Backyard Remodel (week 2) – A Sea of Ice Plant

Richard and I began the ambitious task of making over our back yard area last week. The goal is to set up a greenhouse close to the property line and build a gazebo/pergola/pagoda in the back corner. We haven’t gotten into the design concept of the structure yet, aside from deciding how large we want the area. I didn’t get any starting photos last week, but most of what we did was pull out ice plant.

Ice plant is a succulent shrub. It propagates so easily that even stem fragments can regenerate into another. They are not native to California and because of their ability to spread rapidly, they are considered extremely invasive. When ice plant establishes in a location, it produces an extremely thick plant layer that chokes out all other plant life, which in turn alters the composition of the soil and the environment. This is the stuff nightmares are made of. There’s no biological way to remove ice plant. Burning it doesn’t work well because of its high water content; but even if it was possible, it’s not allowed in California. We are very cautious about using herbicides to get rid of unwanted plants, so the only way to effectively remove these awful plants is by yanking them up by the roots one by one and disposing of them in a green waste bin. This task alone took many hours of tiresome gardening. Between what I removed last year from this area and what Richard and I finished pulling out this year, the task of removing all the ice plant in the back yard required about 40 hours of our time.

I suppose I should add that while I can’t stand the stuff, ice plant does have a use. It was brought into California in the early 1900s for use as a ground stabilizer near railroad tracks. It currently grows up to the property line on two sides of our house. It was intentionally planted to keep a berm from eroding away–the berm was built to divert rain water so our garage would not flood. It does a decent job of that, even as the sight of it makes my back ache.

Once we finished that task last week, we got a good start chopping down one of two fallen Acacia trees that need to be removed. We’ve made a lot more progress than I anticipated. The ice plant and tree pieces will take several weeks to dispose of. Everything is currently piled up near the carport in a staging area awaiting space in our green waste garbage dumpster that’s picked up once a week.

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