Clean up: trees in the old garden

We had such a lovely day today, even with fairly high winds, that I couldn’t resist going outside and doing a bit of clean up. This time, I decided to work in the old garden area.

As we clean up around the property, there is one thing I find myself struggling with that I did not expect.


In the decades I was away, my parents slowly reduced the size of their gardening, which made perfect sense. Unfortunately, at the same time, they planted trees. Poorly placed trees, many of which I am now having to cut down for various reasons, while trying to save as many as I can. At the same time, they also allowed self sown trees to grow where they really shouldn’t have. Some of them now need to be removed because they are causing damage. Others… well. Let me show you.

This is the before picture.

My mother had a row of raspberry bushes here. Elms and maples had self-sown among them. When my mother transplanted the raspberries (into an area that’s full shade!), she left the self-sown saplings. For a “wind break” she told me. The garden used to extend another 6 feet or so to the north. As they are now, the trees take up a space about 10-12 ft (3-3.6m) wide, and about 100 ft (30.5m) long.

That’s a lot of square feet of full sun garden space that can no longer be used.

Between these and the shade created by the trees they’d planted into the garden area on the south side, huge amounts of garden space have been taken out of production. Space that’s the closest to the house and water.

When I brought up taking them out and reclaiming the garden space, my mother was adamant that they not be touched. Apparently, if we take them out, we won’t have any wind break anymore or something, even though there are plenty of other trees and the lilac hedge to shelter us from Northern winds. :-/

Well, we’re not in a position to actively remove the trees quite yet, though the arborists recommended taking them out while they’re still small enough to be pulled out by the roots with a tractor. While trying to garden near these on one side, and tend the lawn on the other, I figured the least that should be done is to trim and clear them.

Yes, I know. This is probably the worst time of year to be trimming trees, but these are not trees we plan to save. They’ll do just fine, though. In fact, they’ll probably thrive. :-/

Starting at the end I took the photo at, I worked at it using both the baby chainsaw (aka: cordless pruner) and the long handled pruners. Loppers, I think they’re actually called. I used those quite a bit, because the branches and suckers were so dense, I couldn’t get in with the baby chainsaw to cut where I needed to. Which is fine. It reserved battery power for the pieces too large for the loppers. I got about 1 1/2 hours in before the battery died, then I continued for another half hour or so with the loppers.

Here is how it looks now.

That log that is now visible marks the corner of the mulched area we gardened in last year. I cleared until just past that log.

This is my branch pile.

I at first tried to trim the larger pieces and set them aside for potential use later, but that was taking up too much time, so I just added to the pile. When it’s time to deal with the pile, it will be easier to use hand pruners to trim any larger branches that might be usable for other things. The smallest pieces will go onto a chipping pile.

I did use pruning paint on the cut ends of the trees, though the maples were pouring so much sap, a lot of it was washed away! The elm sap isn’t running yet.

For all my mother’s admonitions to leave the trees alone, I found evidence that I was not the first to try cutting these away. In fact, some of what I found were growing out of stumps. Someone had tried cutting them down, and they grew back.

I also found this little group.

Three elms growing into each other! We couldn’t see this until I cleared things away. In fact, I couldn’t stand in the spots I was in to take the photos, either.

I worked on a maple just past this group of elms and found myself pulling out large strands of vines as well. The rest of the section has more of these vines. My mother had planted them (not here!) years ago, not realizing they were invasive. Now they’re spreading all over, and I’ve found at least a couple of trees that have been killed by them. So I stopped to continue another day, since more time will need to be spent pulling up these vines, which will need to be burned.

The irony of pulling up vines that are killing trees we plan to get eventually get rid of is not lost on me!

By the time I’m done with these, we should be able to walk through and around the trees without having to fight branches. I’ll even be able to mow past them without branches pulling off my hat!

Hopefully, their roots won’t make gardening near them too much of an issue. Eventually, we do plan to build some permanent, high raised beds in this area closer to the house, so it won’t be an issue for long. When we build the permanent garden beds to the south of the house, that will be where we will focus more on things that take longer to mature and get harvested in the fall, while areas closer to the house will be more kitchen garden type things that mature quickly, or have a continuous harvest.

Little by little, it’s getting done! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

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