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Guild plants for a huge, mature ash tree

 
Kelly Rued
Posts: 40
Location: St. Paul, MN, USA
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I am in MN so emerald ash borer is a concern. I want to keep the enormous ash tree on the boulevard in front of our city house as healthy as possible so it can resist pest damage. Once the pests are found, there is nothing to do for the tree except deadly chemical treatments that I would not want near the edibles in my front yard.

In some ways would prefer a different tree there (as this one has terrible structure and long old branches that impose awkwardly over our roof), but we would never live to see a replacement reach this height and majesty so I kind of want to nurture it as the overstory in our front yard forest garden. It is so big that it is buckling up the sidewalk in front of the house too. Its home is a very narrow boulevard strip of weedy turf grass with a heavy-traffic main artery street on its north side and our front sidwalk on its south side. The strip of unpaved earth is only about 3' deep.

Due to the long narrow shape of our yard (short edge in front), this tree really dominates the front view of the house and any landscaping there will really impact our "curb appeal" and make the difference between neighbors seeing our, crazy, er, ambitious garden as "pretty" or something to report to the city. So I am hoping to gussy the hellstrip up with some nice bloomers that also offer us something useful. The ash tree is on the eastern front side of the boulevard, and we are putting in a low hedge of russian almond on the western front side.

Any ideas for good looking guild mates for the ash tree? City code requires things to be both less than 3' tall (we are going to push the envelope on that a bit) and somewhat disposable (as in, the city and utility folks or anyone walking by can pretty much do what they like to the plants here). Most of the day is dappled/shade while the ash is in leaf.

I find it hard to imagine anything planted under this size of tree could "compete" with the tree in a damaging way but I also can't think of much that will be a positive input for the tree and still look nice on the curb (definitely not a good spot for something weedy looking like comfrey or nettle). Ideas?



 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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I wish you good luck, we have emerald ash borer in hundreds of ash trees here, one is a HUGE one right between our garage and house and fence and front road..and it has to come down..we can't do it and have to hire a bucket truck to take it down.

many others are near complete death and will be coming down this year..at least we burn wood for heat in our outdoor furnace..so that will provide firewood, but we hate to take the trees down

we have hundreds of woodpeckers and flickers and nuthatches here feeding on the borere, but they can't keep up with them..so we are losing trees..

my suggestion, is to take the tree down before it dies if you notice any branches getting thin on the ends.. if you have an opportunity and replace it with something less susceptive to probleems..otherwise the larger it gets the more likely it will be a problem to take down..
 
Kelly Rued
Posts: 40
Location: St. Paul, MN, USA
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Aw, that is what I am afraid will happen here too. We already have problems but it is not as widespread as in Michigan (yet). I suppose it may only be a matter of time. So far, our ash looks okay (I'm no arborist so who knows how it really is doing), but I want to do what we can to keep it happy and healthy. We are in the middle of the city where frankly there is not a lot of people buying/storing fire wood for anything (it is a rare house here that still has a wood fireplace and most people are low-mid income so people tend to burn local brush/wood in backyard fire pits). I think the worst infestations are around camp sites and out where folks actually ship in fire wood. However, I can see it's going to spread and have seen warnings in the paper, etc.

Our ash is a "city tree" on the public easeway so there are additional restrictions about what we can and cannot do without city permission. I don't think we can just replace it unless they come out and advise us to do so (and then I think they get to decide what types of trees we can put in its place). If anything, I wish we could get the limb over our house pruned since it's grown down to touch us/about 10 feet off the ground. It's almost as if they came and pruned the street side religously but let the side by our house go nuts. With my luck the borers will like our side better too and that big limb will fall on the house, lol ;p
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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