In 2017 I posted about the overbearing myrtle tree in the corner of our front garden. That post discussed in permaculture terms the various yields and negatives of this fixed asset. Well, exciting things happened with the tree last weekend and I wanted to provide an update.

Tree in the corner: haircut in progress

We deliberated long and hard about what to do with this tree that is such an overbearing fixture of the property. What would the garden be like if we got rid of it altogether? What would it mean for wildlife? Or for drainage? For the balance of sun and shade? For the ability to grow more fruit? And for the wider environment? After much consideration we decided that the tree in the corner is too much a part of the character of the front yard, and that we couldn’t simply remove it completely. Yes, it has a certain dominance, but as an elder of the suburb, it is deserving of its place.

So, instead, a significant haircut was in order. My neighbour and I did some amateur pruning of the lower branches 2 years ago. However, the tree still loomed over the house and encircled the power lines.

The Arborist

I logged a call with Wellington Electricity over 2 years ago as they apparently commission an arborist to cut trees away from the lines for free. However, despite months of calls chasing them, nothing ever eventuated.

It was through a chance conversation with a colleague that we were put on to a local arborist who offered us a very competitive quote. He was fantastic to work with and dropped a significant weight of branches in just a few hours.

Tree in the corner: after the haircut

Valuing Resources

The removal of so much tree prunings provided an opportunity to generate a large amount of mulch for the garden.

As I build fertility in the garden, I’m always looking for sources of organic matter and compost to mulch and feed the soil around plants.

The Beast

For this I hired some serious machinery to turn the 15cm think branches into fine chipped wood pulp. This thing was an absolute beast of a machine and I admit it was both terrifying and thrilling to operate. It made easy work of chewing through the mass of branches the arborist left behind.

Retaining and using the tree cuttings employs two of the core permaculture principles:

  • Use and value renewable resources
  • Produce no waste

Once spread over the garden, the mulch will contribute indirectly to two additional permaculture principles:

  • Catching and storing energy – in terms of helping retain moisture in the soil
  • Obtaining a yield – helping nourish the soil of food-producing plants

That’s not to mention to weed-suppressing and soil conditing value of mulch. It’s all about relationships! When you start thinking in this way it becomes so obvious.

Casualties

There were a couple of casualties during the tree pruning job. One of my gloves got sucked into the mulcher. As you can see, it didn’t fare well.

Fits like a glove?

If you watch the video below carefully you will see my poor glove’s final seconds as it is trawled to its grisly death.

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SAFETY NOTE: I have since learned that one should stand to the side of the hopper when feeding branches into heavy duty mulching machinery. This reduces the risk of being pulled in. I am not demonstrating good practice in this clip.

Another casualty was our dual plum, growing in the vicinity of the big tree. The arborist was super careful when dropping the branches but one unfortunately bounced awkwardly and fell onto the plum. It couldn’t be helped.

The plum was due for a prune anyway. My only concern is that this is a dual grafted plum, and the broken branch may be the only growth of one of the grafted varieties. I will be trying to encourage a new branch to grow from the same wood in the hope that it can retain its dual identity. An interesting challenge to someone new to fruit tree pruning.

Mulch!

Look at this lovely lot! I can’t wait to get it spread around the garden. I’ll need to be patient though.

Fresh tree chippings will need to sit for several months before they can be used beneath fruit trees. This is because fresh green wood needs nitrogen in order to initiate the breakdown process, and therefore initially sequesters nitrogen from the soil. After a few months the decomposing starts and the process reverses, making nutrients available to plants.

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