Ep.8 Mow Like A Pro Pt.1 - Whipping - Eric Beza (Acre Lawns & Gardens)

You're on the plants grow here podcast. I'm Daniel Fuller. Come along with me as we enter a hidden world of deep horticultural, ecological and landscape gardening knowledge with featured experts, industry professionals, and enthusiasts. Today we're going to be starting a three part series on how to mow your lawn efficiently. And specifically, today we're going to be speaking about edging. So whether you call that line trimming brush, cutting whip or snipping, it's all really the same thing. And our guest is my current boss for the last few years Eric Beza, who owns Acre lawns and gardens in northern Melbourne. Good Eric, welcome to the show. Hi, Daniel. How are you? Yeah, not too shabby. Thanks. How about yourself? Good. Very
That's good. So some people like to treat mowing the lawn as a sort of job that takes all weekend. How long do you recommend an average lawn should take to Whipsnade mow and blow for a professional look,
the key is frequency as well. And a lot of people tend to put it off and then by the time you get to it, it's up to your knees. But if you're doing it regularly enough, and depending on the season, a lot of lawns we might allow one hour with travel time with one person so you might be looking at in around 30 minute mark with with two guys but look, frequency and regularly is the key to keeping on top of it and keeping it looking good.
Can you walk us through a few of the basic brush color options out there in the market?
Yeah, you've got we mainly use a straight brush cutters, some of the curved shaft brush cutters the mainly sold to the domestic market. But you can get your dedicated brush cutters or you can get your your combi your your multi tool, which allow you to add different attachments with different jobs. And that's that's quite a good option. So you might not have to buy too many tools to start out with, you might be able to add a hedger with the brush cutter. That makes it a little bit more versatile. But you can get ring grip handles bullhorn handles, the bull horns, we don't use personally but more for flashing larger areas and difficult to get to areas. You might see the counselor with those more often, they're a lot more comfortable. If you're doing you know all day on the brush cutter and you're slashing from, you know, with with a harness on. So it's, it's a bit awkward if you're doing aging a small loan, we're rotating the brush cutter quite often when we were doing the different sections. Yeah, the straight shaft just the ring grip brush cutter is generally what we use. Yeah, I
like the ring grip because you can spin it around upside down to vertically edge a lot easier than with a bullhorn setup. It's just a lot more maneuverable. I
reckon. That's right. Yep, yep. And also, the type of head you use is important too, we use the speed feed or bump feed head makes it a lot quicker to load the line when you when you run out. Some of you have to pull apart altogether. And others, you can just slide up two or three meters, the lining and twisted ratcheted up and you're ready to go.
What can you tell us about blade heads for the whip? In what circumstances? Do you reckon they're good? And when do you recommend just avoiding them?
Um, we've used them in some situations where you've got really thick weed growth, like, what what do you wait to get through, and you can get different numbers of teeth on those blades as well. So they're designed for different thicknesses of from small brush to thick weights. We don't use them too often. But they've got got a time and a place. Yeah, I wouldn't I wouldn't use along with them taking chips out of the concrete path as well.
Right? And what brands do you recommend when it comes to the brushes?
we we did use in our a lot years ago, now we're using steel, a lot of that comes down to the shop that you might purchase your year from one of the shops that we use did actually change brands and you know that, that that's it's helpful to be able to get service quickly. And if the shops in your local area, there's not much point having something that you've got to drive an hour to to get repaired or where you can't get parts for. So Shadowrun still probably the main brands that we've used in regards to brush cutters.
Cool. And how did this still and shindy compared to each other? Is there much of a difference? So are they basically just the same thing?
They both pretty good, you know, some of them had some good things and bad things about them. But it pretty similar, but sometimes it's hard to judge exactly, you know, what kind of errors you've got on a chain but you know, they get a pretty good workout in a in a 12 month period. So if you get one or two years out of a machine you're doing pretty well.
Yeah, totally. And it probably depends on your local mobile store to like, what are they keeping in stock? What are they recommending? What's going to be easy for them to get repairs on
and some some brands you might find it's a it's a bit time consuming to get parts sometimes which can can slow you down and you find your your you do need to have several machines and a backup machine so that that doesn't lay down too much.
So our brushes come from To hold, and what are your recommendations, especially when it comes to holding those ring grips comfortably.
