Yellopig Is Free

Or, Recreating A Life From Scratch

Mesquite in Therapy

This tree needs help.


For comparison, here’s a picture of a nearby tree:


This is what a healthy honey mesquite should look like in summer. You can even see that this tree is having a bit of a second round of flowers just now, due to recent rainfall.

Back to that first tree:


This tree is drought-stressed. Note that the ground slopes away toward the left rear of the picture. The tree is planted in the decorative rocks that go around the back yard, and has a small ring at its base that is supposed to be rainwater catchment or something. First off, no tree planted in the desert by humans (much less landscapers!) should be planted on a mound, ever. Clearly, any water falling anywhere near the tree will immediately run off to the left. And as a catchment basin, that little ring may have been sufficient 15 years ago when the tree was planted, but it definitely won’t do much good now. At this point, it has filled in and is higher than the ground around it, making it even less useful to the tree.

So I decided to dig a moat.

After considering everything I could think of regarding this project, from ground slope, to the current size of the tree and the likely depth of the roots, to the proximity of moby-sized rocks to use as retaining barriers, to how to handle overflow run-off, and — well, everything I could think of — I began work.

First, I removed and set aside the decorative rock ground cover so I can use it elsewhere in the yard. Then I marked out the size of the basin and where the overflow would go, and I started digging.


I started digging on the higher edge, since any pool I can get to form there will be most helpful to the tree in the short term, plus soften up the dirt for more digging. This will be a much bigger excavation than the garden bed last year, but it will only be a foot or so deep at the deepest end (i.e. the high side). I decided to keep the little ring around the tree, because it seemed like a bad idea to dig right next to the tree, possibly damaging roots. I’m hoping that roots further out will turn downward as they find themselves being scraped from above.

The digging is going a little faster than last year:


Along the bottom edge of the moat (that’s near the top of the picture), I’m setting a line of moby-sized rocks. In fact, the original moby from the yard is the white rock at the center of the line. The gray stones at the left are a sort of “french drain” that runs parallel to the house. I didn’t want that drain to actually run into the tree-moat, but to provide for overflow management from the moat. That overflow is planned to happen at the near (left) end of the moby-rock line, where it adjoins the drain. The basin will be most shallow at the moby-rock end (where the ground is lowest anyway). I’m already seeing water pool there when it rains, so yay.


This is the high end of the basin, where I’ve been putting most of the digging effort. It’s about four inches deep right now. The outer ring of rocks are about grapefruit-sized or bigger, and have been pulled out of this excavation. You can almost see the shapes of more such rocks in the dirt of the hole, too. This ring is supposed to prevent the entire back yard from washing into the tree-moat, which I’m sure it will try to do in years to come.

This part of the yard is every bit as stony as the other end (where the garden bed is), and I have already hauled buckets of gravel out to the driveway and cart-loads of dirt up to fill in the paths. As I work, I explain to the tree what’s happening and what the intention is, and ask advice about various aspects of the job. Did you think it was my idea to leave the little rock ring in place? Heh. And although it’s a little too soon to tell, this may already be doing her some good: she’s showing some effort at recovery too.


I take encouragement where I can get it.


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5 thoughts on “Mesquite in Therapy

  1. solarbeez on said:

    That’s a real ambitious project. I don’t mind digging up here in Oregon where we have real soil, but that ground looks HARD! Plus it’s about 150 F. HOT this time of year. Hope you are pacing yourself and not working in the hottest part of the day.

    Here’s another thought. Probably around 10 to 15 years ago, we bought a DR Power Wagon. I don’t mind digging, but moving dirt can wear you out. This is a walk-behind powered cart that can haul up to 800 lbs. of rock, wood, or manure. It has served us well. I justified it by realizing a trip to the doctor for an injured body part would be much more expensive that the power wagon.

    Best of luck with your tree rescue.

    • Thanks for your encouragement!

      Yes, the baked dirt is very hard, but my soil test says its 50% sand, and water softens it up a bit, and the caliche bar I bought is working as advertised 😉 The worst are the rocks, of which there are so, so many. Even if the dirt were soft, I can’t stick a trowel all the way in without striking some minor boulder in the way.

      It’s cooler now that the monsoons have started, so sunny-day temps are back down to around 100°, and that drops about 15°-20° when it starts raining. Not bad, really. It’s also a matter of acclimation: if the temperature falls below 75°, I start shivering uncontrollably, LOL.

      And lastly, I have a nice drop-side garden cart that is just the greatest thing since the 6’x8′ slab of plywood I used when I lived in Florida to drag things around the yard. The cart wasn’t as cheap as the plywood, but after having experienced the joys of wheeled transport in the yard in the form of a plastic Fisher-Price red wagon (not kidding), my new cart is everything I could wish for. It’s rated for 700 pounds, but I think I wouldn’t be able to move it if I put in more than 250#, and the fact that it’s Yellopig-powered is a plus!

  2. Girlfriend, you are strong. Remind me to not make you mad, especially if you have a shovel in your hand. :<

  3. Pingback: Mesquite in Recovery | Yellopig Is Free

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