, I moved up the hill and cleaned up the rest of the "prairie":

The Miscanthus at the top of the hill closest to the driveway (in top center of upper photo) will be removed in the next couple of weeks. It grew as a seedling from 'Gracillimus' and doesn't have the thin blades of its parent. I'm tired of it and it has to go! Not today though.

The compost pile is taller than I am now!

So you see, that's how cleanup goes in my garden: start with a single task then just keep rolling until you run out of daylight, energy, or both.

I'm by no means finished with cleanup, but I'm at least 40% finished now. It's a good feeling. How is cleanup coming along in your garden?


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Lisa  – (March 14, 2013 at 8:08 AM)  

Clean up? We're expecting another inch of snow today! This is getting depressing... Last year at this time I already had my vegetable garden ready to be planted and all my clean up done. What the heck?

Oh, and I learned the hard way to be very careful with clean up around my perennial grasses - some of those blades are like razors! One million tiny cuts all over both hands... ouch!! The second time I did it (I know, right?) I wasn't even dealing with the grass - I was just moving it aside to get to something else. Nature has some awesome built in protections!

danger garden  – (March 14, 2013 at 10:46 AM)  

Clean up here in ongoing. A little of this a little of that. I'm interspersing clean up with fun things (planting) and projects (lawn removal). Of course as I go seem to be inventing more projects...

Oh and yesterday I cut back the tattered bits on the bamboo you gifted me last summer. It's looking really good, lots of new growth!

Alan  – (March 14, 2013 at 11:07 AM)  

Lisa: grass blade cuts are the worst! It's the mid-season blades that get me, when the most skin is exposed.

Danger: fresh variegated bamboo leaves look amazing, don't they? If you site the Pleio. viridistriatus where it gets more sun it has better color. By "better" I mean "LOOK AT ME" color. :)

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (March 14, 2013 at 7:45 PM)  

I did much of the same this past weekend. However, being the lazy SOB that I am, I didn't even try to sharpen my tools, I simply hacked away with dull clippers. One of these years I have to get into the habit to sharpen and maintain my tools properly, LOL.

M  – (March 14, 2013 at 8:04 PM)  

I myself stopped cutting the ground cover bamboo 2 years ago. They tend to hold there green leaves and go into replacement/leaf budding cycle by April for the early species and May for my slow starters.

The Gardening Blog  – (March 17, 2013 at 6:12 AM)  

I had to giggle at this post - the sheer problem is JUST LIKE MINE!! I really really need to sharpen mine! I am so glad I have finished cleaning my garden - it was so overgrown!
Awe - I thought the Pleioblastus fortunei was pretty!! :-(

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