Archive

Gardening

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Anywhere and everywhere in the West: Fires. 5 minutes out from Salt Lake City. Try not to breathe. No rain since May, with 9 inches so far this year out of an average of 16.

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Meanwhile, in Ohio: days of rain with more than 5 inches fallen and it is unremarkable. This is a potted hibiscus on Joanie’s front steps, with hard southern exposure. It is nice to see something that can’t exist where you come from.

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60 mph wind gust, with air laden with the despair of a 90k acre forest fire just to the south  (pm2.5 at 220), dropped her.

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E uses interpretive stance to coax the tree upright again. no go

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The heavy rope tied from the tree, high into the pergola supporting the trumpet vine to the left of frame, ensured that the tree fell away from the fence and into a clear section of yard.

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Exploratory surgery sometimes reveals the patient’s true prognosis.

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This area had an anchor root below, and the big root heading off to the R, but you can see how much infestation I had stopped short of removing, as that would have just cut her down.

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The plank kept her from collapse, but not from being taken down in a strong wind. I considered welding up a tripod to keep her upright in any weather, but she didn’t want to become a limb-dropping killer zombie and had signed a do-not-resuscitate form.

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Her branches were spindly and dry, sunburn had peeled away bark from her upper limbs, and grubs had made their way far up her trunk.

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Forgoing the chainsaw, as the sawzall with a pruning blade is all she needs.

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The upper root comes off easy. Next I’ll dig out her taproot and all the remaining living and dead root system. Then I backfill the hole with dirt from my yarding dirt pile and mix it with compost and gypsum and water it thoroughly.

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All excavated and refilled, ready for a new tree next spring.

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I’ve put in a few new flower beds, and improved about 10,000#s of soil with 1,200#s of my mix of compost and gypsum.

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This is a great hybrid from J&J nursery.

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One of many new flowers in the back yard.

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Out front I enriched this last section of what used to be lawn, and put in 5 Echinacea of various colors, and some ground cover with matching blooms.

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I moved this flowering bush a year after I put in the purple iris, and it has finally taken off.

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Orange Echinacea.

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Crimson Echinacea.

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With this section of lawn turned over to xeriscape, and finally filled in, it was time to cross the walkway.

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Even re-sodding couldn’t keep the Utah sun from destroying this corner, so I converted it to a Xeriscape flower bed to match the other side of the walk.

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The plants all have to be short here at the corner, as there is a sprinkler head in the bushes that waters the grass (and now this bed as well).

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Ready for next summer, even though it is still 90 degrees and more.

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Two little retaining walls of treated lumber keep the long horizontal portion of tree tidy and clear of overthrusting garden. The area around the tree was cleared of grass and old mulch, the soil was turned with compost and gypsum, the vines were cut back to the fence line, and a new curve of rubberized berm wall was set.

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This morning I went back to removing the bore-holed wood mass-infested with grubs (wasps arrived to eat them again!); the adz is the recurved tool, along with large scoop & mallet. Over the weekend I also treated the tree with five medicine dispensers left over from the ranch treatment of the yard’s pine trees. The root at the bottom R drank two doses. I’ll give it awhile before I remove any more, as I’ve taken away a huge portion.

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A lot of rigid dead weight has come free of the living tree, and she got a bit woozy. The big hydraulic jack lifted her back up, the same jack that lifted the side of the ranch house this summer- then she just needed some support.

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The 4×6 support beam has a bevel cut to match the tree, and is pinned in place with 3.5″ deck screws. The beam rests on a pair of concrete bricks and is toed in with three green steel fence posts and a long run of smooth rebar. A concrete landscape brick supports her down low.

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With help from the jack, I slid this fat landscaping block under her hips.

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This footing should remain stable, but this evening when the bees go to sleep I’ll run a rope from her shoulders and sling it through the air to the trumpet vine’s pergola, and tie it off at the ground to the largest vine root (thick as my ankle). This way if she comes down in a windstorm, she’ll yaw into the yard rather than taking out the fence and the neighbor’s garage.

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Xander has been watching me work with the Plum tree from his vantage in the sunroom, and creates a sculptural interpretation with Elizabeth.

