A friend’s land is infested with Siberian Elm saplings, reseeded each year by a row of mature trees planted as a windbreak by some long forgotten owner. She says when the saplings are young they are easy to mow, but, perversely, the roots continue to develop and send out a taller, stronger, bushier tree the next year. Mow them three years in a row and they produce a trunk too thick for the mower, along with a root system that you wouldn’t want to hit with a tiller.
Of course, she needs to pull these things out by the roots.
A tool that looks like it would do the job is called Weed Wrench, which is kind of like a vise on the end of jack handle. It looks like a well designed, high-quality product, but it is more than expensive than her budget would allow.
Last night, while I was walking across my yard with a claw hammer in my hand, I had an idea that might solve her problem: What if she could buy something like a mattock with forks in the blade like the claws of a giant claw hammer? With the leverage of that long handle pulling the roots out would be effortless and it could be made less expensively than a weed wrench. Another idea came to mind when I saw the neighbor across the street pull out some bushes from the front of his house with a 15 lb. navy fluke anchor. He dug down into the root mass on one side, hammered the flukes into the root mass, ran the chain through the middle of the bush and attached it to the anchors arm and slowly pulled the bushes out with a Ford F150 van. They came out sweet as can be.
Still, I kept coming back to the Weed Wrench as the best off-the-shelf solution. The Weed Wrench comes in four sizes: Mini, Light, Medium, and Heavy. I suggested she buy the Medium. The Heavy seemed like overkill for 90 percent of the small trees and shrubs she wanted to pull with it. Besides, the cost issue weighed on the decision. If her time is worth anything to her, and I know that it is, this tool will pay for itself over the time required fooling with other methods. The medium Weed Wrench does seem to require a small strip of 3/4″ plywood to keep the foot from sinking in, but that’s not a deal-breaker. The medium is also about as heavy as anything she’d want to carry around. Tt stands up high enough to get pretty good leverage.
There are other solutions to consider if your in the same boat. Good alternatives to the Weed Wench are Extractigator and the Pullerbear, especially when you consider the frustration some Weed Wrench users report about tool’s jaws getting gumming up on small sprouts. Apparently, the tool ends up peeling the barks without pulling the root out. The Extractigator might not have quite the pulling power of the medium Weed Wrench, but its design will allow faster pulling of small saplings, so it won’t gum up like the Weed Wrench.
Of course, none of these tools, including the Weed Wrench were designed specifically for pulling up Siberian Elms, so it’s no surprise they don’t work perfectly for the application. If my friend knew a metalwork, I’d suggest working one to fabricate a giant claw hammer tool like the one I envisioned while walking through my yard last night. Since that’s not an option, however, the Weed Wrench will have to do.