Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Spring has Sprung!


Spring is here…finally!

Our weather has turned and rather than the one or two days of good weather followed by a few weeks of bad, it looks like this stretch will last (although I do see next Monday is supposed to dip below freezing, so I'm not too thrilled about that).

Things have been very busy this spring with lots of seeding, planting, bed prepping, etc. but, unlike last year, I am more or less on top of things - hurray!

Aside from seed starting, there have been a couple of new developments in the garden. 

The first big change was something I spoke about last year – removing the large spruce tree beside our shed.

The pros getting ready for the job


Going...
Trimming all of the bottom branches

Going....
Making the final cut

Gone!

I actually took a little video of the tree coming down, so you can appreciate it’s massiveness (although according to the tree guys, this one wasn’t that big at all compared to some they have done, so I can only imagine):


Yup - you can tell that I'm not the video taker in the family - next time, I'll have to remember NOT to turn my phone sideways :)

The tree guys did an AWESOME job, both in the removal of the tree and the tidy up, leaving us with a wide open space and a beautiful stack of logs:

Lots of possibilities are floating around in my head for this area...

You'll notice that we now have a clear view of the neighbours shed - we'll be doing a bit of planting in this area in order to regain the privacy that the spruce previously provided.  Our shed could also do with a bit of a sprucing up but that will have to wait for next year.

Once that tree was down, my husband and I decided to take down another one that was just in front of the veg area – this one was right beside our tractor access to the backyard.  Here is the "before" photo again - the tree I'm referring to is the one on the right:

The 2nd tree we removed (on the right) looks deceptively large because
it was much closer to the camera; it was, in fact, about 1/2 the size of the other tree,
which is why we decided to tackle it ourselves

Removing this particular tree wasn’t part of the original plan.  It did get in the way when we used the tractor to move things as the tractor had to go through the somewhat narrow space in between the tree and the corner of the house.  My husband had complained about it for a while, although I didn’t think it was that bad.

However, after we removed the fencing and took down the big spruce, I realized how much more open that whole area would be without that one tree which was smack dab in the middle.  Just as with a cluttered room, it may be hard to get rid of the first few things, but once you get started, it gets much easier.

So it was decided – we were going to remove that tree as well.  With the expense of having the large spruce removed (almost $350!), we decided to try and tackle this smaller one ourselves – a tougher task than we thought!  Trimming the tree, cutting it down and then cutting it into logs took us an afternoon and we didn’t do anywhere near as neat a job as the professionals.

Unlike the pros, we didn't have an industrial chainsaw & chipper
to quickly & neatly deal with the 2nd tree

We still have a rather large stump to remove, but that will have to wait until more pressing tasks (which I will get to below) are finished.

I really do hate removing trees, especially those that take a while to reach a mature size like spruce, but when I saw how wide open the space looked once that tree was down, I must admit I became a little bit giddy.  Back to my cluttered room analogy, you often don’t realize how much space there is until you empty it out.  It was incredible really, especially as the extent of the openness was rather unexpected.

Back to that original photo, just so that you don't have to keep scrolling up and down:

Before

After

Remember my plan to only add one bed to the garden this year?  Well, I’m sticking to that :)….BUT I can already see that I could easily expand this area to include several more beds in the future.

Now I have a rule when it comes to removing trees.  For every tree I take down, I have to plant two in its place.  Technically, I had already done that as I planted one spruce on the hill a few years ago and 6 fruit trees since then.  However, I want to do more so I’ve decided that I’ll be planting 2 more spruce trees, which will be going at the front of our property.  I may also add a couple more cedars & pines along our property line.

The 2nd change is a work-in-progress at the moment - and one of the reasons I've been relatively silent blog-wise as of late.  We are doing a massive overhaul of all the perennial beds which is taking up the majority of my time.

Now, when I say overhaul, I mean weeding, pruning, mulching and editing, including removing some of the more invasive shrubs that tend to take over and send out suckers such as false spirea.  Note that I didn’t mention adding any new plants – that’s because my plan is to clean up ALL of the borders first (a total of 10 areas) before I start adding anything new.  You may recall that this had been one of my 2015 goals - well, spring/summer came and went and I only managed to do our front walkway borders:

The walkway borders measure 43' (13M) beside the house &
over 70' (21M) on the side facing the street
....not a small task!

Since the front walkway was done last year, it only needs a quick tidy up & edge this time round.  The other borders, however, are a different matter.  I'll post a "before & after" on all the beds at some point.  I've been taking photos of the process, but quite frankly, I'd rather have something nice to show in addition to the train wreck that some of these beds are at the moment :)

This year, I think I have a chance of actually achieving my goal because of  (cue The Beatles) "a little help from my friends” – well, my husband actually.  Instead of the piece-meal approach I’ve had up until now trying to do the beds on my own, it will be a team effort this time.  Our goal is to complete this task in a couple of weeks by ONLY concentrating on this – no other projects.  Well, nothing other than what is absolutely necessary, like getting the seed potatoes in the ground (which I did this past weekend) and getting the peas sown (a task for today).

