Shovel-ready project: removing a dead agave
The Whale's Tongue agave in front of the house bloomed last spring, and has been slowly decomposing ever since.
|Bloom spike emerging in mid-April|
|Bloom spike getting taller - end of April|
|Dying back by September|
After reading Pam Penick's post on how her "Moby" was removed after his demise, I had a good idea of the job ahead.
The first step was to remove the spiky leaves. I thought some of the oldest, driest leaves might simply snap off or pull out, but no. They were tough and fibrous, yet flexible, like thick burlap or jute cloth. I had to cut off each leaf by sawing through it with a cleaver (the sharpest implement I could find in the house).
Many of the oldest leaves were rotting, with a horrible odor, housing all sorts of bugs involved in decomposition (like the ones that hang out in the compost bin). Luckily, I didn't see any agave weevils - hooray.
|Fiber and rot|
After sawing off every last leaf, the agave heart was left to dig out. Although my agave did bloom, it didn't form bulbils - either the agave was sterile, or it wasn't pollinated properly. So I didn't have to worry about protecting baby agaves during the dismantling process.
|Blooms emerged in May, but no babies formed|
After Jack chainsawed the woody bloom stalk into pieces to haul to the curb, I tried to dig the heart out with a shovel. A thick mass of deep roots refused to yield, so Jack hacked away at them with the cleaver until they finally let go. Victory!
|Severed roots on base of stump: some by shovel, some by cleaver|
The final part of the job was to stuff all the cut-off leaves into yard bags.
It was a difficult and rather disgusting job and one I do not plan to repeat, as I won't be replacing the dead agave with another big agave. I've decided I much prefer soft, lush and fragrant plants to pointy, stabby ones, particularly in front of the house near the sidewalk and driveway.
Now there's a big empty spot in the front garden to fill, and a lot more cutting back to do.
Words and photos © 2009-2019 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.