Mesquite in Recovery
OK, this is more like it!
Last August, I told you about a Honey Mesquite in my yard that was a bit dehydrated and sickly-looking. 2013 had been a dry-ish year at 1.2″ below average rainfall, and going into 2014 the tree was looking pretty forlorn. So I thought it would be good for the tree if I dug a basin under it, to catch whatever rain may fall and hold it there a while to allow it to sink in to the tree’s roots. The basin is nearing completion now, and is looking like this:
It’s hard to portray size and depth in a photograph. The tree’s own shadow acts as a kind of camouflage that obscures how deep the basin is. Most of it is about eight inches deep, except for the section at the rear to the right of the tree (in the picture), which is only about four inches deep. I’m working on that section now, and starting to level out the bottom. The tree looks a lot happier this year.
Still a little sparse, but 100% better than it was before. It may be that the tree was really ill last year, as in diseased. Trees that are drought-stressed are more susceptible to attacks from both insects and infection, so if that has been the case, relieving the tree’s thirst makes it more healthy generally and more able to fight off those kinds of threats. It’s not exactly what you’d call “lush”, but the tree is clearly healthier now. Again, we had an extra half-inch of rain in 2014, so maybe it would be doing better regardless of what I did, but I remain convinced that the basin was a good idea.
Throughout this adventure and despite my best efforts otherwise, I have been forced to maintain strict obedience to the law of Conservation of Matter. I know! Yeesh! As you are aware, this law states that whenever you have a large and growing hole in the dirt, there must be an equally large and growing pile of dirt somewhere nearby. Well, not just a pile of dirt, but also smaller piles of gravel, stones and rocks. It’s all being sifted through my new-and-improved sieve, which is a length of half-inch metal hardware cloth stretched across my garden cart. When the cart is full (about 3 ft3), I haul the cleared dirt up to make paths through the wild part of the property. Larger rocks I find while digging here are set in place as the new, larger ring around the tree. I haven’t come across any Moby-sized rocks here, so those at the left rear edge of the ring have been hauled up from other spots around the yard. The gravel I find goes out to the top of the driveway, of course.
And finally there’s a pile of medium-sized stones that aren’t much good for anything. I’ve been using as many as I can to reinforce the fresh dirt on the paths, where the paths aren’t level and the dirt has a tendency to run off when it rains. I’m not paving the paths with them because they’re not uniformly sized and uneven rocky paths aren’t much fun to walk on. Mostly I set them in a line across the path at two- or three-foot intervals (depending on how steep the grade is), and fill the space with new dirt. This is an ongoing experiment. Anyway, there are quite a lot of these medium-sized stones, and they’ve been seriously piling up since the first garden bed was dug. Maybe I’ll eventually use them to line the tree-moat, but at this point I’m leaning more toward lemon grass or spaghetti squash planted under the tree. I’m hoping that the tree will become strong enough to support squash plants — that would be great.
In the meantime, I did this for Beltane:
It’s only temporary and will probably be gone by Lughnasadh, because I’ll need the room to pile dirt from the second garden bed which I should be starting by then. Flat space is pretty limited around my yard. But it’s fun having the maze out there for now. 🙂