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Removing bushes no simple task

OK, you want to expand the vegetable garden next year, but you have a big, honking bush in the way.

What do you do? It depends on how much muscle power you can find. If you don’t have several friends with strong backs who owe you a favor or a buddy who can haul it out with a tractor or heavy-duty truck with a hitch, consider calling a pro or expanding the garden in a different direction.

If you want to try bush wrangling yourself, there are some things you will need:

•Sharp shovels, spades. The sharper and higher quality the better, because you will be cutting through roots that like things the way they are. A garden fork or two will come in handy later in the process.

•Sturdy shoes or work boots, heavy gloves

•A sturdy tarp

•Rope or heavy twine, enough to rap around the bush a bunch of times

•A phone and up to two working days

Huh? Before you use sharp implements to dig in your lawn, call 811 or 1-800-382-5544. Utilities will come out, for free, and put cute little flags where their lines are buried. This keeps you from getting buried after hitting a gas or electric line.

Mark around the drip line of the bush with straight-down cuts. The drip line, as you know, is the widest part of the bush. Water the marked area each day for a few days.

Rope that doggie. Start at the bottom branches and work your way up, with the eventual goal of making the bush skinnier and easier to handle – and so the branches don’t put your eye out faster than a Red Rider BB gun.

The next stage could take several hours or months, depending on how big the roots are and how much of your soil happens to be clay.

Don the footwear and gloves, and grab the digging tools. Find the mark under the drip line and dig straight down as far as you can, then push the handle toward the bush so that you form a trench outside the drip line. You might have to stand on the shovel and rock, but don’t jump on it unless your insurance is paid up and you have 911 on speed dial.

The trench should be at least a foot deep. Pile the dirt so that about a quarter of one side of the bush is free. That’s where the tarp will go when you drag that baby out of the hole to take it to its final resting place.

After the trench is finished, loosen things up under the root ball. Using the garden fork and other tools, dig under the bush and wiggle it up and down as far as it will go. With time and persistence – and maybe a few choice words – the roots should have the feel of a loose tooth.

At that point, you want one or two people pulling the top of the bush down toward the ground on one side with two or more people on the opposite side of the bush lifting the root ball using elbow grease, alternating with digging deeper under the root ball and cutting through more roots, if needed. You want the bush to fall on its side so that you can roll it onto the tarp.

After that, you can replant Mr. Shrub or haul him to a yard waste recycling site.

Anne Gregory is a garden putterer, not a gardening expert, and writer and editor. Garden photos (JPEGs, please) and tips may be sent to (please put “The Dirt” in the subject line) or 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.