There is a weeping cherry tree in our front yard. Sad sappy wounds, thinning foliage, and dry brittle branches speak of it’s decline. There used to be two small evergreens under it. One got crispy and died in a year’s time. I took both out. We were debating whether to cut the dying cherry down or not. My thinking was “Well, it’s going down anyway; lets finish it off, put in a useful tree, and install some new gardening beds.” I get like that…more often than I’d like to think. Another line of thinking was that the neighbors enjoy this tree, it still puts on a beautiful flower show in early spring, it casts just the right amount of shade for respite from the sun, and it will take years to get another tree to satisfying maturity. We decided to hold off from cutting the tree. That was the turning point. I began to do some renovation by pulling up the ground ivy that had taken over the space under the tree. I found the soil to be quite eroded around the root mound of the tree and down the slope to the road. It would have been a mistake to plant a young tree, just to have it repeat the cherry’s struggle with dehydration and malnourishment. Building the soil now will make everything else work better. Maybe it will lengthen the life of this tree. Certainly, it would be an action of thoughtful preparation for any new tree that will be planted in the future.
I started with getting a truckload of horse manure. I looked at the site, over and over, and from every angle. I brought in shrub prunings, tree cuttings, weeds, rotting logs, and all the kinds of organic material that tend to pile up around here. I created a curving berm to keep water and soil from, quickly, flowing down the ruts and grooves and into the street. My nephew, Hunter, caught sight of me as I hosed down the berm layer. “Watering your debris.” It wasn’t a question; rather, an observation which invited, not demanded, explanation. Nice! I gave him my story and went on my merry sheet mulching way. I covered the material with manure and then began to “draw,” with manure, how I envisioned the additional beds. As I did this, I had in mind the possibility of planting a new tree, paths for access, and creating a cool, comfortable space for relaxing and socializing..in the front yard! As you can see from the photos, there is much more to be done. I need to complete the sheet mulching. I want to put on deep layers of manure, leaf mulch, and straw on top of the cardboard. I’ll leave those layers for a month or two. That will give a little time for the beds to compost and settle in and it will, also, be better timing for planting perennials. I, also, want to get some woodchips in for the paths. Meanwhile, I’ll work on representing my planting ideas, electronically, with Google Sketchup. You’ll see!