Cutting back huge clumps of miscanthus

elizabeth_5February 24, 2006

I have five huge clumps of miscanthus sinensis. Sorry I'm not sure of the exact variety. I think it's the silberfeder. The clumps are something between 3 and 4 feet in diameter at ground level.

In the past I have used all of these to cut it back: large lopping shears, electric hedge trimmer and chain saw. I simply am not able physically to do the lopping shear method anymore.

The electric tools will cut okay, but the housings constantly get jammed full of dried grass stems. I have to stop every few minutes to laboriously prod it all out.

Has anyone else found a better method/tool for cutting these grasses back? The time to do it is coming near and I'd like a fairly fast way to do it. The job of gathering and disposing of the mass of cut stems alone is a major one without having to take all day to do the cutting.

Any advice would be much appreciated.

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Do you live in an area where burning them down is a possibility?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2006 at 3:10PM
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blackie57(z5 NY Broome Co)

One thing I do to try to keep things a bit more tidy is to tie the grass tightly with rope or a bungee strap above where I want to cut. Then when I cut through it keeps the dried fronds together somewhat. I have used hand shears in the past but this spring i'm gunna give the hedge tripper a try and see how it goes. Nothing is ever easy, is it ?!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2006 at 3:24PM
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Thank you for the followups.

I hadn't thought about burning. I don't see that that's a possibility. The clumps are in large xeriscaping gardens in our front yard and are are too near other plants.

I tried tying the stalks last year. I used twine though and that didn't work at all. Bungee cording might work better. This year the dried stalks are quite bent over from the winds so it makes it harder to tie. Tying is really a two person job. Unfortunately, I'm allegic to the seed stuffs so the whole cutting/disposing scene is a sneezing, nose-blowing chore. :(

I was kind of hoping somebody might know of an electric cutter type that wouldn't get jammed full of the dried stuff. The chain saw was able to cut the clumps back shorter but kept getting clogged. The hedge trimmer works, but I had to cut up higher above the base than I wanted since it couldn't handle the really stiff part of the stalks closer to the base. I'm going to look into renting a more heavy-duty hedge trimmer.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2006 at 11:04AM
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Rent one of these:

Essentially, it's a weed-whacker with a circular saw blade instead of a string trimmer. It'll definately cut the mustard.

Another suggestion..get a respirator. For relatively low cost, you can buy a cartridge-type respirator, with a dust cartridge, that can be replaced when needed. It'll help a lot with your allergies.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2006 at 11:21AM
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erstanfo(8/9 Olympia WA)

a gasoline powered hedge trimmer works wonders.
I bought the 30" hedge trimer bar for my Mantis tiller off of ebay. I can cut a large clump in about 1 minute. The electric hedge trimmer bogs down.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2006 at 8:21PM
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sjm2757(zone 5 OH)

Here, Here!! I agree with erstanfo. I used to try to cut mine with electric hedge-trimmers, but ran into the same clogging problem. I bought a gas-powered model and have had much more success. I tie mine with bungee chords and it has worked great (I have to cut about two and a half dozen 3-foot clumps of the zebra grass). Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2006 at 11:03PM
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deep_roots(5a IN)

I've used several tools until finding my favorite, a chain saw. That's right, with 21 stands of ornamental grass, the chain saw is the fastest method. I then place the cut off plant material on a large tarp and drag it to a burn pile. My quest for a better tool started after finding that hedge trimmers, electric trimmers, and saws were too much work when it came to the 5'4" diameter clump of Miscanthus Floridulus and 24" diameter clumps of Erianthus Ravennae. When dividing, I dig bomb craters to extract the grass and divide with a well placed strike of an axe!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 12:53AM
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kidhorn(7a MD)

I use an electric hedge trimmer and don't have any problems other then the grass falling on me.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 4:21PM
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adichristi(z 6)

This will be our second summer for our miscanthus. We did not cut it down for the winter. When is a good time to cut it down and how far? Thank you....

