Cindy vs. The Backyard, 2010 edition

This was my backyard last week:

My yard. Mine is an official sense, but you can see the plants have taken over.
My yard. Mine in an official sense, but you can see the plants have taken over.

That kind of pretty plant that has taken over my tiny yard is crownvetch. If you’ve driven along any PA state highway you’ve seen it. Crownvetch was named a beautification plant in Pennsylvania in 1982, and it’s planted along highways and anywhere there’s a risk of erosion. It’s incredibly prolific though, and apparently it’s good food for animals.

Even so, I would recommend that if you see any of it in your yard that you pull it out immediately, or within a few months it will suffocate every other plant in the vicinity. If you grew up on Pennsylvania before the 1990s, you might remember plants like Queen Anne’s lace growing along highways; those are gone, and we have crownvetch to thank.

One plant that crownvetch has no power over, though, is forsythia. Those are the bushes you see in early spring covered in lovely small yellow flowers. It grows at a rate of two feet or more a year, and my yard is bordered with it.

So for the last year or so, I’ve had a battle of the superplants in my back yard: Crownvetch vs. Forsythia, the Deathmatch!

I’m not much of a gardener. I’m not any kind of a gardener, when it comes down to it. I could very easily ignore my yard and let the crownvetch and forsythia and every other kind of plant/weed/critter grow there in peace. I get involved only because the gas and electrical company workers who are required to read the meter apparently don’t carry the proper tools — machetes, scythes, bowie knives — that would help them cross the 30 feet of weeds in my backyard that stand between them and my house meters. Lacking these tools, they just give up, and I get charged estimates for my use through the summer.

And that would be fine with me too, but the various utilities get cranky about too many estimates in a row. Rather than let them cut off my service, I find it prudent to cut down my weeds.

So! Last weekend I put in a few hours pulling and bagging crownvetch, and this weekend I did the same. Then I started chopping down forsythia. Forsythia is hard to bag up — the branches are woody and poke through even contractor grade bags — so I’m just piling it up and arranging to borrow my brother-in-law’s truck to haul it away. My dear friend Eileen has offered to take some of the refuse, and my mom said I could dump the rest on my parents’ property.

I’ve cut down about four forsythia so far and have roughly 12 or maybe 15 to go. Their branches root wherever they touch ground, so I have no idea how many of them I have. I cut the first few to a foot tall — fear not, they don’t mind it one bit; they’ll have regrown several feet of branches and leaves before the end of the 2010 growing season. I’ll cut the bushes along the back property line a little taller for a semblance of privacy (and because I know I’ll be tired by then).

Photo evidence of progress:

Hens & chicks, saved from the crownvetch
Hens & chicks, saved from the crownvetch. Wall still needs help.
The pile of cut forsythia isn't nearly as tall as the forsythia itself
The pile of cut forsythia isn't nearly as tall as the forsythia itself
Doesn't look so bad from above
Doesn't look so bad from above
Under the porch
Under the porch. Why would meter readers be afraid of venturing there?
The cats cautiously approve
The cats cautiously approve

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