Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I'm not as strong as I think

The front yard has been looking particularly bad lately. The house needs to be painted and the landscaping is non-existent. If we neglect to mow the lawn our house goes from looking rundown to looking abandoned.

To wit:

The grass has spread under the rhododendrons and has sprawled well past its edges on the sidewalk and driveway. Greg was away on a crazy business trip all last week, jet-setting to amazingly humid locales like Atlanta. He came home and I was like, "I missed you so much! Let's spend some quality time weeding!"

I am the worst girlfriend.

We got the area under the rhodies cleared and discovered there are bricks outlining that area! I wanted to mulch the area under the rhodies but was worried about using a wood product and possibly encouraging termites. I asked the two instructors at my Naturescaping class and they assured me that mulching with bark or bark dust would not cause termites. Now I know where to send the Terminix bill if they are wrong.

While we were clearing out the area Greg started whacking a rhododendron stump. There were, at some point, FOUR rhodies and one azalea in this area. The stump popped right out with a few whacks.

Greg: "Well that was easy."
Heather: "Nice job! Now go remove that one."
Greg: "Where? I don't see another stump."
Heather: "Right there. And there."
Greg: "You mean the live rhododendrons?"
Heather: "Yes. Just go whack them until they fall down."
Greg: "That won't work."
Heather: "Yes it will. Just try."
Heather: "Please?"

I was convinced (convinced!) that it wouldn't be that hard to pull the live stumps out so the next day I cut down one of the rhodies and started working at the stump. Mothercusser wouldn't move. Greg came out and nicely didn't gloat. I was hoping to trick him into picking up the pickaxe but he wouldn't go for it.

Whatever, I don't care. I'm glad this thing is no longer blocking all the light into our dining room. LEAVING THE STUMP WAS PART OF MY PLAN.

Instead I weeded the parking strip, spread a nice layer of compost on it, then mulched it. Again. I have weeded and mulched that strip so many times. My coastal strawberries are finally taking off but my kinnikinnick is just sitting there, not forming a nice ground cover.

It doesn't help that I never amended the soil after I removed the arbor vitae. This fall I plan to have a couple of yards of compost delivered so I can spread it on all the beds. I always thought compost only helped if worked into the soil. It turns out that if you leave it on top, the worms will come up through the soil, grab it, and bring it lower. Working it in initially would be better, but laying it on top will eventually improve the soil structure. It will also work as a mulch during the cold winter months.

I plan to build compost bins this summer so I can start making my own soil amendments. And a new fence. And a deck. We're gonna be busy.


  1. Nice work.

    I had a neighbor use a chain wrapped around his truck bumper to try and pull a stump out once. There was roaring of engine, there was smoke, there was fear. I don't recommend it. In case you considered it.

  2. We *are* actually considering that. It didn't work?

  3. I have so been there with the stump situation! I've also been there with the pulling the stump out with a chain and a truck. Shortly after we moved in, we decided to pull out the big generic shrubs that were way too close to the front of our house. http://www.flickr.com/photos/annethelibrarian/421173573/

    As we started to cut them down, our neighbor across the street offered to help us pull them out with his truck - he was trading it in the following day and was happy to put it to good use first. We borrowed some straps and chains from some other friends and pulled those suckers out! The first one came out without a lot of argument, but the second one was tougher. We ended up with some pretty significant ruts in the front yard from the tires of the truck (didn't matter to us as the lawn sucked already) and the chain got ridiculously stuck in the roots/branches of the shrub. It took FOREVER to get it out, but we finally did it.

    Here's an after shot of the spot where the shrubs were, shortly after they were removed: http://www.flickr.com/photos/annethelibrarian/486864672/

    I wouldn't discourage using a truck to pull them out, but you definitely want to be prepared for the possible hiccups that could come along with it. It was certainly a LOT less physical labor than digging would have been!

  4. Thanks for the photos and advice, Anne! I think we might try to pull that stump with the truck and it will be good to warn Greg that the lawn will be messed up (again). Unfortunately, the rhodie closest to the front door is over our water main. So we'll have to dig that one out *very* carefully. Or just leave the stump in the ground.

  5. My pleasure. I will say that in other situations, I have learned to live with stumps - many can be hidden with other plants!