For enthusiastic hobby gardeners, their own garden is their pride and joy. Here they have the say, decide on the design, which flowers, plants and plants belong in it and which not. This right of determination in the own garden does not apply however all-embracing, because there is an exception. All trees are under special protection, which is regulated in the Federal Nature Conservation Act, which in turn leads to the local tree protection statute. Unauthorized tree cutting can result in severe penalties in the form of high fines and, in the worst case, up to 3 years in prison. But even with a permit in your pocket, it is not advisable to just cut away. If you take the following advice to heart, you will cut down the tree correctly without taking any risks and getting into trouble with neighbors or authorities afterwards.
Going to the authorities removes all uncertainties
The Federal Nature Conservation Act generally prohibits any tree felling in the period from 1. March to 30. September for the breeding protection of birds. If it is a very old tree, which is declared as a nature conservation monument, it may not be touched, let alone cut down, even outside this period of time. For the felling of "normal" trees, therefore, the time comes for the amateur gardener between the 1. October and the 28. February in question. This process is regulated by the tree protection statute, which can be issued by the responsible city or municipality, but does not have to be. Given the growing environmental awareness of citizens, fewer and fewer cities and towns are issuing such tree protection bylaws.
It is therefore important to check with the local administration whether a permit is required. In some parts of Germany, this is generally not done. In other regions it is only granted if a new tree is planted at the same time elsewhere. Interventions in the root area of a tree are permitted in Hamburg from a trunk diameter of 25 cm resp. a growth height from 130 cm strictly subject to approval. In North Rhine-Westphalia, all smaller municipalities and communities now dispense with the enactment of a tree protection statute, whereas in the conurbations a permit must very definitely be obtained. In view of these confusing conditions, it is advisable to contact the local authorities in any case.
Cut down border tree
If a tree is located exactly on the border between two neighboring properties, it is called a border tree if the border line passes exactly through its trunk. It does not matter where the roots are located. If one neighbor now wishes to fell this boundary tree, the consent of the other neighbor is required, because they have equal rights of possession. If a neighbor refuses permission, this can be enforced if necessary. As a rule, however, there must be valid reasons that could prevent the tree from being felled. On the other hand, if both neighbors agree, they share the wood and the cost of felling, unless one waives his right of ownership. Then the neighbor felling the wood keeps all the wood, but also bears all the costs alone. So if the amateur gardener plans to cut down a border tree, it is important to communicate with the neighbor in time to prevent unpleasant disputes.
Safety is the first priority
Before the amateur gardener deals with the right felling technique for the tree, important safety precautions must be taken. First of all, the danger zone around the tree to be felled must be secured. This is a perimeter that is twice the length of the tree in radius. This danger area must be marked in such a way that it is unmistakably clear that there may be danger to life here if the tree falls. Then the safety clothing is put on, which consists of the following components:
- Safety helmet with visor
- Safety glasses
- Cut protective trousers
- Safety shoes
- Work gloves
Forgoing this protective gear because it may be uncomfortable to wear and somewhat restrict your mobility can end with a nasty and painful surprise and serious injuries.
Required equipment and tools
In addition to protective clothing, the following work equipment and tools should be ready:
- chainsaw or hand saw
Tree felling is much less strenuous with a chainsaw than with an axe and a handsaw. Since it is hardly worth buying a chainsaw for a single tree at once, in many places it is possible to rent it. Compared to a hand saw, however, working with a chainsaw involves greater dangers. Therefore, the following safety instructions must be observed:
- Use only when in a fixed position;
- Do not work in an exhausted or tired state;
- Sawing at full throttle prevents sticking;
- stuck chain saw will not start;
- never swing the running chainsaw
- do not operate the saw overhead.
Acquisition of a chainsaw operator’s license is required in some states; however, this is only required if the work is performed in public forest areas. An amateur gardener who wants to fell a tree in his garden is not obliged to obtain this license.
With the tree approach to the correct felling technique
By the tree approach is meant the assessment of the tree, in which all important facts are taken into account before the work is started. The following questions need to be answered:
- Is the tree straight or diagonally grown?
- In which direction does the main crown load tend to go?
- If it stands against the felling direction, i.e. on a slope?
- In which direction should it fall?
