Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Return of the Forsythia Monster

It's been less than nine months since we defeated the monster forsythia hedge on the south side of our yard, clearing it away to make room for our new little cherry bushes. But just when we thought it was safe to go back in the garden...

DA dum...DA dum...

The Forsythia Monster has resurfaced, this time on the north side of the yard. After several weeks of alternating heat and rain, the hedge on that side, which was apparently just biding its time, has suddenly grown to mammoth proportions and started attacking and devouring our clothesline. Aieee!

For now, I've managed to beat back its advance with a pair of pruning shears, lopping off all the branches that were fouling the line itself or snagging on the laundry. But even as I snipped and trimmed, it grew steadily more apparent to me that my efforts would only hold it off temporarily. If we're ever going to truly free our yard from the clutches of the Forsythia Monster, then this hedge is going to have to go, too.

Unfortunately, clearing out this hedge is going to be a bit more complicated than taking down the one on the opposite side. For one thing, the bushes are standing not at ground level, but on top of (and partly on the sides of) a short, steep slope that runs along the side of the yard, knee-high and one end and waist-high at the other. And the bushes themselves are just as big as the ones on the south side, so they'd be looming considerably above the level of our heads as we worked on them. Also, there are more obstacles in the way, like the clotheslines, the garden fence, and the house itself, so we'd have less room to maneuver.

The biggest problem, though, is that these forsythia bushes standing on the slope may be the only thing that keeps the slope itself standing, rather than eroding away to nothing. So whenever we pull them out, we'll have to have something else ready to go in and take their place right away. We can't really do what we did on the south side, removing the old bushes in the fall and then waiting until spring to put in the new ones. And that means that we can't really tackle the northern wall of forsythia until we have a replacement ready to go.

So, I guess the first step in preparing to take on this new Forsythia Monster is deciding what we'd like to put in its place. I'd love to put in some blueberry bushes, but unfortunately, blueberries don't tend to do well in clay soil like we have; they like it sandy and acidic. Most varieties also grow too tall to be easily harvested if they're standing atop a 2-to-3-foot slope. However, it might still be possible to plant them if we build a permanent raised bed along the fence. This would most likely mean containing the slope itself with a retaining wall and then filling in the area on top with heavily amended soil. The question is, is this really worth the effort, or would it be better to go for some other plant or shrub? Ideally, I'd like whatever replaces the forsythia to expand our edible landscape, but is there any sort of plant we could put there that would be suitable for our site and would also provide us with food?
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