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The Fall of Ficus

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Too many trees

Normally, Thing 1 shirks away from the household chores…. But I’ve figured out if there’s a pick axe involved, it will get done…..  There was a ficus in my front yard and I told my son to cut it down.  (please note that I suck at taking “before” pictures so I retrieved this image from google maps which makes my house look like it was built by Dr. Seuss).

Yes, I’m a tree killer.  Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE trees – but when you have a small yard – every inch real estate is valuable.  If a tree lives in my yard – it better put out – citrus or flowers.  The whole “providing shade and oxygen” thing doesn’t cut it.

The ficus was most likely an overgrown house plant that they stuck out in the yard (biggest clue here was that it was still growing out of a broken pot that was embedded in the earth).  The main problem (other than it being a ficus) was that it was planted right next to the garage and too close to the water and sewer lines.   Sorry ficus, your days were numbered.

So Thing 1 had a great time chopping down the ficus.  He texted me a picture of his accomplishment!

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Felled Ficus

But I had to tell him to hold off on cutting down the other half (there were two trunks) as the remains wouldn’t all fit in the green bin.  It took three rounds of garbage day pick up to dispose of.

Dr. Malibu came over last weekend and started up the chainsaw.  He cut down the remaining trunk and cut the pieces small enough to fit in the green bin.  Except the pieces deemed firewood worthy…. which were added to my wood pile.

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Then he spied the unfinished section of my border.  Heh heh. I showed you my lovely planter border – but I hid from you the remaining unfinished 15 feet.

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Remaining 15 feet

 He thought Thing 1 should have a shot at helping, and the opportunity to again wield a pick axe won him over.  In short work, they had the remaining 15 feet of my border dug out to the proper 8 inches.  Dr. Malibu and I then amended the soil with bone meal and added some new (weed and clay free) garden soil.   More daffodils were planted, layering with more soil and adding the alliums and freesias (which need to be planted 3” down).  Again a topping of soil and mulch was applied.  We also planted poppies and dragon snaps to fill out the bed until the bulbs start growing.

Here’s the ficus free spot!
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Looks a little bare right now but the stump still needs to come out.  But the space won’t remain empty long.  The spot next to the garage offers a lot of shade (mostly from the 3 OTHER trees crowded in that corner).  Hydrangea’s, lilies, hastas and ferns all would work well here.

Notice the tree next to it?  It’s got a bulls eye painted on it too.  It’s right next to an Asian Magnolia which would love a little breathing room in order to bloom.

Dr. Malibu questioned me on the amount of work involved digging out the border and removing all the dirt (this was the point where the green trash can flipped over from the weight when I tried to move it).  Removing all that clay dirt (and the weeds that called it home) was a one time event.  Now, the border has yummy, nutrient rich soil.  It will only need an occasional topping of compost or mulch.

I’m going to let the dragon snaps and the poppies settle in before I post another picture.  I think we all need a little rest.

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Kick Ass Pick Axe

My new favorite tool is the pickaxe. This is a recent acquisition. – how I didn’t own one before I have no idea.  Probably because I’ve never found one at a garage sale. Clearly anyone who’s ever owned one realizes how awesome these are, and are never giving it up. I paid retail for mine.

How did I find this garden miracle tool? Three doors down from mine, I observed a landscape crew digging a trench for a sprinkler system. At the time – I didn’t know they were using a pickaxe – I just thought they were much stronger than me and more persistent. I asked Johnny, the head honcho, over for a sprinkler quote for the backyard. This led to a conversation about that weeds were flourishing back there. I mentioned about renting a rototiller or perhaps maybe even a sod cutter to remove the top layer of crappy dirt and weeds. Johnny told me the best way to get rid of the weeds and is to use a pickaxe to turn the earth and pick out the weeds.
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Then I realized that a pickaxe was just what I needed, not to turn the soil, but to dig up a border around the front lawn. The nice family that runs the local chainsaw repair shop were nice enough to help me pick one out, although they were pretty sure that 6’3” Dr. Malibu should be using it instead of 5’ me. I assured them I’d be fine.  Sure enough, the pick axe kicks ass! Easy to use, it makes short work of removing the thick sod and breaking up the soil. It’s my new favorite tool!
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Weeds will take advantage of the freshly exposed dirt but a pot of boiling water makes quick work killing them and their roots. Carting boiling water outdoors can be a little dangerous but the danger far outweighs putting chemicals in the soil or getting the toxic stuff in your eyes or skin.  And there’s something really satisfying watching the gardens arch nemeses boil to death.  Sometimes the weeds are persistent and require more than one boiling – but you can see the damage caused by just one application from a week earlier.
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Because the valley is renowned for its clay soil, I loosened the remaining soil, added a little bone meal and compost.  Again, the pickaxe earned it’s keep.  Now I have a nice, nutrient rich bed to plant my favorite bulbs – narcissus, daffodils and naked ladies.
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Naked ladies? Yeah – there’s nothing more fun than saying I see some naked ladies on the front lawn! But that’s the common name for a flower more commonly known as Amaryllis Belladonna. Most of the year it looks like a small agapanthus with it’s lovely green foliage.  Right before summer, all that green dies away and the plant sends up magical rubbery shoots that bloom into gorgeous lily like pink blossoms. (Note that the plant is poisonous). I also decided to try some Freesia and alliums. Not sure why I’ve overlooked these before in the bulb department but this spring is sure to be a show stopper!
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Here’s the flower bed – all ready to go with a nice thick layer of mulch spread over the top to discourage new weeds.  Pretty unimpressive right now.  I’ll have to plant some annuals to add some color – but the hard work – thanks to my kick ass pick axe is done!
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