On coming around to a point of view

About 8-9 years ago, I was helping my friend Jason in his backyard NE Minneapolis garden. The yard was an interesting one: sloping steeply up to the alley, it had been filled by a previous owner with all manner of garbage like railroad ties, broken-up concrete, bricks and pavers. We could only speculate it was that guy’s attempt at terracing, but it was so chaotic that it was simply unclear. It took him (and friends like me) a long time to make it a productive garden again.

So we’re attacking one area near the back fence, on the property line. He’s sawing the branch of a tree that has grown through the fence. “Damned weed trees,” said Jason.

Weed trees? (Such heresy, I thought.) “What do you mean, weed trees?”

“Damned maples. Any of them. Box elders, bur oaks, and don’t get me started about willows,” he said.

As a city person, he was obviously crazy. Trees, as weeds? Well, it took me a couple more years to come around to his point of view. My theretofore easy definition of weed = anything growing where you do not want it does now include trees.

Maples are our particular bugaboo here. Their little helicopter propeller fruit readily plant themselves any- and everywhere. I do get my revenge, though, on the saplings: they make great tomato stakes. Cheap tomato stakes, too, as it happens!

12 responses to “On coming around to a point of view

  1. lol

    Yes, I’ve been trying the same tack on our Chinese sumac, which is not only weedy, it’s invasive (is that redundant?) and allelopathic. The kids think it makes excellent swords, though, and I have a pile of stake size saplings in the corner waiting for a job.

  2. Lemonade from lemons aye? 😀
    our “booger” is bermuda grass. Great for pastures in the summer…but hell on the garden.

    by the way…up for a “meme”? Check out my June 16th entry on my blog and see if you want to do it.

  3. : ) I re-pot the maples and transfer them to the naked fence line. Sometimes, I turn them into little Bonsai. It works !!!! I must admit their helicopter pods are amazing. The success rate is a miracle. I cant believe it.

  4. “Weed trees,” I totally get it. My last house had a damn acacia (down it came), and now — this is so weird — we have green gage plum tree weeds coming up All Over the Yard.
    Sometimes taking this stuff out is as satisfying as putting stuff in.

  5. My Husband’s motto: Death to ALL popcorn trees!

    We have clumping bamboo. We need to remove it for our deck when we get ready to build it. I want to move it, he wants to destroy it. We’ll compromise. For now, it makes great garden stakes and FOR FREE!

  6. I do battle against golden locust trees. They have to be removed when they are tiny before they have a chance to grow their horrifying thorns and fight back. Unfortunately, I learned about the thorns through experience; it’s so unnerving to be outwitted by a weed tree. They are spectacular in Forest Park, where they grow in masses, but I don’t live in Forest Park, so they can’t stay.

  7. Hello! It’s a small world, as I live in NE Mpls, so I was surprised to read that in your post. I have been enjoying your website for a couple of months. Keep up the great work!

  8. Danielle, speaking of trees, weren’t you guys looking into some good fenceline trees for your critters? I’ve mistakenly pollarded quite a few things (locusts mainly). Sumac doesn’t like our soil but we do have quite a few.

    Monica, thanks (?) for thinking of me. The blog today kind of addresses it. I just guess what I would miss would be what everyone would miss…but then I think about how half the world does without on a daily basis and I feel…odd. But no bermuda grass here thankfully. We do have some nasty stuff that grows by rhizomes and it’s a bear to get rid of once it makes an appearance. It’s probably good ruminant forage though…

    CC, just think: you can run an orchard! With all your local fans I am sure you can pot a few up for their home use… But an acacia! So foreign-sounding!

    Jules, yeah, bamboo can be a bear, I have heard. I read in Organic Gardening that the one way to get rid of it is to get some pond-lining material (it’s actually EPDM membrane roofing material) and cover the stuff. Light and air can’t get through. If you want to get rid of your free supply of garden stakes that is 🙂

    Pamela, did you know they grew their thorns to keep mastodons from eating them? True story. (Gawd but my brain is full of dumb facts like that: I am no fun at cocktail parties.) But I agree: my first attempt to do in the weed trees got me a case of poison ivy. Unnerving and annoying, but I now know better!

    Hey Jack! Jason’s house is at Polk/30th. It’s an odd area with lots of hills and the clanking of the railroad. He’s a married old man now living in St. Paul but still owns that house (rents it out). It’s the tiniest place: one bedroom, less than 450 s.f. total. So having that back yard workable was really important…for half the year, at least. Fun neighborhood though. I lived in Lyndale, kind of near Uptown, walking distance to Lucia’s, which was all-important to me at the time.

  9. Tomato stakes! Brilliant! I’ve been grappling with guilt cutting them down, but they’re propagating like mad.

    I stumbled upon your blog looking for info on weeds in Michigan. I moved into a new house this February and the previous yard care (or lack thereof) was scandalous. Didn’t find what I was looking for, but I enjoyed reading through.

  10. The bane of my gardening existence: MAPLES!
    I HATE them. They are all over our fair city. I’m in constant battle with these weed-trees in my garden, in my yard, destroying our retaining walls.
    We were laughing at a friend the other day for being so over-productive that she was weeding at the playground while her son played.
    To defend herself she said, “Yeah, but they were MAPLES, you guys!”

    Oh, well, in that case…

  11. Your maple seedlings will also make a fine fence,both posts and rails.

    There is one not far from here and is it ever cute, it’s only about 3′ tall and also has green chicken wire to keep the chickens out of the kitchen herb garden.

    How about more pics of that cute sea bright bantam? I tried to find one local earlier with no luck. But I think I will add one to my order next year.

    • Karyn, hah! If you lived closer you could take your pick of which sebright bantam you want! They’re all boys I fear. Pretty though certainly…

      You know, as a city girl I certainly used the branches I could find to make a lot of woven fences to mark off the gardens. I loved making them, I loved tending to them, and only one visiting dog just LOVED to pull them apart so they actually stuck around for a long time. I sure wish I had a lot more time to do more things with all these sticks though. I wish I had more time period, don’t you?

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