There's quite a few different ways that you see people using them. But I remember the first time I used that I'd probably lasted about five minutes and my shoulders were killing me. But they become more comfortable when you get conditioned like anything as well, you know, after doing it for a month or two, you know, you finish a property without stopping. And when you first start, you're probably in pain after a little ball and hit need to have quite a few breaks. But I don't know, I think the key is sometimes not to try and cramp your muscles up too much and get kind of too rigid, so that your shoulders and your traps kind of tend to take all the load, sometimes relaxing and lowering them, Shane, but you say some guys hold holding it vertical, and some people having it out in front of them. But it's it's a bit of personal preference. But at the end of the day, you get a good result. And there's, there's a lot of different ways to do it.
Yeah, that's it as long as you're comfortable. And I think staying relaxed is a big one. Because the machines are actually designed to sort of be quite well balanced. As long as you're just relaxed, keep the arms by sides. And yeah, don't tense up too much.
Just let the machine do most of the work. It's sometimes a little adjustment of the ring grip handle can just bounce the weight for you. And it can be a little bit different sometimes for the for the height of the person using it.
So most brushes, at least the commercial ones going to shoot to the left. What does that mean?
Yeah, it's just the direction of the the line in the head. So if they're shooting to the left, or they're rotating anti clockwise, then that's the side that you need to be wary of as well for safety. That, you know, if it does pick up a small stone or any items that you might have noticed, you're going to be conscious of that if you're, you know, near a vehicle or Windows or people. And yeah, that's just that's just where the the excess debris is coming out that side,
right. And if you're working next to a window, sometimes it makes sense to just do a dead walk up the other end and make your way back. So you're shooting away from the window.
Yeah, sometimes you can turn around and reposition yourself so that you're, you know, going through a safer, safer area.
Totally. Yeah. And the same thing goes for pools too. I mean, for goodness sake, be clever about how you work your way around a pool, because you don't want to be flicking those grass clippings straight into the pool. Because they're so hard to get out. And your customers just aren't going to be happy with that.
Yeah, yeah, definitely, we've got a couple of jobs where sometimes we have second person with a blower actually blowing as your brush cut to prevent any mess in some spots like that. Not always ideal if you work by yourself, but yes, sometimes helps.
So let's talk a little bit about chord length. How long do we want the cord on our whip? And how do you extend the cord, especially with those speed feed heads that we like to run? Look,
it's best to keep it at the maximum length that you can. We don't fiddle with the guards on the machine. Sometimes you see some people take them off. But that's the own detriment safety wise. But yeah, look, if you find the line is disappearing too quickly, you need to learn to to cut with the tip of the line, some people get too close. And you're not cutting with the tip, which is essentially like the sharpest part as well. But it takes takes several months to get used to using the brush cutter properly and being efficient with it. But if it gets too short, and you don't extend the line as well on it can get quite hot, sometimes bind up inside the head as well. So it's not an easy thing to teach or explain. But it takes a bit of experience to get used to.
Yeah, that's it, you just got to get used to it. So you're talking about the God and that God that's just down there around the spinning head with the cord has a little blade on it that actually cuts the cord when it reaches a certain length. So keeping it at that length at the maximum extended length is actually the best it's the best for the machine best for the cut. And you're saying that you got to cut with the tips. I got a little saying that I like to say when I'm training newbies, and that is that it's a disc it's a cutting disc. So yeah, I like to treat it a bit like an angle grinder almost just cut with the tips. Look, let's contradict ourselves a little bit now and let's talk about when you might want to turn those ribs down a little bit maybe want to just tickle it as we say for example to avoid ring barking So tell us a little bit what is ring barking
Yeah, you might often see that around small trees you know in the nature strip or something like that where someone's just doesn't know where the tip of the line is. And if you're hitting hitting a tree with with that line or can happen with other chains or tools as well you're taking the bark off the tree which can result in killing the tree small little lick you know you get away with but you get too rough and not a control brush cutter you can end up killing very quickly.
Cool. And what are some of the other times that we might like to back those rows off and just tickle it?
Yeah, look, if you're getting getting the ribs right with the machine, you know you don't always need maximum power. And you know, it's then learn when you need it when you don't and especially if something's a bit more sensitive or you might have some things that can be flicked up as well. Then you know, the less the loss, possibly the better. If you do happen to pick up a stone or if you're close to something delicate, you know shrubs or So you're learning to fit as a throttle and just use the powers that's just needed to get the job done.
