Donna 1, Monster 0
Some of my longtime readers may recall that in June of last year, I made an abortive attempt at dividing a massive sawgrass plant that had pretty much taken over my ornamental garden plot. I referred to the plant as “The Monster” and after over an hour of hacking at the damn thing, I managed to chip off a few bits of it (and fell into the center of the plant in the process). None of the “bits” transplanted and I vowed that the following year, I would attack the plant early in its spring growth cycle and do the deed. (This photo is of the plant in the fullness of its early June growth – and I shudder to admit that it actually got bigger over the summer.)
We had a good steady rain last night, which meant the ground was nice and soft, and today it’s sunny and pleasant. Although John protested that it was too early (and indeed, there was no new growth showing on the plant; it looked like a mass of dried straw), I was determined to get the job done. I consulted with him about the available toolage, and decided on a shovel, two small, sharp axes and a hand saw. I dug the electric trimmer out of the tool shed and brought up three outdoor extension cords from the workshop. A-bristle with implements of destruction, I set to work.
To re-familiarize myself with the trimmer, I pruned some bushes around the yard first (“It’s too soon!” John moaned, but I wanted them trimmed before birds start nesting in them). Then I attacked The Monster. First I trimmed off the longest growth and raked that aside; after that I trimmed the main part of the plant shorter and shorter, until I started seeing new growth (ah hah!). I put the trimmer aside and once again, raked away the clippings. I took the smallest of the axes and started chopping a trench about one-third of the way across the main body of the plant. After hacking away for ten minutes or so, the plant looked like a head of hair with a neat part in it but showed no signs of splitting (you can see the “part” in the photo here – just as a point of reference, the small axe on the ground beside the Monster is 14 inches long). I realized I was going to have to dig up the entire plant if I had any hope of dividing it successfully.
I tried to dig the shovel in at the base of the plant, but it bounced back as if I’d hit a stone. The core of the plant was clearly a rock-hard mass; all the more reason that it needed to be divided. All right, then. I got the larger axe and chopped all around the base of the plant, which gave me some purchase with the shovel blade. I forced the blade in as far as I could and then tried to pry the plant up. No go. Chop, chop, chop some more. Pry and pry. The Monster actually started to move. I worked my way around the plant, chopping and prying, alternating between shovel and axe. Chop, chop. Pry, pry. Finally I went to my knees, and with the small axe, cut away the last bits of root that held the Monster in its place. Then I grabbed it by its crewcut and dragged it out of its hole.
The thing was massive – the size of a large beach ball and weighing about forty pounds, I’d guess. Using the saw, I began cutting where I’d made the initial “part” in the crewcut, and after several minutes of sawing and occasionally hacking with the little axe, the Monster fell into two pieces. I immediately took the smaller part and replanted it in the hole, adding a bit of composted manure to help things along. I turned my attention to the large piece, hacking and sawing it into four smaller sections. In the photo, you can see the planted piece, two sections that I’ve put into pots, and one large section on its side, waiting to be cut in half and placed into pots as well.
I carried the four pots around to the shady side of the house, where they’ll sit until I can get to Home Depot tomorrow and pick up some potting soil (I realized I was fresh out while in the midst of this operation). I brought the axes and the saw inside, cleaned them and put them away. I coiled up the extension cords and put the trimmer back in the shed. Then I got a rake and raked up all the trimmings from the Monster. I filled two bags full of the Monster’s hair and dragged them around to the other side of the house for next Wednesday’s yard refuse pickup.
Now my back hurts and I know my arms are going to be sore tomorrow, but at long last I have prevailed over the Monster. Revenge is sweet.
I transplanted the five azaleas that were along the front of the house this weekend. If I had a digital camera, …. I’d cam’ra in the mo-orning …Now I have to find stuff to put in front of the house. Thanks to you, I know what I WON’T plant.(Oh, and I built a wooden screen to fit into my fireplace to stop the cold from seeping in. Power tools!)
Don’t be scared of sawgrass because of my experience – the thing just got too big for its space, and if I’d divided it a year or two ago (when I should have), it wouldn’t have been such a huge job.I love my sawgrass, honest I do – it’s low maintenance, it’s pretty in the summer and even in the winter when it goes to straw – but you have to stay on top of it (so to speak).
Wow, Donna, that’s a huge amount of work! But, hey, at least it’s settled. Hope to see you soon.R.