Tag Archives: pruning

Front Yard; Phase One

Last night, I made plans with myself to get rid of these gigantic dead bushes:


It is important for me to mention here that in order for me to snap this photo, I backed into the aloe vera plants that are blooming alongside the sidewalk and the blooms are attracting bees, which I conveniently forgot about until I was in danger of being stung. Thank you; back to the photo. The shrubs on the ends are the same type, I’m pretty sure, and the one in the middle is called a heavenly bamboo. I know it isn’t dead. But it is gigantic. These bushes were absolutely perfect to cling fake spiderwebs to for a creepy entryway for my Halloween party. The rest of the year, the house looked like no one lived here because the bushes are so wild and unkept. They also cover so much of the front window that it looked like I was trying to hide something. I hated the way they defined the house, that someone who lives there can’t take care of their things. I decided it was time to cut them away and see what I could do with them. I started by checking out websites on how to prune bushes. I don’t want to kill them, just tame them a bit. I finally ended on an article titled “How to Prune a Bush” by Callie Barber. I also read a little bit about pruning citrus trees. Apparently once every year or two is frequent enough for those kind of trees.
So this morning, after I got the boys to school, I made a trip to the hardware store. I am now the proud owner of a pair of gardening gloves with thick leather at the palms to protect my hands, a pruning saw, little plant clippers, and a trowel. I also desperately want to transplant the jasmine into the ground, to explain the last item listed there. When I came home, I realized how perfect the weather was today for such a project and chopping dead bushes to bits. It was bright and sunny but there was a wonderful breeze, sometimes wind, blowing. The bush at the far right of the photo was completely dead. No growth, no nothing. I hacked off some of it several months ago to kind of jumpstart my compost, mixing in the dry elements with whatever else was in there. If you’d asked me two years ago what a pruning saw was, I would not have had an answer for you. This thing is my new best friend. A few of the articles I read last night mentioned it and as soon as I saw that phrase I knew that’s what I was missing; bear in mind the formerly out of control citrus trees out back. It quickly got through all those dead dusty limbs. I started by cutting off the huge chunks and when I tried to stand up to start on the higher branches, I discovered an innocent mini cactus entwined in the left knee of the jeans I was thankfully wearing. I also rediscovered this irrigation system that goes to each of the bushes out there. I don’t know how to reconnect it to a water supply but I will figure that out sometime. I don’t mind watering plants around the house, but as we all know, I suck at it.
After I finished with the first shrub, I moved to the one at the far left of the photo. Its dead limbs stretch across the heavenly bamboo. As I cleared away the unnecessary branches, I found that there are actually two bamboo bushes there: the one that is extremely proportionate to the size of the entire house and then a much smaller one which I assume has stunted growth due to the gnarly brush around it. I got to a point as I chopped where I just had one tall limb left that kind of stretched toward the center of the yard. I honestly considered keeping it because it had new growth on it, but heck, why not just dive in. So I’m starting over with that one.
That left the heavenly bamboo. Which is a monster. I had no idea where to start with that. It’s named after bamboo because it has long straight shoots like bamboo does; it’s not actually bamboo. But it grew to be maybe eight feet tall at the most and there were more stems at the bottom of this thing than I honestly knew what to do with. I started with the dead parts of the plant, then moved on to the really tall parts, then to the parts that were extending all over the yard. There was still a ton of plant there! I took out several branches in the middle that were tall and continued to shorten it until I could see over it. I must have taken about half of that bush down. The pile of branches in the yard was huge. Lastly I cleaned up the new growth at the very base of it. I saved a few pieces and potted them to try to create new plants. So after all that crawling around on the ground and snipping and hacking and sawing and snapping, I pulled the twigs out of my hair and the back of my shirt and I was left with something like this:

after: there was a house behind all of that!


It kind of reminds me of when I give my dog a haircut. He looks younger and fresh, he can see, and I want to play with him. You can kind of see in between the two bushes that are left is the small heavenly bamboo I mentioned. After all that was cleared away, I turned around and really wished I had a wood chipper:

Aftermath. Also, you can see that my yard is not respectable at all when compared to my neighbors' yards.


This does not include the remains of the dead bush on the far side from the first photo. Those branches I tossed behind me, toward the side of the house. At this part of the day, it started to get very windy outside so the large branches that were just laying around started threatening to blow away into the neighbor’s yard and possibly down the street. I started jumping on them and breaking them apart, especially the larger pieces, so as to get them to be less airborne (read: tumbleweed-like). The remnants took up most of the trash can. I stood over the trash can breaking branches apart (gloves on!) and shaking the can so that they’d settle in there. I also composted some of the heavenly bamboo, just for the sake of room in the trash can. I didn’t think about it before, but not having all that dead decaying plant life to see when I look out the window was very refreshing. The front room is much brighter now with a lot of it gone and I’m not as worried someone’s hiding in there waiting to attack me. Just have to get the rest of that stuff picked up. It doesn’t help that there are also still a bunch of weeds out there that need to go in the trash too. Also, I was not surprised or attacked by anything crawling around. The only living thing I found was that baby cactus with my knee. And it’s still safe and sound out there.

