Liquidambar styraciflua, also known as the sweet gum tree, produces those prickly balls that drop around this time of year. Whether you’re collecting them for a specific purpose, or they’re just a nuisance and you want them gone, using these tips will make collecting them a breeze.
The first thing you want to do is pick up sticks around the area you’re about to harvest in. You don’t have to get too carried away, but remove the big stuff that could potentially jam the machine.
Next, check the area for tall grass. Our harvesters perform their best on a well maintained surface. The tines on the roller assembly need to be able to reach the sweet gum balls. If you try to harvest in an old field that hasn’t been mowed for a while, you’ll get poor results. Just start with your mower near the tree and mow in a widening circular pattern, with the thatch from the mower blowing out to the exterior. This technique will push all the leaves and thatch away from the area. If you’re collecting the sweet gum balls for crafts or resale, we recommend running your mower over a small area to make sure they’re not getting crushed.
If you already have a well maintained area, a quick pass through with the mower before you begin harvesting can really help improve your efficiency. If the bulk of the leaves aren’t moved out of the way, they may clog up your harvester or take up valuable space inside your basket. Ideally you want them gone so you can harvest pure sweet gum balls and no leaves.
It’s important to have something ready to collect your sweet gum balls in. The volume you’re collecting can add up very quickly. You can use our garden bags, or things you already have around your property like wheelbarrows, trash cans, or Rubbermaid bins for collecting.
Once the area is prepped, you simply push or pull the harvester through that area. Keep an eye on the basket and when it gets full, remove it from the harvester, dump them into the desired container, and put it back on the harvester. Continue this process until all the sweet gum balls are removed from the area. We recommend you keep the harvester moving in a forward direction. Reversing it too far will lift the fingers up out of the wheel assembly which can lead to jamming.
No matter if you love them or hate them, following these steps and tips will help you get the most out of your Bag-A-Nut Harvester.