I have to fire my compost. Today, during an unusual burst of energy, I decided to spread my finished compost on as much of the garden as I could and begin to transfer the enormous pile of fresh stuff to a newly emptied bin (I use the 3 pile method: one for adding, one for cooking, one for done). But as I started to scoop supposed black gold out of the done section, which had been covered all summer in a sheet of black plastic, I discovered an infestation of Chinese bittersweet roots. No sprouts because of the plastic, but more roots per square inch than Republicans. Or Democrats—put together—for that matter.
Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), if you’re not already acquainted, is one of those dastardly bastard invasive vines that sprout from the merest hint of the idea of a tell-tale orange root and then throttle entire neighborhoods. So I’ve come to the unhappy conclusion that my compost area as it is, is finished. Not usable. Done. Kaput. I have a hard enough job as it is managing bittersweet in the garden without introducing a fresh crop from root cuttings.
The only good news to come out of it is that Z has offered to help me make an impenetrable compost area. We’ll strip the contents out, bagging the otherwise usable compost in hope that the devil roots will die over the winter severed from their life support (no doubt a vine in the neighbor’s derelict woodlot), level the playing field to a root-free depth, and lay a concrete foundation with cinderblock walls at least to shin height. And rather than using airy old shipping pallets, there will be walls. It will be a compost fortress. No bittersweet, English ivy, or even pretty old pokeweed will be allowed inside.
Have you ever had weeds or invasives in your compost? How do you manage it to keep them out?
It’s exhausting watching other people work. I would generally like to do everything myself – if I’m going to be wiped out at the end of the day, there might as well be a good reason for it. But some jobs – like dead tree removal – are much better undertaken by professionals.
The back side of our property is bordered by a privacy screen of overgrown bramble. What was once probably a typical Bristol Portuguese farmlet complete with barn, chicken coops, rabbit hutches, grapes and gardens is now essentially abandoned. The house looks like a rental, the barn is fallingdown and the coops and gardens have been overtaken by every invasive species – from Norway maple to rose of sharon, from bittersweet to Rosa multiflora, from English ivy to poison ivy. They’ve got it all. And … now so do we. Three out of the 6 existing trees on our property have been under direct threat from the bramble. The previous owners told us how beautiful the rose was in the spring and I thought, “uh-oh” – in a stronger language. The white pine was the worst – fully draped in bittersweet and rose and although it limped along our first year, it succumbed this last. The only things holding it upright during this winter’s wind storms were the tentacles that killed it. I certainly didn’t have to worry about it falling on the house. Lazy gardener that I am though, I couldn’t just leave it indefinitely to rot and drop its bits on my beds. I also knew that I couldn’t take it down myself.
Lucky for us then that our Best Man, Eric started a tree work business with his brother Bradford. Whipple Tree, LLC to the rescue! They showed up Saturday armed with more sharp toothed gear than should ever be slung from one body, miles of rope, a chipper all the way from the Sunshine State, 2 bio diesel trucks and a trailer. Eric made his monkey way up the tree while Brad orchestrated gear and debris and teased me mercilessly about the “grave” (which, I guess when considered along with our “dungeon” down cellar, is an especially skeevy looking thing). Two and a half hours later, the white pine was felled, the bits and brambles chipped and we all stood around the kitchen inhaling Z-made guacamole and chips and sucking down ciders.
Their finesse with the felling was truly impressive and I’m not just saying that because they’re friends and letting us pay them in trade. The pair of pears weren’t touched (aside from a little judicious pruning of one wayward branch), the bulbs coming up at the base of the tree weren’t squarshed and even though it looked like every branch was falling on my tiny gooseberry, not a stick or stem of it snapped.
We have a pretty good view now of the thicket in our neighbor’s yard that is sending feelers into our remaining Junipers and with our neighbors’ permission (or without – under cover of darkness if need be) I’ll hop the fence and lop the thigh-thick vines off at the knees. I’m pretty sure that’s a job I can do myself.
Have you had tree work done? Did you wear yourself out watching them work?