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1. Cut away old tree trunk smothering tree.    2. Dig out old roots and contaminated soil.   3. Mix amendments with soil from elsewhere in yard, and refill.

Our old Purple-Leaf Plum tree has struggled since before we lived here. It marks the old fence line from the 1940’s, before the City granted an easement on an old access road expanding the yard in the 1970’s or 80’s. The tree had grown under or too near the fence and was cut away by the City, but regrew out from under its dead self when the fence line expanded. It ramps up at a hard angle, then rises straight enough. It has struggled with leaf blight of the shotgun variety for the 9 years I’ve been her care-taker. I’ve done the spring emergent spraying for years, cleared the ground of any surface contaminants, pruning back, food spikes, watering deep with a plunge rod; and every year she diminishes a little bit more.

Over the holiday weekend we had an employee of a local garden shop offer to come over and have a look at her. He recommended immediate surgery to remove the entire tumor of the old dead tree trunk, warning that it could reveal unrecoverable issues- in which case we would need to bring her down and plant anew.

 

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This is my only before image of the tree, from a few years back when Stanley was still with us.  The ivy was all the way up into the branches when we moved in, and here has grown up again over the dead stump that the tree grows out from under- with a dead low branch flying Frylock the Dragon skull to the right. I’ve also pruned her.

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Last fall I cut back the old stump about 20″, revealing a choked collar of living tree under the high end of the stump. Now I removed about 4 feet of remaining stump. Surgical Tools: Chainsaw, Sawzall, Hatchet, Pickaxe, Adz, and large woodcarving scoop blade to remove 90% of the strangling stump. I’ll get the last 10% when my arms / hands recover from all the impact work.

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The white trunk is a medicinal/antifungal/insect repellant/sunblock I added this spring- it marks the newly revealed massive choke point where the old dead trunk had been. (Last fall’s same job went about 20″ up the white tree to the first knot at the shadow line, this area is squeezed a bit flat, and collapses inward on the other side.) I’ve opened a large triage area around the tree, removing dead old roots encrusted with white fungal infected bark. All of that root mass and soil was wheelbarrowed away.

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This is a living root that spanned over the old dead trunk and taproot, all removed. I have backfilled the hole about three feet at this point. To the upper right of the living root is more dead trunk that I have been carving out with a large woodcarving scoop (from back in the days when I sculpted in large wood). It is a mess of boring larvae. My arms get splattered with their goo as I carve away their nest. Wasps have been swarming in to eat the exposed larvae.

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I watered this area a few times since cutting away the trunk, so the concrete/clay “soil” would be soft enough to move without a pickaxe. This allowed me to shovel around and find the living vs the dead roots, and plunge down three or more feet. I mixed up 4 gallons of root-growth-promoter & water, and poured it in as I added the new soil. The new soil is created by blending many bags of  Oakdell Egg Farms Organic Compost (25lbs) with Basin’s Best Organic Soil Enhancer: Gypsum / Compost / Humates (8lbs) and mix this 50/50 with native soil from elsewhere in the yard. The land here is all the old lake bottom of Lake Bonneville, and is a sterile sodium and clay and mineral dead zone. The gypsum bonds the sodium and allows moisture to be absorbed by the roots; even when the ground is wet, moisture is bound in the clay by the sodium and not available to the roots. This soil amendment permanently changes the hardpan soil to a rich aerated moisture retaining humus. Plus I added in Dr. Earth Fertilizer and liquified worm castings.

I’ve done the same soil triage for 11 new plants and a few more established plants, making entire areas of new deep bedding, nearly going through 300# of compost and 100# of Enhancer. E and I continued on up to Layton after the grand opening of the Farmington Nature Center to J&J Tree Nursery (we had been there for the Labor Day sale, for the first time- great place!) for another round of 300# of compost and 100# of enhancer, and their after Labor Day 70% off sale made Dr. Earth fertilizer and worm castings affordable. Soil amendment will go to all the established plants around the yard, creating a new top layer as well as using a post hole digger to drop deep wells of soil, which should alleviate most of the hardships in the garden.

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Still more triage to go, but the day has heated into the 90’s with 5% humidity (that’s about 105-110 in full sun), so I water down the new soil that fully covers the living roots.