We had to remove 3 pigeon pea trees recently. The uncharacteristic wet weather in 2010 - 2011 had caused one to fall over. We could've gotten another few years out of these trees for their shade, nitrogen capturing ability and free mulch they drop with their leafs, but it was only a matter of time before they needed to go. They were, after all, approaching 4 years of age, when they tend to start deteriorating around 5 years.
We decided to use their remains to feed a new bed. It seemed fair, considering the trees spent their productive years, feeding and protecting the same patch of ground right underneath their canopy. A worthy legacy would be to build a new garden bed for a new generation of plants, right there. So one afternoon I set to work, breaking down the trees.
Rather than cut the whole tree down, I started by breaking off branches, and then snapping off the twigs. They were easily dropped where I was going to build the bed. No need for barrows or walking, they were snapped and dropped.
This is how easy is was to snap large branches with my bare hands. No need for pruners here, or a lot of muscle. I really enjoyed the slow movement of breaking the tree down without the need for tools. I did use garden gloves though. I wouldn't be able to do this with healthy trees and new shoots.
The trees even helped me break the larger branches into more manageable pieces. I used the body of another tree to brace the branch I wanted to snap. Because I wasn't rushing, I had the time to contemplate the easiest way to break the components up. This is why I prefer not to rush at a job with a machine, although machines have a useful place too. I did use an axe for the much larger pieces.
The thicker branches (in this case the trunks) were piled on top of the smaller twigs. All that was left to deal with, were the stubs and extensive root system underground.
Rather than disturb the ground by pulling the roots, they were left to hold the ground together. As they slowly rot under the soil, a host of living organisms will turn them into humus (I love a good work crew) and fill in the cavities left behind. The next job was adding more to the bed...
Building up the bed
I had some limes on the tree that weren't going to be used, along with some lemons growing fungus on them. So I went around the yard, looking for fallen fruit and placed it on the bed - along with some grass nearby. Then it was time to bring in some machinery.
Mulching the bed
Dave chanced upon a garden chipper/mulcher at a garage sale in the area. It was made in Germany and was priced within our budget. Although we've always wanted a chipper, we couldn't afford brand new. I'm glad we waited. And it works a treat too! Leaves and branches went into the chipper and medium sized mulch came out.
It was just a simple matter of moving the chipper when an area was sufficiently covered. Ensuring a pleasant afternoon in the garden, didn't become a trip to the hospital either, I used the recommended safety-gear of ear, eye, foot and hand protection.
~ trees consigned back to the ecology ~
This job of tree removal took 2 afternoons of work. It was very enjoyable work at that, listening to the birds, taking coffee breaks and having chats with family. Now it's time to wait though. This bed will rest until Spring (another few months) and then we'll plant it up again - adding a shovel of compost in the planting holes.
Now if I didn't have the chipper, I could've easily laid the leaves and branches on the bed and covered it with a bale of lucerne, straw or sugar cane mulch. It would take longer to break down, but it's food for the soil, so exercise a bit of patience. If yo can wait for a seed to sprout and grow into a tree, you can wait for a tree to decay and form a new garden.
Speaking of seeds - this is when I first planted the above pigeon pea trees in 2008. I knew I had a picture somewhere in my old posts, and found it here. I had fears they wouldn't survive. I wrote:
"My pidgeon peas on the other hand, haven't been a great success. I've sewn 8 seeds in total, and so far only 4 have come up. Of those, only 2 plants have survived and one looks as if it's going to shrivel up soon. I've found better success planting direct, than planting in a seedling tray"
Worry not, Chris, for not only did they survive, they lived a productive life propagating seedlings naturally, and showing you the importance of patience *wink*! Nature is pretty good at growing stuff - I, on the other hand, still had a lot to learn.
Tree removal though, doesn't have to mean a bonfire or a trip to the tip. Some times, maybe? But it can also mean new life for new things to grow. What I enjoyed most about this exercise, was realising how easy it was to conserve energy. I didn't have to use my pruners at all, I swung the axe very little, my barrow wheels were spared the burden of transport and the mulcher featured at the very end, was re-purposed from one local household, to our own.
The most energy used, was obtained from a seed, the sun, rain and the microbiology of the soil. That's why I love working with nature - if I let it, it will do most of the work. The biggest investment I had to make, was patience.