Last Saturday I got outside for the first garden work day of the season. Most of the garden areas were either snow covered or too wet to work, so I decided to tackle the much neglected dry in the winter, even drier in the summer weed pit behind my garage.
As my grandfather would have said, "Criminentlies!"
For the past few years I have largely ignored this area. Given the conditions, I'm amazed that anything grows here on what appears to be an artificially raised patch of land in the dry shade of locusts and white pines. A thicket of pricker bushes, a tangle of poison ivy and lack of time has kept me at bay. Oh and the snakes. Have I mentioned that I
In my defense, this is not my property and by the time I finish maintaining the gardens I do have on my property I don't usually have any time left. However, since this patch of land is only accessible from my property, if I don't maintain it, nobody will.
Standing in the work area you get a direct view of the back of my garage. To a certain extent this location falls into the category of "out of sight, out of mind". But it shouldn't.
Take a gander to the right and the shed garden is in full view.
My goal for the day was to get rid of the thorn bushes, which I believe are some sort of wild raspberry, although I don't ever recall seeing fruit. The arching canes root at every spot where they touch ground. To get them out I had to section back each stem until I got to the root then either gently pull them out or use the shovel to dig them out. Progress was slower than I expected. After a few hours I had infiltrated the tangled mess and was able to walk through the two Locust tree trunks for the first time in years.
But I still had a long way to go.
Buried beneath the weedy mess is a tarp covered pile of topsoil. My goal is to extricate the tarp, level out the soil, plant a row of Thuja plicata 'Green Giant' and attempt to manage the potential for weed regrowth with heavy mulch. Most likely additional top soil will have to be brought in to create a berm of sorts because less than a foot below the surface is what appears to be a base of trap rock.
By late afternoon I had removed the thicket along with some Rosa multiflora and tons of Bittersweet. I was able to walk back by the fence and pull out most of the dead branches that have collected over two hurricanes and a fall snow storm. Poison ivy is a problem in this area and I am very allergic. By some stroke of luck, I managed to avoid contact but I may have to wait for things to leaf out before attempting to remove more of the ground weeds.
As I widen out the view you can see why I'm so eager to manage this area and create a solid screen. I mentioned before that I live behind a small shopping plaza.
When I bought this house in 1995 the plaza was completely screened by a 30-40 foot tall hedge of hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis). Unfortunately before I even knew it existed, wooly adelgid killed those trees and they had to be removed. When the deciduous trees leaf out the view fades somewhat but last summer the plaza removed most of the small saplings on the other side of the fence and opened up the view beyond my tolerance level.
Despite the view, for the most part, the plaza isn't a bad neighbor to have. In my town the alternative would most likely be the backyard decks of two or three homes peering right on to my patio. As it stands right now, I enjoy almost complete privacy. The area I'm attempting to maintain is located on a 25 foot strip of zoned buffer property. Not a bad deal really-I can use it and someone else pays the taxes.
Below is a view from my shed garden back to the area I just cleared. Years ago the wood fence sections were attached to an existing chain link fence to stop the dogs from barking at anything that moved and to create privacy at the ground level.
Up until the spring of 2009, this area was heavily shaded by a huge Sycamore tree. Growing evergreens was virtually impossible. In the spring of 2010 I planted a trio of Thuja plicata 'Green Giant' on five foot centers mostly to see how they would perform. Conditions that year were extremely dry and despite regular watering, I lost one of them before the end of the summer. The remaining two have grown a respectable couple of feet since.
In 2004 I planted eight of these along my driveway and some of them are close to 20 feet tall now and doing well. I would be thrilled to get that kind of growth from the trees behind the shed and garage but the conditions are drier and shadier. Even so I still believe the Green Giants are my best choice for a solid evergreen screen.
So there you have it. Up until now I've only shown my garden from the best possible angles. Every property has positives and negatives. All things considered I'm happy with the location of my house and garden but I consider this view a big negative.
In the next few weeks I plan to start preparing the planting site and purchasing the trees I need. If anyone has suggestions on screening a large ugly view like this I'd love to hear them.