Sunday, January 26, 2003

Digging in the Dirt - Adventures in Landscaping

What I did all weekend

A good friend of mine Rod Zollinger came down from Seattle this weekend to help me with a little landscaping. Rod works in Seattle as a professional landscaper, he works for a company that regularly does million dollar landscape jobs so he knows his stuff. When we first moved into our house in March of 2000 the previous owners of two years had done very little landscaping in the back. One of the first things I did was plant 10 redwoods in the front and backyard. We have a hill that takes up a good 1/2 of our backyard, at the bottom of the hill sits a retaining wall, which was backfilled with topsoil. The hill itself is pretty much solid clay, and in 2 1/2 years the redwood's in the hill itself had grown about 6 inches versus the ones at the based of the hill in the topsoil had grown around 4-6 feet. In the picture below you can see large redwoods all in a line and the nubby ones to the right up the hill.

So I came up with the grand plan to move them. a) It was clear the trees in the topsoil were going to outpace the other trees, and it was going to start looking really funny. b) the tree's along the bottom were going to block the view of the hill. c) I wanted to put some steps up the hillside and they occupied the most logical choice. d) I had wanted for a while a "wall" between me and my neighbor's next door. The plan was to move them along the fence line here:

Rod arrived Thursday evening and we went to work Friday. The weather was gorgeous 70 degrees.

It became pretty apparent a lot of moving was going to be involved. Moving sprinkler lines, moving the retaining wall back to make steps, moving all the plants that currently ran along the fence line, moving a lot of dirt from around plants and from holes, and lastly moving 4 huge trees (the tallest was around 16 feet). Friday we made the plan, bought supplies (more plants if you can believe it, we somehow crazily though we could plant a small side hill between the front and back yards) and started working on the first redwood.

Here is the process for moving trees. First you dig straight down with a straight spade in a circle around the tree, about 14 inches from the trunk. (This will vary depending on the size of the tree). This cuts the roots that are growing out from the tree, Next you cut a trench about 9-12 inches outside of this ring at a 45 degree angle. This picture shows the top down view, the circle in the center is the three, the red ring is the first vertical cut and the outside ring is the edge of the 45 degree trench.

This leaves you with a tire-shapped ring of earth around the tree. Then you spade at a 45 degree under the bottom of the trench to make a wedge-shapped root ball.

The hard part is ensuring that all the roots along the bottom of the wedge are severed. We accomplished the by hammering a pry bar under the tree, then lifting while the other cut the roots with a spade or loppers. Finally you lift the tree again and put two swathes of burlap under tree, which you tie around the trunk to secure the rootball. By Friday's end, we had only burlapped one tree, no moving had yet taken place. I fell into bed exhausted.

Saturday, we got up early and started at dawn, I put a call into the guy who cuts my lawn to see if he could come help, around 10 am he said he would be there in an hour or so. Rod and I started in on burlapping tree #2. By this time we decided to only move 3 of the large trees and leave one of them by the fence. Rod assured me this was common landscaping practice to discuss the possibilities, consider the alternatives and reduce work wherever possible. The helpers arrived at noon and by 1 they had all the holes dug and Rod and I had burlapped the last tree. We then pulled a blue tarp underneath the root ball and with 4 of us, 1 to a corner (with one supporting the trunk) we drug the trees of the wall and into their respective holes. By dark on Saturday we had moved all the trees, replanted almost all of the plants and had started moving the retaining wall back for steps.

That night we went and saw Bowling for Columbine, a disturbing and thought provoking film and like the night before fell into bed.

Sunday we woke up even earlier, and I finished the wall while Rod staked the trees and cleaned up our mess and I hurried off to church. By 4 PM Rod was packed and ready to go the airport.

The "job" was done, at least for now.

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