Yeah, great advice. All right, let's say one of our listeners has a backyard that they just want to whip the whole thing they want to flat with the whole yard. But I want to buy mower, what advice do you have in this sort of a case,
if you, if you start doing that from from scratch, you'll probably take chunks and scalp sections, and it'll probably ruin half the lawn. But if you do practice, maybe on a little spot, that's not quite as important. The trick is to getting it level. So then sometimes handle adjustment and the brush cutter adjustment is key to your height as well. So you can get the brush cutter head running flat. If you have it on an angle, you'll be cutting and digging into it as well. And then it's also trying to keep a consistent height. So it's quite tricky to do. But if you've been on it for quite a while, and you're pretty skillful, then you can sometimes cut a small section of a back lawn that might be difficult to get a mower down there. And often, someone wouldn't even notice if you've done that with a brush cutter or a mower. But it's not not an easy task.
No, it's not easy. And I reckon as well, it's better to do it on shorter lawns rather than longer loans, because there's just a little bit less debris and muck to clean up afterwards.
Yeah, that's right. And also, you know, if you're working with a team that's running a ride on, and sometimes you know, some loans like a kaiku, or buffalo lawn might be cut fairly high, learning to match that height. If there's always spots where you need to do a flat brush cap where the mower can't get in. So it's important to try and match the height of the lawn at the most cut out. So it's not really obvious that you're cutting, you know, one centimeter off the ground at the most five or six centimeters, then they need to kind of match that to look good. Yeah, you're right,
it looks a little bit silly when you've cut it down too low with the whip up, because you're going to have that sort of hot differentiation between one part and another pot. And you may even end up getting some bald patches, which is definitely not what you want doesn't matter whether you whip a snippet for mowing or mow after a snipping or is that just totally irrelevant.
Look in that. I think it does. It's not always ideal. But looking, for example, if you're working by itself, I would always check the property, maybe do a quick blow if needed, not always needed. But then snipping or brush, cutting all the edges and all the corners first, then allows you to mow and tidy up all those clippings afterwards. Whereas if you do it at the end, you might have longer grass sitting on top of the fresh cut graph. That's not always as clean looking.
Yeah, now it makes a big difference if you whip first and then most second looks a lot nicer. Because you can Yeah, as you say clean up that debris. But if you do know how to use a whip bar and you're a bit more comfortable with it, you can sort of walk clockwise around the property and shoot outwards. So if you've got a little bush there that you can sort of shoot debris into with it being on your left, sometimes that can work. But yeah, again, you don't want to be pushing it into Windows or onto what rendered walls or into pools or anything like that just got to be smart. But yeah, you just don't want to be flicking the debris back onto your freshly mowed lawn. Because when you turn around and look, again, you're gonna have a big ring of clippings and leaves and all that sort of stuff.
And in teams that makes it a little bit more difficult to do exactly like that as well, because you're not, you know, some things are slightly quicker than than other parts. But also, like you said, if it's a regular cut lawn, and you're cutting just a nice, you know, minimal amount off, then it's not as noticeable as well, if you go find afterwards, the tiny few things that whereas if lawns cutting, you know, five or six enemies off the lawn, those pieces are a lot more noticeable,
right? So let's say the grass is up to your knees, how do you go about tackling something like that,
keeping that in mind, the head throws to the left, I would generally not be rushing it. Because when you've got really long stringy grass, if you start moving the brush cutter through too quickly without letting the grass clear that angle up around the head a lot easier. So what actually moved at a quite controlled pace from right to left, and it's kind of throwing it to the left as you're going through it and clearing. If it's going to quickly I think it just falls and and kind of mess around the head well. But if it's really long, sometimes even cutting it in half, and then going down lower to prevent that tangling happening as well.
Yeah, that's right. It might sound counterintuitive, but sometimes cutting it twice is actually faster.
Yeah, if you continually stopping and untangling the mess, then deputy agent
Tell me a little bit about cord lines, then what do we need to watch out for when we're whipping around quarter lines?
Oh, they're a nightmare. In brush cutting as well as the miles as well. They're just so tough. A lot of the dead borderline leaves, if they fall off, they'll just wrap around us right away. And now we'll get inside the head name between the components. And you'll have to sometimes pull the whole head apart to fix that up. They're not fun. Yeah, sometimes
when you got the new person working with you, they go head on straight like a bullet a gate that you just see him running off and they just hit those core lines with four ribs and you just sort of put your head in your hands. You say, What have you done?
