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close this bookSpecial Public Works Programmes - SPWP - Planting Trees - An Illustrated Technical Guide and Training Manual (ILO - UNDP, 1993, 190 p.)
close this folder2. Preparing the planting site
View the document(introduction...)
View the document2.1 Clearing vegetation
View the document2.2 Ground preparation
View the document2.3 Marking where to dig the holes
View the document2.4 Digging holes
View the document2.5 Soil and water conservation measures

2.1 Clearing vegetation

On most sites trees, bushes and grass have to be cleared away to prevent them from competing with the young plants. This is very important when using light-demanding trees such as Eucalyptus, Pine or Cupressus. If more shade-tolerant species are chosen, existing trees do not have to be cleared.

Total clearing of the grass and bushes is needed on moist grassland sites and for species sensitive to grass competition, like some Eucalyptus.

On sites where ground vegetation is below one metre, it is normally sufficient to clear patches around the plants or strips along the lines of plants. The strips should be about one metre wide. Patches a radius of about 1 metre radius can be cleared with the hoe when digging the planting hole.

Between the cleared patches and strips the vegetation should be cut short, except on sites where reduction of the vegetation may result in increased erosion. There the vegetation between the cleared patches should be left as intact as possible.

Existing trees should only be removed when they seriously disturb the development of the plantation. Around water sources a vegetation belt of at least 15 to 25 metres should be preserved. Trees along rivers and old trees providing shade and beauty should always be saved.


Total clearing

Path clearing

Strip clearing

Save trees around water sources

Tools required for clearing and grass-cutting

The type of tool used should be adapted to the land of vegetation that is being cleared.

A brush hook might be the best tool to use for cutting underbrush up to 20 cm in butt diameter. The weight of the brush hook is about 1.2 kg. The handle is about 0.6 m and the blade 0.2-0.3 m. The top of the blade is formed as a hook. This will protect the edge if it hits a stone. The hook also permits the worker to cut small brush with a pulling jerk. The brush hook is used with two hands.

A machete can be used for cutting hard-stem grasses and woody weeds. It is a long knife, also used for many other purposes, such as cutting fence posts, trimming live fences and root pruning. The machete weighs about 0.6 kg. The traditional machete has a handle of 0.1-0.15 m and a blade of 0.45 m in length. For grass-cutting a modified model has been developed. On the grass-cutting machete the length of the handle is about 0.5 m and the blade about 0.3 m. A grass-cutting machete is used with one hand and the long handle allows the worker to maintain an upright position. Productivity can be increased if the cutting is assisted by a wooden stick (see fig).

Tools for clearing and grass-cutting



Grass-cutting machete

A scythe is useful for soft stem grasses. A scythe with a short blade (0.3 m) is chosen when the terrain is rough and the grass dense. In even terrain a longer blade (0.6 m) can be used. This will speed up the work. It takes some training to get used to the scythe, but once the technique is mastered productivity is good. The worker should stand with his back straight and feet apart. To give power to the cutting swing, the muscles of the thighs and the back should be used. The hands are used mainly for guiding the swing, not for powering it. A well designed scythe is adjustable to individual preferences and body sizes. In the middle of the handle there is a grip for the right hand, and at the top there is another grip for the left hand (for right-handed workers). The upper handle should reach the arm pit and the lower should be placed one underarm's length lower.

A slasher is a double-edged tool, suitable for cutting short grass. It has only limited applications in tree planting. A slasher weighs about 0.6 kg, the length of the handle is around 0.8 m and the blade 0.05-0.1 m. Holding the slasher in one hand, the worker swings it back and forth in a sweeping motion.

Hoes, for completely removing vegetation on strips or patches, are described in section 4.1.

Tools required for clearing and grass-cutting