Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I Can Breathe!

Last year the people who lived in the house next door to me put in a new driveway.  (They have since sold the house, and new neighbors have moved in.)  Their old driveway was a split driveway, with grass/dirt down the middle.  The new driveway fills in that space and is solid all the way across; it is also wider than the old driveway. 

I have a huge pecan tree in the front yard sits on the edge of my yard, and when they poured the new driveway they had to cut off a tree root that was probably about 10 inches in diameter.  I was less than thrilled, but they were set on the new design they had chosen and there really wasn't anything I could do.  They had a tree company out for a consultation, and I had a tree company out for a consultation.  The consensus was that cutting off the root and making the driveway solid would cause the tree trauma - obviously cutting a large root isn't beneficial - and the new driveway would deprive the roots in that area of oxygen and water -- but wouldn't kill it.  My house research indicates that the tree is about 100 years old.  Although I haven't gone on a tree-to-tree inspection on my street, I think it may be the largest tree on the block.  I feel some custodial responsibility.

I learned in my research that in the 40's the tree was struck by lightening, and to save it, concrete was poured into the trunk where it split.  I can't see any evidence of that, so I guess the tree must have mended the break.  It seems like a crazy solution but clearly it worked.  And someone else down the line installed a steel cable that supports the limb that hangs over the street.  I had the tree service inspect that last year, and they said it was still in good shape, and that no additional cabling was needed.  All of that to say, others before me have expended efforts to give this tree a long life.

Both tree services last year suggested that I cut a circle of grass away from the trunk of the tree and mulch it.  They also suggested that I give it a nutrient injection.  I must admit, I didn't do either of those things at the time -- but they are both being done this Spring.

To wit, I give you the results of my work this past Sunday:

Not only will the tree be happier, but it's the first step towards abolishing my front lawn... [evil laughter]

To me that circle looks deceivingly small.  But compare it to the size of the neighbor's car... it's almost as wide as the car is long.  When Red and I stand on opposing sides of the tree trunk and reach our arm around the trunk, we can't touch hands -- it's that massive.   Monsta' big!

I cut a circle in the grass around the trunk with a shovel.  I used a shovel handle to measure around the trunk for where to cut the circle; I'd estimate that it's 4 feet out from the trunk. Then I removed all the St. Augustine grass inside the circle.  I composted what would fit in my compost tumblers and bagged the rest.  Then I tilled the soil, and picked out more grass pieces, and raked it to give a gentle berm around the perimeter.  Next I put down  commercial grade weed stop fabric and pinned it in place, and topped it off with 5 bags of mulch.  That's a lot of mulch!  I didn't want the weed stop fabric to show...

A day after I got that done, we got a huge thunderstorm over 2 days.  I checked my rain gauge this morning:

It's hard to see until you know what you are looking at; it holds 5 inches, and it's full at 5 inches.  It was still raining pretty hard when I took this photo...

So the tree got a great soaking - perfect timing. 

I just love my huge pecan tree -- it's big and beautiful, it provides great shade, it provides a home for a lot of wildlife, it's perfect for Halloween spider webs and Christmas lights, and it has a history.  I'm so happy it's in my yard!

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