Yep, that's a good situation when you know, you see some that have fallen off and scattered over the lawn. It may only be five or 10 leaves. But that situation like that sometimes you know what Let's just pick him up real quick, right? And that saves you, you know, right down the track
totally. And it just makes a job look a lot nicer, too. Yep. So there are different angles that we can cut out with the whip, depending on what we're cutting against. So you wouldn't hold the same angle, if you're cutting a vertical edge to if you're doing a 45. Or if you're coming up against a fence, can you tell us a little bit about some of the different angles we can hold the way that
a lot of our nice lawns we're doing a vertical cut for the head of the brush cutter is totally upright, kind of describing it like a bicycle wheel running along, that's you know, it's the lawn is a nice length been in looked after. There's plenty of lawns that are, you know, if especially if they're overgrown, we might be just doing a 45 to get the edge back to where it should be on a concrete path or a driveway. And look, it depends on the situation, what type of job, the clients, you know, requiring as well. If it's a slashing job in a clean up that has been, you know, done for months, there's no point doing a radical cut. But it all comes down to the situation. But most of the nice lawns we're doing a vertical cut,
yep, died. Like, I think that the vertical cut does look the nicest if you're cutting along, especially like a curb, or a footpath or something like that. And when it's Kakou lawn just looks the nicest. So look, let's say we're at the back, God, we've whipped snip the molars already been, and we don't wanna have to walk all the way back around with the blower, can we blow with the whip?
Yeah, look, you can get a bit of momentum with a brush cutter, it does kind of clean it up a bit, I wouldn't want to do a big area. But if you've missed a couple of bits, you know, you can can walk past and use the momentum of the brush line to to blow it away. But yeah,
if it's a tiny bit, no problem that takes practice to
definitely you don't want to ruin the
night. Now you don't want to screw up your whole edge by going from zero revs to 1000 and fully extending the cord before you really know what that's going to go. And then you're just gonna cut chunks out of your lovely work you've just whipped up. What safety equipment Do we need when we're operating a whip?
Look, first thing I recommend leave the guard on. It's not worth the risk. Still cat boots, good quality clothing, like you know, heavy cotton pants, like a hard yakka tight pants, gloves, glasses. And generally we're always wearing sunscreen as well as certain times of the year. But your best bet is to stay safe. And you know, it's easily said in hindsight after after you've injured something that you should have been wearing something definitely.
So what are some of the things that can go wrong when we're operating a whip?
Um, look, generally it's a projectile coming out from the left side of the brush, get ahead by being really conscious of what's on that side, even if you're working with other people trying to keep an eye on where everybody is Windows vehicles, you know, traffic. So yeah, it's not hard to turn a little stone can be thrown across the road really quickly in the break something so you always got to be on your toes when you're using one of those.
Yeah, and that goes for whether you're using a cord or a blade, the blades even more dangerous. We don't use them that much. But so much can just go wrong with the blades. Like I was working on a site in Queensland once and the reason why we got the job, while the company I was working for got the job is because the contract is before us. ran a blade whip straight through the gas line. Oh, nice. So that wasn't good. Yeah, you
gotta, you gotta be careful and kind of know the property as well enough come across properties where water pipes and gas pipes have been through a garden bed. Just because the you know, somebody was lazy when installing, instead of moving rocks or digging underneath. I've just gone through this plant here. And if he assumed that things are clear,
can end badly. And that goes for hedges too. While we're on the subject.
Definitely. Even more. So. Yeah, it's a disaster waiting to happen. And it happens more often than you think that there's a gas salon or an electrical line going straight through that hedge. Especially if you're up close to a house, you know, always check behind the hedge to see if there is a meter or pipe going into the house that you know might be hidden.
Yeah, definitely. Look, is there anything else that most people just don't know about the brushy? Like, what's the one thing that you would say, hey, do this and you're going to be a much better whip operator.
Ah, practice is the main thing. And just be just be careful. It can be quite dangerous with you know, small stones or near any gravel. That's, you know, one thing I'm really careful of when quoting a property Some people put stone garden beds right up to the next to a lawn You know, it might look good in the beginning but when yet maintain it can be quite dangerous, but and like anything you know, buying a decent quality will be better in the long run for you as well. Thanks.
That wraps up our whipping episode. Next episode is going to be on mowing. So you guys stick tight and we'll talk to Eric again shortly. There are links in the show notes to the acorns webpage and Facebook page. And if you're in northern Melbourne, I definitely do recommend checking us out. There are also links to some articles that I've written, including with my blow and go how to mold like a pro, which is pretty comprehensive and comes in over 8000 words.

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