Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Easy trimming of weeds and high grass in Turnditch Orchard.

Last year I put a lot of effort into trimming the weeds and grass in the orchard. The previously dumped building materials and tree stumps prevents the use of a normal mower, so I used a portable brush cutter. It was hard work and took a couple of days to mow the orchard.

Weeds and long grass compete with the fruit trees for nutrients and water, so there's a function need for weed control not just the aesthetic appeal of a neatly trimmed sward of grass. Given the close proximity of the river we don't want to use chemicals to control the weed in the orchard area. We feel a combination of mowing the area and mulching around the fruit trees is probably the best compromise to control the weeds.

This year, after some research into the options, I have purchased a Hyundai HYFT56 Field Trimmer. It was a great investment.  One of the selection criteria was the machine had to be light enough and have a collapsed size which would allow transportation in the back of my estate car. Weighing in at 30 Kg I can lift it in to the car without the use of ramps. I had to use cargo straps to stop it rolling around the back of the car when I was driving.

The wheeled field trimmer works really well and greatly reduces the effort involved in keeping the weeds/grass under control in the orchard. The 5.5 horse power 4 stroke petrol engines gives plenty of power to tackle dense undergrowth and tall weeds. The 4 mm "string" does a good job of weed cutting. The field trimmer reduced the duration of the task to three hours from the two days it took last year with a hand held brush cutter. I also noticed there was less strimming debris on my clothes after three hour's use of the HYFT56 when compared with a hand held strimmer. You'll usually see me working in a white paper "forensic" coverall when I'm trimming the vegetation. I don't want a repeat of the "Strimmer Rash", but with the new HYFT56 I think it will be less likely.

The engine runs fairly slowly, this helps to reduce the noise of operation. It used about half a litre of fuel per hour which gives a current UK fuel running cost of about £1 an hour. The handbook recommends the engine oil is changed every 25 hours of operation.

Here's a video of  someone testing the machine on some weeds, it gives an accurate representation of what it is like to use in practice.

I read through the (pdf) handbook and noticed references to tools supplied with the machine. I didn't receive any when the vendor (Arb and Grounds Equipment Ltd) handed over the machine, so I'll be checking back with them.

The trimmer cord needs to be checked at the start of and during operations to make sure it is not too short. It lasts quite well, but if you hit rock/hard wood it is possible to snap the trimmer line.  I've ordered some Oregon Flexiblade Trimmer Line as a replacement. It will be interesting to see how it compares in operation with the original. Replacing the cord is easy and can be performed without tool is a couple of minutes.

Update 8th May 2015:
The field trimmer has lived up to expectations. It took only four hours, including rest breaks, to trim back the grass/weeds in the orchard. Last year I'd take two days to do this job when using a hand held brush cutter. The Oregon Flexiblade line worked well, though was a little bit trickier to install due to its greater stiffness compare to the original manufacturer trimming line.

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