Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Free gold: Neighbor trims trees, I mulch like crazy

So yesterday I heard a chainsaw start up outside and instinctively jumped up out of my chair. What did I find but a tree service getting ready to butcher trim my neighbor's trees? I walked over and asked the young man behind the saw if he'd mind dumping the chopped up chips and leaves in my drive when he was done. He readily agreed, doubly as he saves on a trip to the recycling center and a $10 fee.

Just a side note: this is the wrong time of year to trim trees. I could go on for pages and not do the topic justice, but the short version based on my novice understanding is:
  • Trees are trying to feed their roots with the last sun energy of the year right now. If you chop off a lot of limbs they can react in ways you wouldn't expect, like desperately sending out new shoots to try to make up the deficit, either now or in the spring. Remember: pruning promotes growth!
  • All the coming wetness is more likely to harbor disease of all types.
  • The "best" (rule of thumb) time to prune is in the winter while the tree is dormant, preferably late in winter when there isn't so much wet time left and more sun to help things dry out.
  • If you want to reduce the vigor of the tree, do it over a few years.
I know it's tempting to prune at the end of the summer when you can see just how laden a tree is. But what I see so many people do to their trees is not going to make a particularly attractive tree anyway. If you just "top" the tree or lop off a bunch of branches at the middle you're going to get a lot of small shoots below where the cut is, which isn't usually what people want. The thing to do is to either observe the tree over a long period of time to get an idea what needs to be done to it, or have someone who is truly in tune with the habits of different trees who can look at it while dormant and do a proper job of training them. I'm sure there are real arborists out there, but they are probably a lot more expensive than the "tree service" you usually see. Also maybe the "tree service" will do it if you ask, but hardly anyone wants to pony up the money in the end and isn't happy with the lack of immediately visible results.

Anyway, enough digression. I got this beautiful pile that is a pretty good mix of chipped wood and cut green leaves. About a 70/30 ratio of "brown" to "green" by my reckoning. Here's the pile. Don't let the size of that giant shovel fool you!



Side note, I used this as an excuse to buy a giant 10 cubic foot wheelbarrow, which allowed me to move what came to about four and a half yards in about 60 minutes. That's actually 40 minutes between the two photos and a previous 20 minutes last night with the smaller wheelbarrow.


After lunch I'll sweep the drive. It's been needing it anyway. Actually, it pretty much always needs it because those birch trees are literally always dropping either leaves, seeds, or pollen in some quantity. I'm going to use the chips to mulch over the winter, compost some of it, but mostly let it sit for a full five seasons and plan to use it in the spring of 2015. Of course by then it will be mixed with many other sources. Here we go!

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