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Best time to cut back trail brush

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Re: Best time to cut back trail brush

Postby Betsy M on Sun Dec 13, 2015 11:12 am

I've seen cut ceanothus stems 3-5 inches tall as Steve describes, which did not grow back. Though leaving a field of stobs is unsightly and could injure stock. For several species of ceanothus, cutting below the ground level guarantees they won't grow back. It doesn't matter what time of year you do this. For other plant species, like scrub oak, manzanita, madrone, etc., the plants will grow back - no matter what time of year or how you cut them. You have to prune them, or grub them out.

Advanced cutting tips:
As an example of pruning, many trees will send out side branches 15-20 feet. If you cut these branches back to the main trunk, they won't grow back when the tree foliage becomes dense enough to shade out the base of the plant.
In general, most casual hikers like to cut what they can reach as they walk along. This works for about 6 months. Then the plant has had a chance to re-grow, and it re-grows most intensely where it was cut. Effectively this method produces more intense brush in the trail.
Also, cutting the main upright stem of any tree will cause the growth to go sideways. You want mature trees to grow UP, not SIDEWAYS. So if a tree is off to the side of the trail, resist that impulse to cut it all to the ground or cut the top at 3 feet.
When cutting branches, always cut back flush with the main trunk. This way you don't leave sharp poky stobs that could injure hikers and stock.
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Re: Best time to cut back trail brush

Postby JackBNimble on Tue Nov 24, 2015 8:41 am

It's too hot to cut brush 1 month after the last rain, and who really cares about how fast it grows back anyway. Cutting brush in the backcountry is about the peaceful easy feeling that you get when you know you make the return trip, and the satisfaction of looking at all that refreshed trail. Is there anything so satisfying as looking at a trail you have recently brushed-out in the middle of nowhere? The dirt, the dust, the grime and the pride. Your sole rejoices and rejuvinates.... or so I have heard.
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Re: Best time to cut back trail brush

Postby Steve B on Sun Nov 15, 2015 2:54 pm

Awhile back I did a little experiment cutting ceanothus along the Carmel River Trail. I cut a plot of a few dozen ceanothus about 3 to 5 inches above the ground during different months of the year. I found that the plants that were cut in the late spring, about a month after the last rains, were the plants that seemed to die. The plants that I cut earlier or later seemed to send out new growth. Any time we cut brush it is always best to cut it as low as possible but I cut it high just to see which plants would die.
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Re: Best time to cut back trail brush

Postby mikesplain on Thu Nov 12, 2015 11:40 am

This is an interesting topic and I'm glad someone brought it up. Hopefully some experts with more experience can weigh in, but species is an important consideration. Although many call it "brush", we are generally speaking of chaparral or coastal scrub, varied vegetation types with a diversity of plant species. In the Ventana region, our most common chaparral genera seem to be Quercus (oak), Ceanothus ("wild lilac") and Arctostaphylos (manzanita).

In my experience...

Most Quercus are sprouters- grub them out, roots and all, or be prepared to continuously sculpt them as cutting the main trunk (even at ground level) seems to result in an ever-returning "crown of thorns."

Ceanothus can be seeders (cut off the photosynthetic parts and they won't return) or sprouters just like the oaks; one needs to know the life history of the species at hand.

Arctostaphylos species also vary between seeders and sprouters, but they are usually so slow growing as to be much less of an issue.

Of course, there are many other shrubs out there and this says nothing about the best time of year to trim them, but the point is, a little understanding of botany / life history goes a long way in improving the quality and longevity of one's work. hopefully this discussion will continue...
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Re: Best time to cut back trail brush

Postby Adam98 on Wed Nov 11, 2015 4:40 pm

If you're clipping/trimming (back to the main stem or larger branch and not leaving a point of course!) this is best done when the plants are not rapidly growing which is from summer to the first rains of fall or winter.

If you're rooting up/yanking brush from the ground, winter seems to better because the ground is soft and you can get more done at once and you wont risk leaving behind as much root material. But always be aware of what uprooting will do to the drainage of the trail.

When clipping brush flush with the topsoil or just below if possible, it seems debatable and I've wondered the same thing so hopefully some experts can follow-up on when it is best to do. If done in summer the plant is more likely to die and not grow back. Or if done amid late winter with freezing temperatures predicted it can also stop the plant from growing back.

Overall the goal is to do work that doesn't require a lot of follow-up. Trailwork with a plan or strategy is always better than random trailwork such as arbitrary clipping done all over the place.
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Best time to cut back trail brush

Postby gene a on Tue Nov 10, 2015 6:03 pm

What is the best time of year to cut back trail brush in order to delay regrowth for the longest time?
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