And by "I've been plotting" I mean that I emailed Scott and asked him if he'd design a grass/meadowscape for me. And because he is awesome, he agreed. He drew up an incredible plan that incorporated drought tolerant grasses and wildflowers, all in the color scheme I wanted. And then he gave me a bunch of seedlings. And now Greg is concerned because I natter on about Scott all the time. And Scott will probably stop answering my emails after reading this, because I'm bordering on swimfanning here.
Thank goodness I never got an itch to plant this side of the yard before because I was reading a recent issue of Fine Gardening and they mentioned that dogwoods have shallow root systems that resent being disturbed. I won't be able to use a sod cutter, sadly. I'll have to move more slowly than I'd like, slowly smothering the lawn and using very small plants so I don't cause any damage to my 75 year old tree.
I started with the area outside the drip line, where we'd had our giant dirt pile all spring:
It was weedy but still mostly clear of sod. I worked with my half moon edger (that Greg sharpened with his Dremel tool) for an hour or so and made slow progress.
Then Greg came out with the pickax and cleared the whole area in about 15 minutes while I fretted, "Watch for roots!"
We ran into one tiny root so I didn't worry too much about piling the mulch on comically high.
Next Scott and I are going to make a trip to Wind Dancer and do some shopping, then I'll have to carefully start to smother another section of the lawn. I was going to use a method described here where you use 8" of wood chips to smother the sod. It's supposed to be more effective than smothering with cardboard and it supposedly maintains better soil health, BUT. What do I do with all those wood chips afterward? I don't want wood chips in my landscape. I supppose I could keep moving them around as I smother new parts of the lawn but that seems like a pain in the ass.
Any input from anybody who has removed sod under a fussy tree would be welcome.
In the meantime we're enjoying our giant cat toilet.