- How are the roots distributed?
- If there are stronger branches growing on one side, causing an overbalance?
- Are there any signs of stem rot or bark beetle infestation visible?
- Could the tree carry other trees with it as it falls??
- What are the current wind conditions??
Once all these issues have been clarified, the planned felling direction ideally corresponds to the main crown load. If this is not the case, an appropriate felling technique is chosen that takes these requirements into account. So, it is determined where to place the drop notch, which determines the direction of the fall. Finally, carefully inspect the tree to see if there are any dead branches that could fall as a result of the vibrations. With this the tree approach is finished and the necessary technical tools are put together.
For safety’s sake, a trip-free retreat path should still be laid out so that the hobby gardener and his team can quickly move away from the danger zone in case of an emergency.
Felling the tree correctly
Once all preparations and safety measures have been taken, it’s time for the actual felling of the tree. This is done in the following steps:
- A felling notch is cut into the tree, in the direction in which it is to fall. This consists of two parts. First, a horizontal cut is made at the bottom of the tree trunk to a depth of about 1/3 of the trunk diameter. This cut is called a fall notch.
- Now the so-called drop notch roof is cut from diagonally above, down to the bottom of the drop notch at an angle of at least 45°. This cut was successful if you can pull a large wooden wedge out of the trunk afterwards. This opening ensures that the tree trunk does not sit up during the fall, rip open lengthwise and subsequently break apart in a completely uncontrolled manner.
- Now it is time to make the felling cut through the trunk from the back side. but not all the way down to the drop notch. Rather, a narrow web should remain in the trunk at the end. As the felling cut is cut into the trunk of the tree, wedges must be repeatedly driven into this cut. This prevents the tree trunk from immediately closing the cut by its weight from above.
- The narrow bar in the middle of the trunk works like a hinge. If the tree does not fall by itself, a few hammer blows on the wedge in the felling cut are sufficient and the tree topples over. If this is not the case, the bar in the middle is not narrow enough and the felling cut must be made deeper into the trunk.
If you follow these instructions, you will have the best chance of successfully felling a tree in your garden. In addition to all safety precautions and work techniques, it is of great importance to carry out this difficult and sometimes dangerous operation calmly and without any rush or stress at all.
Felling large trees correctly with a lifting platform
Under certain circumstances it is too dangerous to fell a large tree using the drop notch technique. Especially if the trunk is rotted, infested with bark beetles, has become unstable due to storm damage, or could fall on surrounding buildings. In this case, it is advisable to remove the tree step by step from top to bottom.
The most important prerequisite for this largely safe procedure of being able to fell a tree properly is access to the tree for the vehicle with the lifting platform. These can be rented from rental companies for a daily rate of 100 euros to 150 euros, including instruction on the operation of the equipment. As with all other methods of successfully felling a tree, teamwork is required here as well. While one helper operates the lift, the second man uses the chainsaw to gradually cut the tree down from the crown. Heavy branches are first wrapped with a rope and then carefully lowered to the ground after cutting.
remove the root or not?
Once the tree has been successfully felled, the work is basically only half done, because the root is still in the ground. If a new planting is planned, the following methods are a good way to remove it:
- Dig out with the shovel;
- cut with the milling machine and dig it out;
- have it pulled out of the ground by an excavator;
- Dissolve with the aid of chemical agents;
- removed by the expert with the patented root rat.
However, it is easiest to leave the root in the ground and include it in the decoration. So planting trays or birdbaths can be placed on it, or a fancy raised bed can be built around it. Over time, the root will decompose and slowly disappear. A natural process that does not require any effort.
It is one of the most extensive projects in the hobby garden to cut down a tree. Even the preparations can be quite time-consuming. So the responsible authority is to be contacted concerning a possible permission. It may be necessary to make an agreement with the neighbor. The indispensable protective clothing is to be procured as well as the tools and all auxiliary means. With the help of the tree consultation the appropriate felling technique is determined and all safety precautions are taken. Since nobody should fell a tree alone, a team on friendly hobby gardeners is arranged and the date coordinated. In view of all these important factors, it is advisable to create a detailed checklist based on these instructions, which you work through point by point. In this way, all points are set in such a way that in the end all those involved can look back with satisfaction on a smooth flow of work.