Bonafide Farm

Banishing the muppets

August 8th, 2013 § 2

This summer I’ve grown to realize that I enjoy taking things out of my garden just as much—or maybe even more—than I do planting. Must be my editorial training, or perhaps it’s just a love of a quick, dramatic change.


Now that the garden around the house is in its third year of existence, plants are beginning to mature and thugs are making themselves known. Case in point: the two “Lena” Scotch brooms that when planted were one-quart, 10″ shrubs. They’re briefly pretty in the spring, when the bloom with rose-pink flowers, but the rest of the year they look like this: Like ugly, shaggy, muppets.


These bushes grew rapidly (though I haven’t experienced them to be at all invasive in my area, which I know is a concern for some parts of the country), and with each passing month I vowed they’d have to go.

But as it happens, I put it off, time kept passing, the shrubs kept growing, and then one day this summer I realized they’d completely overtaken a large section of the garden, were smothering a juniper beneath them, and were rotting my front porch where their branches held moisture against the wood.

I briefly considered trying to dig them out whole, saving them for replanting elsewhere. Then I weighed this logistical difficulty (they were close to six feet tall) against their value (not much), their short estimated lifespan, and their tendency to respond poorly to damage or pruning efforts. Not worth it.

So I went in with my loppers and cut their branches down to the ground. First one:


And then the other.


Ah! Looking so much better already! Now I just had to get the stumps out. A few exploratory shovel jabs into solid red clay got me nowhere. So I ran my hose over to the stumps and started drowning them out.


This worked really well. As the water loosened the soil, I could prize the root ball up and cut the most tenacious roots with my pruners. It was a hard, sweaty, dirty job, but I eventually got both root balls out. Even almost completely devoid of soil, each root ball weighed about 40 pounds. Good thing I had the tractor! I filled the big bucket with root balls, and all the cut foliage, and made the triumphant drive to the stump pile in the woods.


Up next, the Scotch broom are replaced with more interesting, better-behaved new plants.

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