Whipple’s urban forest

Today the sun rose out of the East, a perfect orange circle moving across the wall in my apartment. It was eery – forest fire sun – and I realized, it’s burn season. A gal I talked to from Red Bluff says people are keeping their animals inside, it’s so bad up there.

I’m conflicted – the smokey air irritates my throat and mouth. But, the air temperature is so nice, it’s just impossible to sit indoors all the time, watching the yard work pile up. So, the other day I resolved to wear a mask when I go outside – a paper mask for working around the yard and a brightly colored bandana for outings. Walmart has bandanas in all kinds of colors for about $2 a piece. They also offer a halfway decent deal on bananas, but you can check that out for yourself.

As you all know, I’ve been working on getting rid of sections of my lawn where the sun beats so hot watering is just a waste. When I just plain stopped watering a couple of years ago, I found out, weeds can survive, even thrive, on very little water. Sticker weeds took over my yard so bad, our dogs got sores on their feet. Badges got sores so bad we took him to see the Doc, who was shocked and told us to keep him around the patio for a couple of days. That’s when I decided I had to do something.

We had a huge black tarp from a roof job we’d done a while back, so I started cutting it into sections and dragging it out over the yard, weighting it down with stray bricks and rocks. It worked like gangbusters – it didn’t just kill the crabgrass and sticker weeds, it vaporized them.

Here I've moved the tarp aside and swept up a pile of stickers.

Here I’ve moved the tarp aside and swept up a pile of dead crabgrass and stickers.

 

If you take a close look into the wheel barrow, you'll see skads of those nasty little barrel clover stickers.

If you take a close look into the wheel barrow, you’ll see skads of those nasty little barrel clover stickers.

The problem being, can’t get the plastic too close to trees, because it would kill the roots. I figured cardboard would be better, let some moisture through to the trees while still starving the weeds of light. I saw people were doing this around town so, as crappy as it looked at first, I decided to try it.  I started collecting big cardboard boxes – be careful telling your friends you’re collecting cardboard!  I’ve been flattening  and placing them around the shade line of our little redwood tree. Then my husband bought me a truck load of bark from this new business over at 20th and Fair Streets ($20 for a yard of very nice shredded cedar) , and I covered the boxes as best I could. This below is one yard.

I didn't want to get the cardboard too close to the tree because it definitely blocks water, so I still get weeds and crabgrass around the base. I'll try more bark.

I didn’t want to get the cardboard too close to the tree because it definitely blocks water, so I still get weeds and crabgrass around the base. I’ll try more bark.

Meanwhile the plastic has sat all Summer, and it’s starting to rot into shreds.

In some spots bright green crabgrass is already busting through. This tarp isn't going to last much longer.

In some spots bright green crabgrass is already busting through. This tarp isn’t going to last much longer.

I have to move fast or Winter rains (and I promise, they’re coming alright!) will just bring back all those weeds again.  When I get it cleaned up my husband says he’ll go get me another load or two of bark.

 Rich on This Old House says you need at least six inches of mulch to block weeds.

But then what? This big expanse of bark for my dogs to track all over creation? We had to think, what will we do with this bark area, besides, bake bark in the sun.

Almost on cue, my husband’s phone rang, and it was Whipple. Whipple has been working on his house, getting it all ADA compliant for his beautiful daughter Kachina, who is the greatest thing on wheels. My husband’s been offering his consulting services on the floor work, and  went over to see how their new wheelchair friendly bathroom is working out.  When he came home, the back of our pick-up truck was full of baby trees.

Look at this selection of trees - three red buds, a crepe myrtle, and several cork oaks grown from tiny acorns. Oh yeah, they're going to be mighty!

Look at this selection of trees – three red buds, a crepe myrtle, and several cork and blue oaks grown from tiny acorns. Oh yeah, they’re going to be mighty!

Whipple has a green thumb. Everything he gives us grows like crazy. He gave me this selvia in a black plastic garbage bag, having dug it out of his garden on a whim and having nothing else to put it in. I’ve put it along a section of fence in the baking sun, it takes hardly any water at all.

This selvia or "blue sage" has grown along this hot section of fence for a couple of years now, spreading a little more each spring. It's really tough, you can forget it until it looks like it's about to die, and then a little water will bring it right back.

