Donegan's Tree Service - Leesburg, Loudoun Country, Marshall, and The Plains, Virginia
ISA Certified Arborist, Tree Care, Landscaping, Pest Management


Advice for tree owners everywhere

The Yard is Getting Bigger


By Mike Moye

We moved into our current residence 40 years ago when I was just 34-years of age.

Except for the grass sod that the builder laid down when we moved in, the backyard was devoid of anything else. Over the years, and without constraint of master design, I have planted several species of trees, shrubs, flowers, and ground covers. I enjoy being outside and getting my hands in the dirt. There’s great satisfaction in planting something, nurturing it, and watching it grow.

The landscape has changed with time, of course. Some plants have been moved or removed to suit need or whim. Occasionally, a tree has had to come down. With only a couple exceptions, I fired up my Stihl chain saw and did the honors myself. True, digging out the stump was always a gratifying experience, first working my way around the roots with a splitting maul and digging bar, and then extracting the stump itself by finding and cutting through the tap root to release the stump from the ground. Only when the stump was too large and the roots too pervasive did I relent and hire someone with a stump grinder.

Recently, a red maple, a white pine, and a dogwood needed to be toppled. Wisely, my wife insisted that I let “the professionals” handle it, so Donegan’s Tree Service sent out a crew to complete the task. The job was done in half a day and no damage was done to our house or yard. Clean as a whistle.

Still, watching the crew expertly dispatch limbs and trunks, then grind the stumps and remove the debris, brought back nostalgic memories of my youth, thinning timber while working for the U.S. Forest Service in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Watching them feed the branches to a chipper was especially hard. I wanted to grab a pair of gloves and join them.

Before the fence went up, I often mowed a next-door neighbor’s yard and part of the neighboring church property with hardly breaking a sweat. Now we have a lawn service that mows for me, but I still enjoy mowing when they can’t get to it. I always bag the grass, which the lawn service doesn’t do. Supposedly it’s better for the yard over time to not bag, but if the grass is too high the mower leaves clumps of cuttings around. 

Once the fence was in, I established mulched borders along the fence line. I hauled bag after bag after bag of mulch into the yard and distributed it by hand. Now, the lawn service performs that task. Can’t really say that I miss that chore, though. It takes a crew of three or four to finish in a day what would take me a week or more. They also take care of the weeding, a bonus.

Eventually, we had a small water feature put in. In time I decided to enlarge it. I hauled in several pickup loads of dirt to establish a stream bed and purchased a couple ton of blue stone to form a patio; but the project soon outgrew my time and expertise, so I hired someone who knows what they are doing to get it done. The blue stone became a perimeter wall for the raised stream bed, and slate became the patio base. The water feature now boasts a stream bed with three waterfalls. A slate patio adorns the fence side of the feature, and it is accented with a miniature Japanese maple. We put in Koi, and we enjoy sitting on the patio watching them swim around the water lilies and other aquatic plants. Once or twice a visiting heron has stopped by for lunch and then leaves without paying before we can catch him.

I admit that even though the square footage of the yard has not changed in these 40-years, the yard seems to keep getting bigger from one year to the next. The time I need to spend on any one task takes longer, and during hot summer days, I think about what needs to be done more than just doing it. Much of the yard maintenance is now farmed out to others to make certain it gets done.

In short, the heavy lifting of caring for the yard is now given to others. I’m becoming content with that. Even though others might not approach or finish the job as I would, the job gets done. As hard as it is for me to admit, sometimes the job is done better. Too, by letting someone else handle maintenance chores, I am freed up to do other things as time and energy allow.

I still change the look of the landscape from time to time. For instance, last fall I re-located the small vegetable garden at the back corner of the property, and built a small pergola bordered by fast growing arborvitae in its place. I am now thinking about adding a little sitting area and establishing a path lined with a small hedge from the water feature to the pergola.

Finally, if we want to go somewhere for a few days or longer, I don’t need to worry that the yard is not being tended to. And it’s still my yard. If next week I want to plant a new tree, I can do it. If another tree needs to come down, I can call Donegan’s Tree Service.

Jim Donegan