Cleanup: the big grass

It's grey, chilly, and pretty windy today, but today's goal is the big grass and some more chipping. Here's the grass:


It's Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus', and is one of the first plants I added to my garden. Luckily I put it in a good spot, as it's become an anchor for the design of the surrounding beds.

Here's what it looks like during the summer:


It's a big one, but cleaning it up is really not different than with any of the smaller grasses I've already done -- there's just more of it to do. I'll jump in with the loppers...


Once I cut a section free I'll grab it and move it out of the way. It's somewhat surprising how many of the stalks I miss on the first pass. I'll grab a chunk and pull, and there will be several stalks still attached, so I'll need to relop -- if "relop" is a word.

After about 15 minutes, the grass is down.


To give you a better idea of the size of this one, the previous grasses required just one armful each to carry to the holding area. This grass is three armfuls. The "stump" of it is about 3' in diameter, maybe a little larger.

Notice that this one doesn't have the dead area in the center as the other grass did:


Actually, now that I take a closer look, it does have some die-back, but it's on the North side of the plant, which I guess is to be expected since it shades itself out.


This could be because I took a few divisions from this area last year, but I'm not sure. I'm not concerned about the overall plant health though, as it's as tough as garden plants get.

With this "big daddy" grass cut, it's time again to do some chipping! (Technically I guess this would be "shredding", not "chipping", but you know what I mean.)


I feed small handfuls of the bigger stalks into the chute that's meant for limbs, and I'll put the smaller, loose stuff into the hopper. Unfortunately I couldn't take photos of myself while I was chipping, because it was snowing down grass fluff, and I was covered! I also got what felt like a couple of handfuls of the stuff down the back of my neck, even though my fleece collar was zipped up tight. (It was really more like a small spoonful of chippings, but it felt a lot worse than that.)

With the grasses all chipped, I also decided to chip up the honeysuckle vines that I had cut down a week or so ago. They're not the most fun thing around to chip, so I've been putting it off. The hopper works best for this, although it still takes a lot of fighting with the vines to get them separated from the pile, and then it takes some amount of jamming until the vines "catch" and get pulled into the cutting blades.

With the vines gone all that's left is my poor dead 'Shaina' Japanese maple. It went from this:


To this in just a couple of days:


In 2008 there were two hurricanes that hit the Gulf and made it all the way up to St. Louis as very strong, very fast-moving storms. They dumped a lot of rain in a very short time, then passed through. This tree died just a couple of days after one of those two storms, but that was probably just a coincidence. All of the leaves turned brown at once and that was it.

I never took a photo of the dead tree when it was still in the ground. Not sure why -- probably it was too depressing. It's important to record your garden failures as well as your successes, as difficult as it may be to look at them. It's been sitting there in my holding area for almost a year, so it's easy to break up:


It easily turns into a pile of sticks which get fed into the chipper. The rootball and trunk will just go in the compost pile -- there's no way to feed that into my chipper. I miss that tree -- it was such a beauty.

The good news is that the holding area is now completely clear!

Important tip: brush as much of the wood chips and other debris off of your clothes as possible before going into the house. Check your pockets and any cuffs! After doing some hard work in the yard, you certainly don't want to have to drag out the vacuum cleaner because you inadvertently mulched the bathroom floor while undressing for the shower.

How long did it take?  1:30
Total time spent on clean-up so far this year: 10:30 (10 hours 30 minutes)

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