Back yard progress report #3

It’s mid-October and the back yard is beginning to shape up. For purposes of comparison, here are a few pictures from July.

Back yard progress report

Our invasive buckthorn thicket

The picture below shows the back slope mostly cleared of buckthorn. As I mentioned before, we put up the fence years ago and paid no attention to what was going on back there — like weedy trees growing a mile a minute. The crab apple and apple trees are worth saving, but they’ll need some TLC in the upcoming years, which ideally will include cutting down the Siberian elm and white mulberry.

I’ll be planting a few bare root shrubs back there and sowing lots of native wildflower, grass, sedge, and shrub seeds.

The clearing of buckthorn hill

The next picture shows the new view over the fence. From our living room window, we now have an unobstructed view of our back-yard neighbor’s house. Oh, well. Eventually we’ll have new, eco-friendly screening vegetation, including nannyberry viburnum, pagoda dogwood, and choke cherry.

Back yard update less lawn

The pictures above and below show the area outside the lawn oval now cleared of the patchy grass that used to grow there. Paths have been laid out and planting holes have been pre-dug and rabbit barriers made in preparation for the arrival of bare root shrubs.

Back yard update lawn and path

We’ve come a long way in five months. Now we just have to get things in the ground and wait for them to grow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buckthorn oblivion

We put up the fence in our backyard 17 or 18 years ago, when our two oldest kids were little and the other two hadn’t come along yet. Our property extends to the bottom of the slope behind the fence, but since the fence went up I’ve mostly ignored the horticultural goings-on back there.

So, there’s this plant called buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica, an ecological threat in Minnesota and much of the rest of the midwest. You may have heard of it. I’d certainly heard of buckthorn, too, but most of what I heard mentioned its invasiveness in natural areas. I don’t usually think of my suburban yard as a natural area, so I didn’t pay much attention.

Fast-forward through several clueless, happy years to 2016, when I realized that all of those little seedlings I was weeding out of my flower beds were buckthorn. Where were they coming from? Probably from the 15-foot-high buckthorn thicket that was steadily growing behind the fence.

Most of the greenery behind the fence is invasive buckthorn

About 80% of the lovely greenery visible behind the fence is buckthorn. Here’s what it looks like up close:

Our invasive buckthorn thicket

If there was ever any sort of vegetative ground layer, it’s gone for now. I’ve spent some time over the past few days beginning to cut back this thicket. I’m using this method (scroll down to the subsection entitled “Light weapons and a long timeline”). I already had Trimec in the shed. I ordered the blue dye and sponge applicator bottle from Amazon.

Buckthorn fighting tools

Treated buckthorn stumps (the dye faded quite a bit in last night’s rain):

Herbicide-painted buckthorn stumps

Here’s my brush pile so far (plus more waiting to be retrieved from behind the fence):

Buckthorn brush pile

It’s a big chore, but I’m looking forward to seeing what shows up (besides lots more buckthorn seedlings) once some dappled sunlight can reach the ground again. [Edit 10/19/17: Did I say “dappled shade”? Now that the buckthorn is gone, it’s a sunny south-facing slope!] I’ll probably also toss some native savanna/woodland seeds back there to help things along. I’ll post an update or two down the road.

 

Back yard progress report #2

It’s late July. We’ve installed the edging around our lawn oval, taken up about half of the sod outside the oval, and cut down the Amur maple in front of the fence.

Back yard progress report

Looks kind of awful right now, but there is a plan, really!

1. The yard waste bin is a permanent feature for now. Oh, well.

2a. The freshly cut Amur maple snag sticks out like a sore thumb, but it will blend in once it weathers a little and is surrounded by plantings.

2b. The dead Amur maple branches will go away soon.

Back yard progress report with labels

3. The pile of buckthorn should be going away soon, although there’s lots more to cut behind the fence.

4. Need to do some lawn re-seeding this fall. (It was patchy before we started trampling all over it to cut down trees and lay edgers.)

5a, 5b, and 5c. The main issue right now is that cutting down the Amur maple in front of the fence revealed just how bare our evergreen trunks are (two white spruces and a white pine). There’s also another Amur behind the fence (5d) that should go. I’ve asked a couple of tree services to come out and give us their advice.

Seems we’ve also got weedy white mulberry, Siberian elm, and an ash. We’ll have the ash taken down this fall while it’s still healthy. (Apparently it costs a lot more to have one taken down once it’s been hit by emerald ash borer, which is, apparently, inevitable.) We might take down the elm, which is leaning quite a bit, and the second Amur maple. One of the arborists thought there was a good chance the pine trees would fill in, at least a little, now that some sun can reach the trunks. Here’s hoping!

[Edit 10/19/17. I’ve learned that ash trees can be treated if they aren’t already infected, or only slightly affected, by emerald ash borer, so we may do that instead of taking it down. I would love to get rid of the Siberian elm and white mulberry. It’ll be hard to get equipment back there (plus, expensive!), but they’re shading out the crab apple and apple tree on the slope. In the years of ignoring the hill behind the fence, I forgot those were even back there because the buckthorn was hiding them. This fall, now that the buckthorn is gone, we can see flocks of robins and cedar waxwings feasting on the tiny crab apples.]