Trees Can Be Weeds Too

It was Memorial Day weekend, which is the weekend we Americans remember those that have gone to war and we American women put our men, who are not currently at war, to work on the ever growing honeydew list. So this weekend I set my husband (and father-in-law) to removing a few oversized weeds. Namely one black walnut and one maple tree.

Many times, trees fall in the same category as deer, in that we are unnecessarily enchanted by them. When they become a nuisance, we are hesitant to remove them. They cast a tricky spell making us think that they are somehow full of more belonging than their less graceful natural brethren. Oh, look! A magical and holy tree. Bow to the tree. Bow down. Bow down.

In truth, if you willingly eliminate slug from your garden for munching on your veggies, how is a deer any different? If you rip out each end every dandelion that dares poke its head out of your lawn, then how is a 40 foot tree that shades your best vegetable plot any different?

And so, in that line of thinking, I took out two very vexing trees in my yard.

These actually were not the first trees I have removed. Considering that I have a postage stamp suburban yard, this may seem surprising. I mean, really, how many trees could be packed into that little bit of space, but that is the tricky thing about trees. They can pack themselves in like sardines before we even know it.

A 50′ pine, a 5′ plum, and several annoying very tall black walnuts have fallen in my yard in the past 7 years that I have lived here. Each planted by the owner before me and each grown beyond what a well behaved tree should be.

Trees can be damndable. You plant them in one place and a decade (or century) later, the tree has taken over the area and it is really hard move them without killing them. It is not the easiest thing in the world for a human to plan on what the world will be like a few decades down the road. At least, this is the case for me as I sometimes have the foresight of a goldfish. We depend on the tree to be well behaved and, damn it, if they are not always well behaved. It kind of reminds me of my kids…

The point is that one should not feel bad about taking out a very tall weed. A weed is a weed is a weed, no matter how freaking tall it gets.

Here is some video of my father-in-law (who helped us with felling the trees) taking some of the crown off the tree. Yes, those are live electric wires next to the tree (don’t try this at home unless you have a half crazy spousal unit and a quarter crazy father-in-law). Yes, that is my planted vegetable garden that the crown falls on. *Sigh* I only lost 3 pea plants and 1 swiss chard.

23 thoughts on “Trees Can Be Weeds Too
  1. jen on

    I wish I could get rid of the 4 maples lining the end of my lot and replace them with something smaller and less messy. Unfortunately they line a creek so I can’t legally remove them. I keep hoping the wind knocks them down.


  2. I’ve also taken out a tree that was shading my vegetable garden. It was a volunteer that I moved to a friend’s yard. Now the hackberry in the middle of the yard is growing too tall and shading the vegetables from the other side. I am wrestling with the idea of taking it down, as well.

    But it is hard.


  3. I’ve planted a few trees with the express intent of pruning them annually so that they remain manageable. Without this constant pruning, they absolutely will become problemmatic, because for one thing two of them are way too close to the house to be left untended. But one of those and another are fruit trees, and I just don’t want to be climbing laddars to pick apples and pears, so I’ll prune them to stay short.

    I guess the thing I have to do is be sure to tell my husband and/or the next owner that if I’m not around to do this and they aren’t sure how to prune a fruit tree and willing to do it every year, they need to cut the things down a.s.a.p.


  4. Debbie M on

    I only plant trees that won’t get too large for the area they are in. Where I live, there are a lot of native trees that grow to only 15-20 feet tall.

    (Except, oops, sometimes plants grow larger than their supposed largest size. Stupid rosemary bush taking over the sidewalk.)

    Nevertheless, I have cut down thousands of trees in my urban yard. I was never this evil before becoming a homeowner. Two of the trees were so old they were threatening to fall on the house. The rest were weed trees: when you have twenty mulberry trees in one square foot of land, that is too many. Sometimes you want a bit more diversity.