This selvia or “blue sage” has grown along this hot section of fence for a couple of years now, spreading a little more each spring. It’s really tough, you can forget it until it looks like it’s about to die, and then a little water will bring it right back.

This is a “buck brush” he gave us in a gallon pot years ago.

This enormous bush survives off nothing but Winter rain.

This enormous bush survives off nothing but Winter rain. We had no idea it would get so big. 

Here’s the red bud he gave us about five years ago.

I can't get over how this red bud has grown since we planted it here in the shade of an oak tree.

I can’t get over how this red bud has grown since we planted it here in the shade of an oak tree.

Here’s it’s little brother, I separated the roots.

These red bud are also very drought tolerant, but they do need a squirt now and then.

These red bud are also very drought tolerant, but they do need a squirt now and then.

So, when I saw the new trees Whipple sent, I had an instant vision of our new back yard, transformed from the plains of the Kalihari, to an urban forest. It gave me new motivation to get out there and bust a gut. 

Hah! Try getting any work done with these guys around.

As  I was squatting down to get a picture of my work area, Badges came to remind me that all work and no play is contrary to Nature.

As I was squatting down to get a picture of my work area, Badges came to remind me that all work and no play is contrary to Nature.

Statistics have indicated that people who have pets live longer, happier, healthier lives. I’ve read recently that people who own dogs are less likely to be the victims of crime. I’ve read they make happier marriages,  happier children. I know my grandmother seemed to come back to life when we got her a little dog. She complained about him all the time, but didn’t seem to be satisfied unless he was directly under her feet.  

I have dogs because they are irresistible. 

When Badges wants to play he picks up any toy - a ball, a stick, a piece of wood stolen from my husband's shop - and starts smashing it all over us.

When Badges wants to play he picks up any toy – a ball, a stick, a piece of wood stolen from my husband’s shop – and starts smashing it all over us.

 

Oh, now I have to stop and rub Biscuit's belly, it's in the contract.

Oh, now I have to stop and rub Biscuit’s belly, it’s in the contract. They’ll roll around like this until he offends her in some way, and then she just attacks him. Her coat is just filthy from rolling in the dirt, and you can see a sticker stuck to her chest right there.

 

Here he seems to be supervising the jobsite.

Having pissed Biscuit off finally, he comes back to me. I lose my resolve to work and go off to toss the ball. This job may take awhile.

I’ll keep you posted!

 

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Whipple’s urban forest

  1. Weed barriers can be a beast indeed. The trick I’ve learned when using cardboard is that you need to soak it in a bucket/tub before placing it on the ground. Then when you cover it with the mulch, soak it again with the hose. This helps promote drainage and breath-ability as well as insure a good contact with the dirt. Same goes for wet newspaper. Crabgrass however seems to blast its way through just about any substance. Steel plates I’d imagine.

    I love your pups as well, I’d be lost without mine.

    • Thanks, that’s a good tip, I’ll follow that through. I can soak it in the dog’s swimming pool, I don’t think they’ll care!

      I have found, crabgrass makes a great lawn as long as you water it and mow it, keep it healthy. The minute you don’t water it, the stickers move in. I leave the crabgrass in the shade where it’s easier to keep nice, and I have started blocking those areas where the sun is so intense, the crabgrass only grows in winter. It’s a constant battle, but I think I’m getting somewhere.

      • I’ll try to see crabgrass in a better light, but no promises. I’ve been weeding here most of the day so far. It’s time to redo my flagstone patio the proper way. It’ll take weeks to redo. I wish I put a barrier down when I had the chance. Oh well, lesson learned.

      • My friend’s mom told me she spent a month removing crab grass by hand from a little strip in her yard, she wanted roses. She didn’t want to put that crab grass in her compost pile, so stuffed it into an old metal garbage can, I guess she figured she’d put it in her tote for the garbage man. She set it alongside the garage and forgot about it. The following spring she found the grass in that can had turned forest green again and started growing up the side of her garage, threatening to take over the rain gutter.

        I can’t hate something that wants to live that bad. It’s like having a wild thing for a pet, sometimes it works for you and sometimes it works against you!

      • Holy cats! That’s one for the books right there. I’d wager that grass jiggled the window sash a few times in an attempt to break in and make long distance calls and order pay-per-view!

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