As with so many tasks, this one is taking longer than we anticipated.  A couple of days of work and we've barely made a dent in the 15 cubic yards of mulch on our driveway.

Nothing says spring like a big ol' pile of mulch sitting on the driveway :)

That's the one thing about spring - you go from zero to overload in a matter of days as there are so many tasks that are time sensitive.  If we waited to do the borders, everything would start to grow at breakneck speed and all of a sudden, a task that should take a couple of weeks ends up taking a month or more.  But unfortunately, other tasks like seeding the spring & summer crops, prepping the beds, etc., can't wait either - so it's a bit of a juggle at the moment to get everything done.

With a bit of luck (well, maybe more than a bit!), we will be done the beds by the end of April and my attention can turn to the next high priority task - installing the drip irrigation.  So far, this season isn't turning out to be as relaxing as I had anticipated ;)

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

32 comments:

  1. We've been having the same sort of weather, lovely blue skies and sunny days, I don't think it's meant to last here though, sadly. You've certainly been making the most of it, what a difference taking the tree down has made, I bet you get a lot more light in your garden now. I think you're being very restrained with the beds you're tidying up though, I'd be straight down to the garden centre refilling them as they were done, but it will be a nice shopping trip for you when the time does arrive for some new plants.

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    1. I did try to relegate those veg that were more tolerant of shade to the beds in between those trees & it will be lovely to not have to worry about that now.

      I have a feeling that it will take a lot of restraint not to fill the cart once I get to a garden centre this spring - but refrain I must as even after all the mulching, I'll likely still get a lot of straggling weeds and invasives, etc., coming up over the summer so I really want to concentrate on eradicating them this year. How wonderful that you are getting a spell of great weather too! It really does lift your spirits, doesn't it?

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  2. Everything you wrote is SO TRUE>
    Hate taking down trees--but yet, it's necessary sometimes. And I plant two as well!! How funny
    And yes--there is way too much to be done, but I guess that's why it's nice we are unable to actually plant much until June----time for the GRUNT work....and when that's all done--it should be time for the vegetable patch to take up all our time.
    It's never ending ..............and I'm glad!
    :)
    Have a great week in the garden

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    1. Oh Sue, we do think alike! Yes, there is SO much grunt work at the beginning of the season even if it's only setting everything up again, etc. Just navigating inside the shed to get at what I needed was a chore with all the trellises, rebar, buckets etc. in the way. I really ought to get it organized (oy, another task!?). I hope that you are enjoying this GORGEOUS weather - it definitely makes the grunt work less of a chore and more of a pleasure :)

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  3. How interesting all this is to me. And how different. Lots of questions. Do you live in a city or in the country? I see the neighbor's shed. Got the pun about sprucing up. Cute.

    I think this is the first time I've seen your place from this angle. The trees look big to me. Was the area originally all spruce tree? I've been to Quebec on the north side of the St. Lawrence and it was spruce and birch. And to Alaska which was all spruce but puny ones compared to yours.

    $350 dollars is very cheap compared to here. I could only get three small shrubs cut back for that amount.

    You want to stay above freezing and I want to stay below 90F. Is Canada F or C? I think it's already summer here. Nights are 60F, days 90F. California sure didn't used to be like this.

    All for now.

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    1. You know what's funny, Jane? The "sprucing up" comment was completely unintentional - didn't even notice it until you mentioned it...I MUST be tired!

      Now on to your questions - I live in a very small town (as in we don't even have a convenience store in town) in the country but we are relatively close (i.e. 10-30 minute drive) to a few large cities. Our shed is on the west side of our property, within a few feet of the property line; the neighbours shed is at the top of his driveway.

      We have numerous spruce trees on the property, but they were all planted by previous owners, likely to add privacy to the backyard. Spruce (and birch) are very common around here and many are as big or bigger than the one we took down. I can't believe how expensive it is to cut back shrubs in your area! I did look out the cost of cutting down the tree before I got a quote and I'm glad I did as otherwise, I would have thought the quote was much too expensive, when in fact it was very reasonable.

      As for our temps, we use Celsius but I try to remember to include the Fahrenheit equivalent when I do a post. It's funny you should say that California didn't used to be that hot - we folks up north tend to picture California as being hot and sunny ALL the time (although 90F is a bit much!).