  5. Walnut? Maple??? Oh the treemendous agony! (ar ar ar) Not that we should lament the loss of shade, but they would’ve made some good wood for the BBQ pit/smoker. I hope you had them cut the wood into usable smaller pieces and stack it neatly away from the house.

    A few years ago, when Hurricane Rita (aka The Forgotten Storm After Katrina) ripped through this part of the world, there were two benefits. First, there was a large amount of hardwood for BBQ stacked up on the side of every street and road from all the downed trees. Funny how all the red oak, pecan and hickory mysteriously disappeared from the trash piles before the clean-up crews came….

    Second, a lot of older backyard beds suddenly became quite viable. My good friend J’s backyard bed had been substantially shaded by large pines and oaks. Now it sits in near-full sun and is effectively twice as large as it was before.

    Trees are pranks we play on our descendants/successors. I had a plan to install a coastal sequoia in my cul-de-sac, but the dog dug up the pot before the seedling got to transplantable size.


  6. Thanks for this blog entry — just last Friday I had some trimmers come take out a couple for me, and I did feel bad. But, they were disgusting and now my veggies are getting a lot more sun. :)


  7. Unfortunately in our race to go from a fresh and barren suburbia to a nicely gardened neighborhood, we often overdo it and end up creating an urban forrest. I was lucky to have sunlight hitting my backyard most of the day, but a look over the fences shows a lot of darkness.

    Sometimes the tree is a weed, and you know what you have to do.


  8. We had to take out a giant Silver Maple which shaded a good portion of the parking lot. Unfortunately the septic system was put to close to the tree by the former owner. For years we have battled the roots getting in a clogging the system. We finally cut it down. Thank goodness, no more popping the lid and cutting the roots out, yuck! Of course now all the customers ask why we cut the tree down. Some look at you like you committed a crime. One even said he wouldn’t turn us in. For what, and to who I don’t know.


  9. Meadow Lark on

    I’m with ya!

    Except our yard is full of… (brace yourself) Juniper. The scourge of the tree world. It’s messy, nasty, smelly, dirty and full of pollen.

    The husband seems to think that every tree is ‘holy’… I just ‘accidentally’ dribble a little Roundup here and there, perhaps a shot of Spike… when the trees look sickly he finally gives in. Three more and I’ll have enough sun in back for a bigger garden.



  10. About 10 years ago, we took out two black walnut trees that grew along the fence (and electrical wire!) line. I must admit that it was a day of high adventure. No one and nothing was injured, thankfully, but cutting down the trees proved really exciting. As someone wise once noted, a weed is anything that grows where you don’t want it. Trees included.


  11. With us having an acre here (out in the country), we are doing our part to relenish the woods that once sat here. But, we can put them where we want them!

    My husband gets very upset if I even try to prune any of the smaller trees. He just can’t get it through his head that it’s good for them, so I do it when he’s at work, and he’s none the wiser. LOL.


  12. I love your concerned admonishment at the end of the video as your husband carelessly pulls the crown through the veggie garden. Did you realize you were moaning? I had to laugh that you didn’t make any noise when the tree was heading for his head. My priorities would have been the same, lol.


  13. I’m in a constant battle with the hackberry seedlings in my yard. I can’t dig deep enough to get all of the roots out, so they keep coming back year after year. There are several other trees that I’d love to have taken out, like the mis-placed oak that keeps pulling the telephone line off the side of the house, but my landlord would have a fit. I’m just glad I don’t depend on the land line for anything.


  14. Unlike ripping out a weed, there is considerably more satisfaction from pulling out a BIG weed. Just last week I had a blast going over one-inch caliber weeds (trees) with the tractor mower.

    I must say I am glad I wasn’t dealing with something bigger. It looks like you almost lost more than a few veggies. I thought that branch was going to land on his head!

    Happy chopping!


  15. 123 on

    “One even said he wouldn’t turn us in. For what, and to who I don’t know.”

    [ to whom. :-) ]
    the septic tank police!

    btw, “honeydew list” is “honey-do[these] list”. But, I’d rather have the melons.


