Spring is right around the corner. The warmer weather makes it hard for me to do any renovations on the inside of the house. I want to spend all my time outside, planting flowers and updating a few things on the porch. But, before I do any of that, I decided to tackle our front flower bed. More so, the overgrown shrubs we have planted along the front of our house.
These things are about 6 feet high and almost that wide. They are so close together, you can’t tell where one plant ends, and the other begins. From what I can see, we have 3 different varieties; boxwoods, holly bushes, and some other evergreen shrub. They are all massive! The trunks on some of them are as big as my arm.
Evergreen shrubs don’t really go dormant in the winter like other plants. (Dormancy is when plants stop growing…annuals and perennials will die back in the winter. Evergreens do not) They don’t lose their leaves, but their growth slows way down. We knew that if we were going to remove these shrubs, we needed to get it done before Spring. Before they would start growing again.
We knew the job would be tough. But, we didn’t really have the budget to pay a landscaping company to remove them. Not with everything else going on in the house. We were able to remove the majority of the shrubs in one weekend. Which isn’t bad considering the size of these things.
If you don’t have a landscaping budget, but need to get rid of overgrown shrubs, this is what you should do…
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The Tools You’ll Need:
Pruning Shears. We have a pair with a longer handle. This allows us to get in hard to reach places. It also gives better leverage for cutting thicker branches.
A Shovel. You’ll want to get one with a pointed tip. This makes digging 10 times easier.
Mattock. This helped us chop up the roots in the ground to loosen the shrub for removal.
Brush Grubber One of the best tools to have when removing shrubs. It’s a chain with gripping hooks that wrap around the shrub stump. This prevents the chain from slipping off when you pull them out.
4-Wheel Drive Pickup Truck. Optional. If you don’t have a truck handy, you can use another high-powered vehicle.
The first thing we did was cut off all the branches on each shrub. The branches on ours were only 1-3 inches in diameter, which made cutting a little easier. I found that starting in the back and trimming towards the front worked best. All plants grow towards the sun, and that meant the back-side (the part closest to our house) barely had any leaves on it.
With my pruning shears, I started cutting. I would cut about 10 branches in an area and then try to pull them away from the stump, to make the cutting easier. The branches were close together and intertwined in certain areas. This made cutting a little tricky at times.
I made sure to leave about a 12” sized “stump” behind…to make the root removal easier. If you don’t want to plant anything back in the same spot, you can just cut your stump to the ground. If any sprouts come up, clip them off. Eventually, the stump will rot away.
We do plan on planting new things here, so we had to remove the roots too!
Some of the roots were running really close to our foundation and front porch. We didn’t want to start ripping them out of the ground right away. Instead, we decided to dig around them a little, break up the roots, and then pull them out.
To do this, we first dug around the base of each “stump” with our shovel. As we went around, we lifted the shovel to loosen the roots. Some of the roots were almost 1 inch in diameter! We had to chop them in two with the mattock. Once we had the majority of exposed roots loosened, it was time to rip them out of the ground.
We wrapped the Brush Grubber around the trunk several times. The area of the chain that has “teeth” on it is the part that goes around the stump. Then, we hooked the chain to a 4-wheel drive truck. If you don’t have a pickup truck, you can use another powered vehicle. Just makes sure it’s sturdy. And, only hook the chain to a hitch, not the bumper.
We had a friend help us with this part. He gave the truck some gas, and we watched the stumps come up. Some weren’t as easy as others. We had to chop the roots on those a little more and then pull on them again. Once the roots were out, we filled the holes in with dirt and leveled the flower bed area.
We aren’t worried about prepping the soil for planting right now. North Carolina weather is very “wishy-washy,” and you never know from one week to the next what it will be like. It will be mid-April before we get busy with planting and gardening projects.
Removing these overgrown shrubs was a time-intensive job. I would say we spent around one hour per shrub, maybe a little more. The Holly bushes were too large to pull from the ground. We decided to use their stumps as “garden art” instead of breaking our backs to remove them.
And, instead of tossing the boxwood cuttings in the trash, I made a fresh boxwood wreath for our front door. It only took 20 minutes to make and cost me nothing!