The correct weeding implement to remove a finger-sized “Tree of Heaven” sapling is a shovel.
I thought I’d learned that lesson two summers ago, when I foolishly bragged here that I hadn’t seen any new ailanthus altissima seedlings poking above my lawn. But by this June, I had a new crop of these trash-tree growths invading the front yard and part of the side yard.
This time around, I dug deeper, literally. Just yanking out the massed roots below each sapling wasn’t enough; I had to drive the shovel a few inches deeper to find the thicker, trunk-like root running below my lawn. And then work backwards and forwards to rip that out of the earth.
The upside of this dirt-under-fingernails work is, I hope, a more lasting end to this weed of a tree. And so far, that’s worked–in the sense that I haven’t seen new growths in the front yard two and a half weeks after this surgery. (The side yard is another story, but at least that’s not obvious from the street.)
The downside is that unless you do this root removal right before a torrential downpour, the grass you’ve removed probably won’t survive the disruption. In my case, I now have streaks of dead grass, that outline where this invasive tree’s roots had taken up residence in my yard.
You could say I had to destroy the lawn in order to save it. But I’m not going to state that conclusively until this time next summer, when I’m past the spring’s usual foolish lawncare optimism.
Not a shovel. A mattock. Trust me. That is my tool of choice for anything thin enough to grab around with one hand. The only place it doesn’t work is when the rogue plant life is too close to the house to get under.