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6 Most Popular Land Clearing Methods

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Vacant, underdeveloped land offers a great opportunity to build and develop something amazing: a chance to increase the property’s value and get a substantial ROI. But before the property can be used for any purpose, the land must be cleared. The clearing is the process of removing unwanted materials.

There are numerous clearing methods, each using different tactics and tools. Nevertheless, they all serve a similar purpose: to increase the area for construction or cultivation. Unwanted materials can be trees, boulders, stumps, or anything that impedes growth and development.

Each method can be an excellent solution for different circumstances. Therefore, let’s first learn about the most popular land clearing methods and find out when to use them:

land clearing mulcher

Cut & Grind

Lands that host a smaller number of trees are usually excellent candidates for the “cut and grind” method. The first step is to remove the brush and weeds with a brush mower or root plow, depending on soil conditions and available tools or equipment.

Next, we need to bring out the big guns: large machines like cutter machines or chainsaws. They are used to remove and pile up trees. Their processing is not a priority at this stage. Therefore, it is best to move them out of the way and cut them down later.

We use various equipment such as stump grinders, backhoes, bulldozers, or trucks to remove the stumps. If you want to use the land for agricultural purposes, you can mulch the stumps and use them directly on garden beds or vegetable patches to improve the soil.

A subcategory of the cut-and-grind method follows this last idea from the beginning: Everything is mulched. This method uses a variety of equipment and machinery, including forestry mowers, brush cutters, cutting heads, and mulching heads. The mowers cut the trees into smaller pieces, spread them on the ground, and let them decompose over time.

Pushover or Bulldozing

The pushover method is pretty much self-explanatory. This land clearing involves bulldozing trees on your property using huge machinery. Bulldozing doesn’t remove the roots of the trees. You’ll need different equipment to do that.

Keep in mind that this method has space limitations. Bulldozers can be a good option for small and medium-sized properties, but we usually recommend a less expensive method for large areas. Ultimately, the decision comes down to space, budget, and the time frame you want to get the job done.

Also, the pushover method has one major drawback: it can degrade and destroy the topsoil. We recommend using this method cautiously if you’re using land clearing for cultivation. In addition, bulldozing can reduce the value of the wood. So this isn’t a good method to deal with valuable hardwood.

That said, sometimes, there’s no other option when you have a property with many giant trees.


Pulling is another widely used land clearing method involving large anchor chains and tractors. This method is fairly simple. You attach chains to the tree, attach the other end of the chain to the tractor, and pull it away.

Although this method seems simple, there are, again, some limitations. The main point about the pulling method is that it requires a lot of experience in choosing the right type of tractor, the right chain material, creating enough space for pulling, using the wedge to control the direction of the tree’s fall, and so on.

Pile & Burn

The pile and burn technique is probably the oldest, simplest, and cheapest land clearing method. The more traditional approach was essentially burning everything down. Nowadays, people use tractors or skid steers to clear the land, pile everything up in one place (to avoid uncontrolled fire spread), and burn them.

This method still has many proponents and critics. Piling and burning can be very effective for large areas with many materials. However, it is imperative that this method is done with extra care and that experts supervise the process. This technique is not recommended in dry and windy climates.

In addition, some recent studies have raised health issues and concerns about the pile and burn method. For instance, burning some plants can produce toxic material that pollutes the air, water, and soil. Also, the pile and burn method may require a large amount of money and workforce in some areas with certain plant species.

Chemical Method

The use of chemicals to clear land and remove weeds, shrubs, plants, and other small-scale vegetation is one of the most popular methods today. Chemical land clearing is the latest and scientifically based technique for preparing land for construction and planting.

To remove weeds and shrubs, you will need weed killers and herbicides. If you have cut down the trees and only stumps are left, you can also use arboricides to remove the remaining parts. These strong chemicals are used to kill unwanted trees and shrubs.

This method requires professional experts and knowledgeable staff because these compounds are highly toxic. Arboricides, for example, contain significant amounts of sodium arsenate, a highly toxic substance that must be handled with extreme caution.

Hand Clearing

Manual land clearing is the least invasive and most expensive method, but it is time-consuming and laborious. Hand clearing requires a lot of time and is only useful for very small plots or areas that are not accessible to large machines.

This land clearing method involves various tools, including

  • Slashers
  • Axes
  • Chain saw
  • Chain sharpening tools
  • Wedges to control the direction of tree fall
  • Large hammers

These devices are usually very cheap and accessible in all areas. However, they’re only suitable for removing weeds, shrubs, and plants. Axes can be used to cut trees, but removing stumps is extremely difficult with these simple tools.

In addition, removing fallen trees is a difficult task. Unless you consider this work-intensive weightlifting, you’ll need forestry vehicles to clear the area. You can also burn the trees if local laws allow it. All in all, this method is rarely used for large-scale clearing projects.

Bottom Line

Cut and grind, bulldozing, pulling, pile and burn, chemical land clearing, and manual clearing are the six most common land clearing methods. Each technique has advantages and drawbacks. So before you make a decision, you need to consider several critical variables, including

  • Land size
  • Time and budget
  • Available equipment
  • Type of trees and plants
  • Soil composition
  • And most importantly, the purpose of the clearing

Remember that this process is quite complex, and in the end, you need a professional team to evaluate the area, plan the project and implement it. And we can help you with that. At Ranch Land Rock Milling & Mulching, we have an experienced team of experts well-equipped with state-of-the-art technologies and tools for land clearing. We are one call away. (830) 572-5007!

Related: What Is Land Clearing: A Comprehensive Guide for 2023

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