  16. I’ve taken out a large hackberrry and two chinaberry trees…weeds all. My cedar elms, though, are suicidal. I just feel lucky when they don’t throw themselves on the house. (I’ve already replaced the roof once because of such nonsense.)


  17. Hanna on

    jen – Maples and black walnuts are the worst weed trees, eh?

    vertie – It can be a hard decision, especially if it is a nice tree.

    Amy – Do you espalier them, or just normal pruning?

    Debbie M – See, that is the problem with black walnuts and maples. Nobody plants them. They just grow all by themsleves. The nice small decorative trees are wonderful.

    Mojo – Oh yes, it is. We have a fire place and a fire pit we have never had to pay for fire wood.

    Hilary – Let the sun shine down!

    Eric – Exactly

    trey – When the nursery owner agrees with you, you know you are right. :) Perhaps they were thinking of the Arbor Day foundation. They will be there any moment to picket you. 😉

    Meadow Lark – Juniper…. ewww. Good luck!

    Janice – It is quite fun, eh?

    Kylee – My mom and dad are like that too. She has us cut down small trees when we visit whilemy dad is at work. 😉

    Heather – Oh, I was ready to kill him. He could not understand why I was upset. As far as his head goes, it is so hard, that I don’t worry about anything that may fall on it. 😀

    Patricia – Sounds like a not fun situation. I have to think it must get expensive to fix the phone line all the time.

    Nancy – yet, one they really like to have…

    Jeremy – Really, just the peas and a swiss chard. I was surprised too.

    123 – LOL

    M. Sinclair Stevens – When tree attack, it is time to attack back!


  18. Andrew on

    Thought I would weigh in on the tree vs. weed topic, albeit about a week late.

    I guess you could put me in the “unnecessarily enchanted” category, especially when it comes to mature trees. For myself, a tree is never just a tree. It could be a beanstalk to the land of giants. Or the crows nest of a pirate vessel far out to sea. Want to see what’s on the roof?…climb a tree. Perhaps you would like to record the date of a first kiss?…well not that that is my way, but I am intrigued every time I see a set of initials carved in a heart. The truth is what one person sees in just about anything is never entirely the same as the next person’s view.

    What I regret in our suburban lifestyle(which is somewhat comparable to your own) is that the freedom of such naturalistic experiences is limited for my boys. Parks and playgrounds or even our backyard are poor substitutes for miles of relatively pristine woods, and whatever I can do to bring a bit of that to them, I try to accomplish.

    That means that our trees stay. Even if it means that 60+ percent of out front beds will only grow shade plants. They are all pruned at least once a year(it helps to have a brother in the business), and you might be surprised at how tolerant most trees are when pruned properly, or even improperly(hell, look at the butcher job most utility companies perform on trees next to power lines).

    I guess that is enough of my rant. I am sure that I did not express myself quite as eloquently as I would have liked, but hopefully you understand my point. Not the sort of thing I expected to chime in on but I guess that is the point, you never know what will strike a chord.


  19. Hanna on

    I think you were quite eloquent in expressing your side of it. Thanks for sharing!


  20. I love trees, but sometimes not where people plant them like on a bank. They are so big it’s hard to trim them. The neighbor’s parents put them along their bank and we cross fingers that lightning won’t hit, etc or they will fall right in our yard or house, but hit the power lines first.
    We have two American Chestnuts-dirty trees-three things fall from them each year. I can’t get my husband to get them trimmed way back, but they are the only shade trees out there too.


  21. I am dreading getting all of the maple “helicopters” out of my garden. We had a wind storm followed by rain, and now the lovely dark soil looks freckled with these little flying seeds. If I can’t get in to pick them out now, I’ll be pulling silver maple seedlings in a week or two. But there’s more rain in the forecast…


  22. A person needs to think very hard an long before they fell a tree in our dry climate. If a tree grows out of the space you wanted it to grow, you move the house ;-D


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