    Bookmark   March 15, 2006 at 5:23PM
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Now, to a few inches from the ground.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2006 at 5:29PM
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adichristi(z 6)

Just went out this afternoon and cut them down to a few inches from the ground.

Thanks donn!

    Bookmark   March 16, 2006 at 5:28PM
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Yer welcome!

Now, as Jake advises, set up a nice chair, grab a beverage of choice, and watch them grow. No further care needed!

    Bookmark   March 16, 2006 at 6:55PM
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adichristi(z 6)

donn, I can't wait!

Posted by: donn_ Plants I have to trade:

* * 1/12/06 *
* Watch this spot for ornamental grass trades in the spring.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2006 at 6:14PM
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abillus(Z6 NY)

Watch them grow thats a long wait! my first year growing grasses I was really annoyed how long it takes for them to start growing, atleast my varieties. And for cutting has anyone tried a good long serrated bread knife? Never bogs down, and is very satifying. Dont put it down unless youve tried it!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2006 at 4:26PM
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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

I have tried using a bread knife & I must agree that is works really great on all the soft stemmed grasses. Not the best tool tho if you have lots of large Miscanthus to cut down... For these stiffer stemmed grasses I use an electric hedge trimmer & I don't have any trouble with it jamming. Are your grasses wet when you're cutting them? Or .. possibly you are trying to 'push through' rather than letting the trimmers do the work. Or ... maybe you just need new improved trimmers.
This is my range of tools for the job

However, as an all round garden tool, the serrated knife on the left is my hands down favorite. It can also be used to 'tease' off the dead ends of ever-green grasses.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2006 at 10:48PM
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strictus(IOWA - 4b/ 5a)

This past weekend I used a Homelite chainsaw w/ a 16" bar on it. Using it on some floridulus, strictus, morning light, and a few unknown miscanthuses that get quite bamboo like.

The trick is a chainsaw is to cut only using the top of the chain/bar only, using the bottom portion will drag the cut pieces into the back of the saw and jam the chain. Believe me I spent several minutes figuring this one out!!!
It will easily cut a 3' diameter clump in less than a minute. Just cut left to right and the cut stuff will sorta fall onto you, then just scooop it up and whisk it away.

I'm 1/3 done cutting all my ornamentals down and have 2 full pickup loads done this weekend alone. BTW - I cut them down to around 3 inches above the ground.....allows the sunlight to get to the clump easier I have found.


    Bookmark   April 2, 2006 at 11:30PM
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Juliana63(z5 MI)

An elegantly simple solution! Wish I'd read about using the top bar before attacking my miscanthus clumps. Now I just have to remember to do it that way next year....


    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 8:14AM
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What happens if one leaves the mass of stalks in place?
Does one get a naturally-looking plant that looks unkept?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 10:59AM
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jake(z4b-5 NE)

Leaving the tall dried fronds and stalks will make your grasses looked unkempt and just plain ugly.

These dried parts will eventually break off throughout the summer, blow all around your yard thus making you no. #1 on the most disliked person in the neighborhood.

As Donn stated, grab a chair and watch nature at work. Remember that ornamental grasses are a man's perennial. Plant 'em, watch 'em grow, cut 'em back, watch 'em grow, cut 'em ......

How much better can life be than to grow such neat looking plants that require less of our manly talents and abilities than ornamental grasses? (YES WOMEN CAN JOIN IN THIS GAME AS WELL)

Just remember to get a comfortable chair, a good cooler full of your favorite refreshment, cop a squat and watch the grasses grow.

I've tried it and it works well, until the perennial whacko finds me and requests that I assist her in her perennial beds.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2006 at 11:47AM
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trigger_m(7b georgia)

Yep,i have found that a chainsaw is the only way to go on large clumps of ornamental grass.It's something i do every late other tool i've found will cut back a 3 foot across clump!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2006 at 1:12PM
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