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Amateur Tree Care at its Finest

This is what I do when I get home lately: put my keys away, let the dogs out, and go outside with them. Then I give the dogs water and roll my compost container around on the ground to mix everything up and see if it needs to be watered. Lately, I’ve been fascinated and partially consumed with the citrus trees in the backyard. From what I understand, they are both still fairly young and I don’t think either one has borne fruit just yet. I don’t know if I read this somewhere or someone told me about it but I have it in my head that they don’t produce fruit till they’re two years old. ? Also, the last owner mentioned that he thought the trees might have suffered some damage from a hard freeze we had last winter so he wasn’t sure if they would still bear fruit. He even left me a printout of an article from the Daily Star he found online about how to tell a citrus tree has frost damage and how to care for them. I found this printout on the refrigerator along with his forwarding address, the address of his bank, doctor, and dentist, and instructions for any mail of his I might receive. But that’s neither here nor there.
I scrounged the yard for both of my blue gardening gloves that my dog loves to toss around and grabbed the small pair of pruners or trimmers for plants (bought on clearance from Target at the end of the season last year, bonus*) and just started cutting off dead little tiny branches. And damn are those things sharp sometimes! I forgot that they have thorns. They do! Trimming that tree down was like trimming down all the fur from my little dog. The more that comes off, the younger and more lively it looked. Like maybe it has a chance of survival. And I only pinched my fingers in the cutters about 17 times. Which is good for me, if you don’t know me by now. As I began to tackle the bigger super-dead branches, I noticed that some of them had growth toward the ground, so they were only half dead. I started crawling around the tree and trying to decide what growth I could afford to lose. I didn’t want to cut off any of the branches that had buds on them because I wanted to see at least a few flowers before the tree dies.
As I was chopping away, my neighbor came outside and we said hi and I told her about my little project of the day. She mentioned that she and her husband had some tape that they used to tie up their trees and train them a little bit. She went to her garage and brought it back out to me and wished me luck. I thought that was very nice of her. The lemon tree didn’t need to be tied up because its branches are long and stretch skyward:lemon tree
It does look a little wild and crazy here; now that I look at it I guess I could stand to lose the top longest branches and just kind of start with a bush, but that’s all part of the fun, right? There isn’t a specific trunk either with the lemon tree so I guess I’ll just see what it does in the next couple years and take it from there. When I came home from work this weekend, one of the buds opened up to a long white flower that smells very rich and summery. There are three or four flowers now and I will be looking forward to maybe having some lemons soon.
I then moved on to the grapefruit tree. I didn’t take any before photos, but what was happening with the grapefruit tree was that the small branches were getting heavy as they got solid, so they were just laying on the ground and not looking very spirited. I started poking around the tree a little bit and there was nothing I wanted to cut off. It has a small established trunk and there was no new growth on it so I pushed up some branches and chose what part of the trunk I wanted to attach them to. Got the green tree tape that the professionals use and set to work propping the branches up against their will and the will of gravity on my thigh. I wrapped the tape around the branch and pulled it taut and started wrapping it around the trunk. SNAP! Followed by EXPLETIVE! Tape snapped. Sigh, start over. Replay previous scene. Fine. So I went in the house and grabbed the kitchen string you’re supposed to use to tie up poultry and roasts with that I only use for random string needs as I have only ever roasted exactly one chicken and haven’t been able to bring myself to handle and roast another one. I also grabbed scissors. And a beer. Went back outside and tried again to tie these branches up so I would have a respectable tree. And sure enough, that kitchen twine held for me. I kept crawling around that tree and fighting with it a little and fighting with the dogs because they kept getting in my way and trying to lay under the tree as I was working so I kept stepping on them. After I was finished tying the branches up and away from the ground, it looked like Spiderman was caught in there somewhere with all the white string I used: grapefruit tree, tied
Now what’s left is to unearth that ungodly tarp so that when I give the trees a good soak they actually get watered instead of creating a moat that the dogs drink and dig in. And now the dogs have a nice spot to lay down under the tree in the shade for the upcoming summer.its a tree!
There are no flowers on this tree yet but there are beginnings of buds. I love to check on them. Next week will be time to solve the mysteries and unknowns of chicken wire. I want to bury some under ground to prevent the dogs from digging at the trees. I also want to build an enclosure for the garden this year to keep my horse-dog from running through all the fragile seedlings at 200 miles per hour as he so loves to do on a daily basis. Until next week.