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  4. Holly cow! You were not kidding with being busy! Hope your garden beds appreciate all that new sunshine :)

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    1. Yup...I hope our collective backs hold up to all this lugging/digging/pulling! I'm quite excited to plant up the beds that used to be behind the spruce - it's almost like having 2 new beds, except without all the work of putting them in ;)

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  5. Having those trees gone should made a big difference in your garden and the access to it. But I confess to laughing when you said you were only go to add one bed this year. Sounds like me last year when I said I was cutting back in 2016. But that was before I decided to grow 50+ varieties of peppers, and lots of new tomatoes! Don't worry, I don't think any of us gardeners will hold it against you if you wind up expanding more than you planned. I sure know I won't ;-)

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    1. What is it with us gardeners? Can't resist adding/experimenting/expanding even when we VOW to take it easy. Well, it's those things that will keep us young, in both body and spirit, so how lucky are we to enjoy them!

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  6. Since moving into my new property a few years ago I have probably paid to have 30-40 trees cut down. I do feel bad somewhat, but I have 3 ACRES of pine forest. I had trees removed to eliminate potential damage to my house from wind storms (or nasty roots from poplar) but also to open up sunlight to some of garden space. But I very much admire everyone who plants trees for each that are cut down. My cost is usually $100 or less per tree as I have very open access so less labour required. I had a friend in the city who paid (gasp) $3500 to have a single tree removed as it required special equipment.

    BUT ... similar to you, one of the poplar trees I had to remove was a good privacy barrier from my neighbours so I am still trying to decide what to do there!

    You are so on top of the mulching ... I really need to mulch around my beds but I am already seeing weeds popping up! Ugh!


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    1. Wow - I would love to have several acres of pines...must be nice! But you have GOT to be kidding me - $3500 for one tree!? Cripes - you could probably buy the equipment yourself for that price! When I first started to price out the tree removal, my thought was that it would cost about $100, so was rather surprised to find that $250-$500 was the "norm".

      I'm ALL about privacy in the backyard. For the bit near the shed, I'm tossing around the idea of placing a couple of narrow cedars there together with a couple of quick growing, tall shrubs such as lilacs - still more pondering to do, though.

      And yes, the weeds do ACTUALLY pop up overnight - no exaggeration! Every year I would mean to get an early enough start and each and every time, I would only get to one or two areas and the rest would be completely out of hand by the time I got to them. I'm hoping this overhaul puts an end to that cycle!

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  7. Oh yes, that's wonderful that you plant trees as you take them down. Sustainability and rejuvenation. :) That area look so different, and will be perfect for your veg gardens. What an experience to see the trees coming down! Our neighbors took down two huge hollow, diseased Oak trees a couple of years ago and I was able to watch the process. It was scary and I could barely watch, but it was fascinating, too. And the sound of the trunk hitting the ground--wow! I'm glad the mild weather is here to stay now!

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    1. I wish we had been the original owners of this property so that we could place the trees in the perfect spot to begin with - although I have a feeling that what is "perfect" now may not be in 10 years as my experience increases and the garden changes.

      Having that tree cut down was an experience, that's for sure! You know me...I'm a bit on the shy side ;) but I couldn't help let out a bit of a gasp on the video as the tree fell.

      And HURRAY for great weather! It was a long time in coming, but probably more appreciated because of that!

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  8. It's times like this that the restrictions of the small garden get pushed to the back of my mind, being replaced with thoughts like "Thank goodness I don't have any big trees than need cutting down."! I think you did the right thing, by the way, and your veggies will enjoy the extra light. Here in the UK it is usually necessary to get formal permission to cut down a tree, even in your own garden, because they are often covered by Protection Orders. Does that apply where you are?

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    1. There are always pros and cons to every situation, aren't there? We don't need any sort of permission to cut down a tree unless it's considered to be city property (i.e. next to a sidewalk, etc). I'm not sure if that's the case in a large city like Toronto, however - it's one thing to cut down a tree or two in a rural environment where there are mature trees everywhere you look, but quite another in an urban environment where they are much more scarce.

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  9. Shame to lose the spruce trees but sometimes it just has to be done (the price is about the same here). Yuck about the neighbors shed...I feel the same way about privacy. Much clean up here by myself (husband helps remove the piles of brush I leave in the center of the yard). Have to put down plastic and weed cloth...invasive vines are killing me plus a short fence because of dogs.

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    1. Those spruce trees did provide some much appreciated privacy, both from the neighbours and from the street. I'll be planting some evergreens further down that side, in the front yard and I'm hoping that in a few years they will provide us with the same level of (year round) privacy, without impinging on the beds or access to the backyard.

      Oy, I completely sympathize with you on the invasive vines - we have wild grape that is seemingly everywhere around here. What a pain - literally - to get rid of. I hope you are successful in your efforts!

