This is how you carry a 12-foot 5-inch tree home in a bicycle trailer. The sales guy at the plant nursery was shocked to see that Dan was planning to carry home the tree by bicycle, saying something like, “Are you sure you are in good enough physical shape to carry it home? When you said you had a bike trailer, I thought you meant you had a motorcycle with a trailer.” As Dan was bicycling home through downtown Flagstaff, a woman shouted, “I like your tree.”
Lombardy poplars are not the most multiple-use tree species, but they fit our requirements of being tall, narrow and fast growing, while not obstructing the view of drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians coming into and going out of the townhome complex. The four other shade trees along the western side of the house, combined with added attic insulation, have lowered summer high temperatures in the house by 15°F or so. I expect this tree to eventually lower summer afternoon high temperatures by up another 5°F in the bedroom. The shade will also extend use of the back balcony earlier in the afternoon. We don’t have air conditioning, so shade is very important to our comfort.
The house looks and feels so different than when we moved in back in 1999. There was no shade, just an ugly box-trimmed juniper hedge along the west side of the house (the little pine tree in the third photo, which I took before buying the house, is now the 20-foot tree in the first photo).
Before the tree could be planted, the large boulder on the corner of the property had to be moved, as it was in the perfect location for a tree to provide shade at the critical time in the lat afternoon. A couple of weeks ago, we noticed a small back hoe parked in the commercial parking lot next door. Dan left a note on the windshield, and the driver called and agreed to move the boulder a few feet for free, which was very nice of him.
Next year I might be able to squeeze in one last crop of vining peas, which are relatively shade tolerant, but then I’ll have to grow either species that are very shade tolerant, like leafy greens, or move the planter to a sunnier location. I’ve used a planter and trellis to shade the balcony during summer afternoons for more than 10 years.
Pablo is excited about the new tree. Pablo loves trees. I expect him to start spending more time on the balcony.
Adapted from Growing Food in the Southwest Mountains: A guide to high-altitude, semi-arid home permaculture gardens.