I'm reviewing your article here more carefully now, as I am in the middle of hand clearing a rocky, log-littered slope about 20 ft. from my house. I have some Lemurophoenix to plant, and would like to add some Licuala peltata v. sum. I'm curious how clear is "cleared" and ready for planting?
The area is approximately 35' x 25' and appears to have been somewhat cleared at one time, presently lots of strawberry guava, tibouchina and some other junk trees, and avocado volunteers. Then the usual thicket of strangling vines to top it off. There are ohia trees around the area to be cleared, but not in the midst of it.
So far I've chainsawed a couple of the thicker trees, hauled away some of the larger woody shrubs and soft vines, but I recognize a lot of this can grow back very quickly. Do you treat an area to prevent or delay regrowth? How can I be sure the junk I ripped out will really die, not just re-root and grow?
What about stabilizing a slope? I want to put a red cinder path curving down from each side, but the rocks are not stable. Should I dig them out and re-lay them? What I thought might be a three-day project is looking like three weeks!
Welcome to gardening in the major leagues. While I'm still a rookie, I would opt for getting things in the ground as soon as you can be assured that you can work around them without too much trouble. Of course it would be nice to have everything neat and tidy and dead first, but if you go that route you may never get anything planted. I like to get things in as soon as I can, and get the meter running on the slower stuff. But it doesn't pay if you have to work around them while doing the more detailed work.
Stabilizing a slope would be too hard to answer without seeing the specifics. But generally you can move rock (if you have enough) or use some ohia logs with re-bar for stakes, or whatever you have. As you have seen, you can do magic with rock work, but it is slow, hard, heavy work, and be sure to watch out for your fingers.
For the stuff you are cutting and want to die, most of us use Crossbow - an herbicide you can paint on the fresh stumps and will kill most everything. Full strength or half and half with diesel works. It's not cheap, so I go the half and half. You may have to treat tenacious stuff like guava twice.
Other than that, it's hard to offer specifics without knowing the situation. Or sometimes more importantly, the situation underground.
I'll have some more pics soon of the almost finished project. As you said a small job has extended and grown to almost a month now (six half days a week), and that even includes a excavator I brought in for 13 hours (that sent me to the emergency room one afternoon for stitches in the head). Almost $1000 of cinder for the pathways, and something you don't worry about - irrigation valves, controllers, and about a thousand feet of tubing. But the excavator could get to about twenty places that I needed holes, so that will save a lot of digging time. It can make a hole in about 30 seconds that takes me 30-40 mins with an o'o bar. You may consider hiring a small excavator. Jerry had a guy come in with a small one he was really happy with. You could get more done in a day than you could in a month otherwise.
Just that little bit of information is a huge help, Dean, thanks. I was looking at the stumps, knowing for certain they will sprout again (plenty of evidence of that having happened right in the same spot), so the Crossbow info is invaluable. I think one more afternoon of effort and I can plant, then work on the details. Steve has expressed interest in working on the path down the slope when he arrives -- construction, that's right up his alley.
I'm striving to keep all my fingers, both eyes, and a nice complexion -- were you running the excavator yourself when you had to get stitches? That's a little scary. I was slightly concerned when I fired up the chainsaw alone here...
The last dilemma is what to do with all the junk I whack down. Last time I piled up what I expected would become a compost heap. Instead it all took root and made a massive tangle, and not in a good location. This week I've been hauling the logs and branches to a small clearing behind a few ferns and trees that will be left standing, I just hope they DIE there! Nothing ever dries out here... My arms are getting buff but my back is getting tired.
I bought some bromeliads from a young man who said he does hand clearing for others we know here. I'm considering hiring him just because of my limited time. Clearly I need to spend more time here.
Sounds interesting and exciting Kim! I can speak a little bit about stablizing a slope: Like DeanO said, logs/large branches with rebar behind them works great as a small retaining wall for paths. Once you pound the rebar down flush with the log you never see it. Also, I'm not sure exactly how cinder compacts, but the 3/4" rock that we get cheap here in CA is absolutely amazing at compacting to 100% and holding a slope for you. What I mean is as long as you have enough to pile on the downslope side to level out your path, it holds itself and does not erode or slide down. Everything migrates downhill at my place, dirt, rocks, mulch, but the 3/4" rock stays nicely because it locks in on itself.