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  10. Those trees were quite an undertaking! It does open your yard up though. And yes, it does seem like everything needs to be done at once but you have a large area and are doing a great job. Nancy

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    1. Thanks Nancy - we were at it for a good chunk of the day today again and made some good progress. We'll be taking a break this weekend as we have a couple of family events, so that will be a nice break. I hope the weeds in the unfinished areas don't take that opportunity to shoot up!

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  11. Have to say that spruce was a beautiful tree but removing it obviously was the thing to do. I have nothing good to say about pines. My house is in a stand of climax white pine. We thought it was neat and the air smells piney. But gawd are they dirty trees. Pine sap, catkins, tons of pollen (I'm now allergic to it), several needle drops, little papers from inside the cones, and the cones themselves. Deadwood raining down every storm and always the threat of a tree going down on the house or the power lines. Pine roots suck the moisture out of the soil so it is impossible to grow grass, just weeds. And $800-1000 to remove one tree. I would prefer to have your situation, yard is looking very nice.

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    1. Thanks Dave - That spruce was gorgeous, wasn't it? Too bad it wasn't in a different spot - I know how difficult it is to imagine how large a tree or shrub will grow when it's just a tiny thing.

      Boy, I never would have thought that living amongst a stand of pines would be anything but lovely - and that much to remove one tree? It's amazing how hearing things like that turns my impression of what we paid from very expensive to a definite bargain!

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  12. This big trees would have been sucking moisture out of the ground too so maybe your vegetables will appreciate them having been removed in more ways than one .

    Good luck with the tidying.

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    1. Thanks Sue - you are probably right. We removed a willow in that area as it was doing that exact thing and sending out a ton of roots into one of the beds. I didn't have any issues that I know of with the other beds closer to the spruce but it will be interesting to see if I notice a difference this year.

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  13. You have a lot of work ahead of you! But you were right about needing those trees to come down. I agree with Sue that your beg beds might be moister now that they're gone.

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    1. It is a LOT of work - and I anticipate that I will likely be kept busy trying to keep the beds weed & grass free this summer, even with the newspaper & mulch I've put down. But next year it should be much easier, and the year after that easier still - it's the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel that will keep me motivated to keep on top of things this year :)

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  14. All of this work looks like it would be so satisfying! $350 to have a tree removed sounds reasonable... still a lot of money, but reasonable. I'm frequently astonished at what a wide range contracted prices can be. We are getting quotes to have our roof done and we're getting prices from $4,000 to $8,000. Enjoy that nice weather!!!

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    1. When you don't realize what something will cost ballpark, I think we all tend to underestimate. Then once we start hearing what others paid, all of a sudden a few hundred dollars sounds downright cheap!

      Yes, a new roof can definitely take a big bite out of a budget - we have to get that done at some point too as we have already had to repair a few spots where shingles have flown off in bad weather. Apparently the prior owner installed the "cheap" shingles that aren't rated for the kind of winds we sometimes get around here.

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  15. Mt goodness you have been busy Margaret! You remind me so much of myself. I make so many plans each week. But unlike myself, you seem to be on track to getting them completed! Boy, with those two trees down, you have so much more sunlight and room. I would already be planning 6 more raised beds! And thanks for the compliment on my harvest basket. I just bought it on a whim on Saturday at my favorite gardening store. I didn't need it..but I really wanted it! And I have used it every time I have picked greens so it is really paying for itself! Ha ha..have a wonderful week in the garden.

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    1. Well, I would say that basket was a worthwhile investment :)

      And it may LOOK like I keep on top of my plans, but let me tell you, that's a rarity! I quite enjoy doing things myself, so much so that, like you, I often place far more on my plate than I should (and take much longer doing it than I think I will!)

      Very little happens that quickly around here - unless we hire it out, like cutting down that tree...it takes a lot more time and energy to do things yourself than to make a phone call & pull our your wallet :)

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  16. I think you'll be happy with your decision to cut down the two trees. My experience with trees that close to the beds is their roots will find the beds and freeload off the abundance of nutrients, holding back the veggies. Several years ago I cut down a large cherry tree near the garden, it was about 3/4 dead but after it was gone the closest bed was much more productive. That's a large tree but probably not that old - did you count the rings?

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    1. I didn't count the rings...can't believe I didn't think to do that! I will definitely have to do that tomorrow. I'm guessing it's probably around 20-25 years old - our house was built about 26 years ago and it was likely put in shortly thereafter.

      Now you guys have me thinking as we have a few more trees right near the beds, as you can see in the photos. I've not had any issues with productivity that I'm aware of in those beds, other than the one that was invaded by the willow that we removed...but perhaps their productivity is being impacted and I just haven't realized it. Something to think about, that's for sure.

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