Last week, I spent quite a few hours working on clearing out some of what might be called an urban Virginia coastal forest. This is an overgrown area about 18 feet wide that had originally stretched from the back of my yard, along the garage, and almost to the street.
The first summer and fall here, I made some modest progress with this huge undertaking, including taking down a big leaning pine tree and numerous cherry trees. That had been enough to clear out a small garden area with rich soil that I planted with sweet potatoes the second year.
That was an interesting trade: sweat and an aching back for soil enriched with decomposing leaves and forest debris. The experience definitely renewed my appreciation for the farmers who had worked to clear our frontiers centuries ago. Those first sweet potatoes were the biggest and most abundant ever for me.
Along with a chainsaw, you will need a good strong shovel and a heavy mattock to get rid of the roots. Otherwise it’s tough to garden, and some roots can sprout. If you see anything like these thorny vines that grow straight up into any available tree, destroy them completely.
My best advice is to do as much as you can all in a season. Whatever you leave for the next season will have advanced and multiplied before you get your tools out again! This can make for some interesting photographs, but it is no fun to look at or to tame.
Perhaps what made me saddest of all was discovering expensive specimen trees and shrubs that had been planted twenty, thirty, or even fourth years ago. They were misshapen, overgrown, and starved for light. Once this had been someone’s fine Virginia garden, lost to neglect and lack of appreciation.
(This photograph was taken late June 2013. The artist in me says, “What an unusual organic composition.” The gardener in me says, “What a waste.”)