Friday, April 25, 2014

Inch By Inch

The project to remove the sod under the three dappled willows on the east side was slow going.

This was not an exciting new garden in the making. It was simply clearing out the sod and planting a groundcover so Jim doesn't have to mow right under the willows.

It was getting impossible for him to get the mower or even the weed whacker under there.
This was in 2011.  Already, keeping the grass cut below the willows was not happening.
By 2013 the willows were bigger -- impossible to mow under.

The answer .... remove the sod and plant a groundcover. Simple.

Yikes! It was a long project, and was accomplished digging up sod inch by inch.

The extensive roots of the willows made cutting with the edger and scooping up flat squares of sod impossible. A rented sod cutter would not have been able to cut through those roots at all.

So the entire project was done by clawing out grass, wiggling the Cobrahead tool just so, and then teasing up each clump, one tiny inch at a time, separating it from every willow root, and sometimes following a grass runner to its source. Tedious.

Day one of the project
April 9 - cold and windy but sunny. This is what a little over 2 hours before lunch produced -- a circle of sod removed under one willow. Hard work, 10 buckets of mud clumps taken away. A few hours of zen.

Day two of the project
April 10 - cold (mid 50s) and windy again and cloudless. This is what 2 hours by myself before lunch and 2 hours in the afternoon with Jim accomplished. 14 buckets of mud clumps taken out in the morning, and then when Jim came out to help we used the John Deere trailer to haul away clods.

My right forearm hurts from using the Cobrahead claw. The roots of the willows are so impossible to maneuver through.

The two willows on the left are now connected by the future bed, but I need to shape the area to not be so curvy. I don't want wiggly squiggly. In fact crescent shaped would be good, but I'm not sure I can get to that.

Day three of the project
April 12 - warm and pleasant and mostly still. A little warm to work outside, even.  Still hard going, ripping up small clods at a time.

Jim and I both worked for a couple hours in the morning and after lunch, and we got the basic area cut out.

Day four of the project
April 13 - warm and breezy, 70 degrees. I finished up shaping the curves and evening them out, and expanding some edges just a bit. Small work, but still inch by inch work, and it took all afternoon. The bed is probably still too small and will need the edges expanded in future years. I am sore and tired, but the hard job is done. Those roots!

Day five of the project
April 18 - cold, not even 50 degrees. We got 4 yards of soil + compost delivered, and spent the day spreading 2 cubic yards of it under the willows. It didn't really raise the level of the soil, just covered up the exposed roots and what had been dug out.

Despite my efforts at creating rounded curves, I have a squiggly wiggly shape to this whole area. Oh well. It's neat, it will keep Jim from having to get in under the willows in summer to mow, and it is what it is.

Day six -- done.
April 22 - This project took 6 full days. It's not a new garden, just an area that needed fixing so it didn't have to be mowed in summer. Six days of hard work.

I planted 50 bareroot vinca bundles, which will eventually spread out and cover the area under the willows with glossy evergreen leaves.

I got the vinca at the Northwest Conservation District sale, and for $25 I got 50 really big bundles -- there were 5 or 10 individual stems in each bundle. That's 250 to 500 separate plants!

But here's what I did wrong: I should have simply unpacked them and put them in water until ready for planting, but I tried to separate the tangled stems and then pot each one up in holding trays of potting soil.

That turned out to be a huge project (250 to 500 stems!) and although I kept the potting soil very wet, there was a lot of desiccation.

I should have planted the entire bundles and let them spread out from the 50 plugs. Instead, I spent a whole day potting up individual stems and half of them look like they won't make it.

But vinca minor is very tough. Even if only half the stems survive planting, I'll have a patch of periwinkle soon. They'll spread out.

So. It's done and now we just need to wait for the groundcover to spread out.
June 1, 2013.  Love these dappled willows (Salix integra Hakuro-Nishiki)
Picture them this year with glossy dark green periwinkle under them.

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