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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Good Yardwork Day Yesterday

Yesterday was cool, dry, and overcast; a superb day for yardwork!

I had in mind planting a few veggies and flowers, but a neglected back corner of the yard caught my attention because a long-forgotten weigela shrub (1 of 3 originally planted) was struggling to bloom among the shady underbrush of unwanted tree saplings, vines, briars, and a single will-not-die asparagus plant from my original 20' row planting 25 years ago.  So I got out the loppers and waded in (carefully, as I also spotted a few small poison ivy plants).

The first thing was to cut down all the saplings.  Trickier than you might think, because that corner seems to be the last refuge of the nasty thorny locust trees that originally covered half the backyard.  They have thorns all along the trunk and branches like 3/4" needles, and they will grow back from being cut down 4" in a year.  They are very hard to handle, and harder to kill.  I once read that the original colonists used cut trunks as fenceposts (the wood is rot-resistant and the trunks grow straight) only to discover that the cut trunks would re-root when stuck in the ground!
It took me 10 years to finally kill them off.  These probably came from seeds of neighbors' trees since there weren't any in that corner when I planted the weigela some 10 years ago.  Because of a peculiarity of lot shapes and drainage easements there is a triangle of space just off my back yard that all 3 neighbors ignore.  It is utterly wild and filled with poison ivy, wild grape vines, mock strawberry, and (apparently) a few mature thorny locusts; all nasty invasive stuff!

Anyway, it took a while, but I managed to clear the surface of all the bad stuff, and I discovered a 2nd weigala barely surviving at a foot high.  With the additional light and less competition for nurients, it should recover.  There was no sign of the 3rd weigela.  I'll have to take a few stem cuttings and get them rooted in pots.

After that, and being in a clearing mood, I decided to tackle the forsythia growing into my flowerbed border from another neighbor.  Those forsythia, though outside my fence, are entirely my fault.  My street was built brand new in 1986.  I was only the 3rd house built on my street and my neighbor was the 4th.  She was elderly, friendly, and sneaky.  There were not borders then and the property lines were uncertain.  She noticed that I would mow any part between us that she didn't, and she gradually left more and more.  So I planted a row of forsythias to mark the assumed property line.  When I decided to build a fence (to keep the large off-leash dogs out, for cat-safety) I discovered pipes marking the corners of the property.  From the plat measurements and compass directions, I figured out the property lines.

On my father's advice, I inset the fence 18" to allow myself legal access to the outside of the fence for repairs.  That was the dumbest advice I ever followed, but more about that later!  Anyway, I asked the neighbor lady if she wanted me to leave the forsythia and she said yes.  I have regretted that ever since.  Each year, forsythias pop up on my side and some years I am too busy to get them out.  Well, when I planted them I didn't know they spread.

I usually just keep cutting them off at ground level, but this year I decided to get in there and dig them out.  I used my "poacher's shovel" (on right).
Its called that because it is only half the width of a regular shovel, is more curved so it makes a smaller hole, its lighter to carry, and gives a smaller soil ball.  So plant poachers loved it.  Its like a super trowel on a short shovel handle.  I like it because the small blade lets me get at problem roots in cramped spaces among plants you don't want to disturb.  Three digs, and you have a nice 6" circle cut around a plant.

So I first pruned most of the forsythia canes away so I could see the rooted stems and dug them out carefully one-by-one.  It took 2 hours!  At least I have most of them out by the roots.  The remaining ones are growing up through the roots of 2 shrubs I have disliked for years and plan to remove later. 

The pile of removed forsythias does not look like much, LOL!  But each one was an effort.  I had to stand awkwardly to avoid stepping on wanted plants, the shovel handle would hit the fence, there were forsythia roots among the butterfly bush roots, etc...
Those 2 shrubs I plan to remove later are nice enough, yellow and green evergreen leaves, but way bigger than advertised and they keep sending up shoots from the spreading roots (golden euonymus 'you-on-i-mus').

I'm going to try to kill the forsythias.  As the canes grow through the fence, I will cut the cane and put a dab of undiluted Roundup on the cut end.  It worked for the thorny locusts...

I got a lot more done, but this is long enough and I'll finish tomorrow.


Katnip Lounge said...

How satisfying! It's odd gardening here in Vegas, we do all our "spring" yard work in February. Our tomatoes are already coming in.

The Cat From Hell said...

Wowzers! That is a ton of work! We live on the Kettle River and one corner of our yard has been ignored for about 15 years. We have River poplars and the roots shoot out all over the yard and pop up new bushes everywhere. That one corner is awful! We are going to have to go in and cut all the suckers and paint the cut with a broad leaf herbicide. Then, as the new shots come up, rip them out of the ground. We have been beating it back for 4 years now and I must say it sure takes a lot of work to get rid of invasive plants! (I am so thankful it is NOT Honeysuckle)

Tina T-P said...

Our invasive tree is a sour cherry of some kind that lives along the creek. I'm forever catching my toe on the roots and they send up about a billion baby trees! And then there is the ivy that is threatening to make this an ivy covered cottage. From one potted plant that should have been thrown in the garbage, but got thrown under the porch! T.