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My Pawpaw Tree is Tilting

            During one of the summer storms, my fourteen-year-old Pawpaw tree went from gently leaning into the yard, to bowing down, leaves almost touching the grass.

            At first, I thought it was temporary, like the way the hydrangeas get heavy with moisture and look like they’re exhausted and wilting, and the next day, as they dry off, they lift back up. But even while all of the other flowers and trees in the yard started to rise back up to standing, the Pawpaw stayed tilted.

            Part of the problem is that the Pawpaw tree was planted in the retaining wall, rather than straight in the ground, and the retaining wall is not in the greatest of health. There are all kinds of bushes and trees around the Pawpaw competing for space, and the wooden slats that keep each level of the wall in place are rotting.

            But still. The Pawpaw tree has been there for nine of its fourteen years, long enough to have deep roots, so I didn’t expect it to fall down and never get up again.

            Mom said it could be about the quality of the soil in the retaining wall; it’s gotten spongy. She has plans to buy special soil to add into the wall around the tree, to help support it, but if it’s the soil, then why is it only the Pawpaw that’s struggling to stay upright?

            I get a teensy bit paranoid about my tree, obviously.

“Obviously.”

            We put some rocks around the trunk and leaned a garden fork against it with the teeth dug into the ground as a counterweight, but that was only a short term solution.

            Then Mom went to the home improvement store and bought a heavy rope and a bungee cord. My job was to climb up into the retaining wall (with a big stick for balance and to push tangled vines and branches out of my way) and wrap the rope around two solid trees a few levels up into the wall. Then the bungee cord went around the trunk of the Pawpaw, as taut as possible, to give the tree some extra support, so at least it won’t tilt further in the next storm.

            I don’t know how Mr. Pawpaw feels about wearing a back brace, as well as the bowtie that marks him out as off limits to the gardeners, but I hope he agrees that survival is more important than vanity.

            So now I wait and see. There’s still one Pawpaw fruit growing on one of the higher branches (out of reach) and the leaves look healthy, so I’m hopeful.

            I’m not thrilled with all of the drama that comes of loving a tree; but it certainly gives me something to write about.

“Oy.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

63 responses »

  1. I had a tree with a similar problem and wedged a 2 X 4 against it to keep it from leaning further. Every couple weeks I push it back a couple inches and use the wood to hold it in that position.

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  2. Rachel, contact your county extension office and ask for advice. An agent or a Master Gardener can come out and look at the tree. They may have ideas you haven’t thought of.

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  3. I truly wish the tree well. Health and beauty. Trees are precious as well as relational.

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  4. I hope the tree will be able get right again. I would call an arborist or as previously suggested a Master Gardener. I have had a heritage birch saved by an arborist.

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  5. The MacGyver of Tree Supports. (Might suggest moving the bungee above the fork of the branch.)

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  6. Hope your tree’s problems are fixed soon.

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  7. Oh, how heartbreaking. The roots may be more shallow than you realized. When the soil gets soft and trees become top-heavy, down they go. I hope it can be saved. It appears healthy in spite of the tilt.

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  8. Great job with the bungee cords. Sheila may be right about the roots being shallow in soft soil. A bit of pruning and extra support will help.
    BTW, you may have more fruit than you think. With those big leaves, paw paws tend to hide. I’m always surprised how many there are when they start falling.

    Hope all goes well.

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  9. Such TLC … I hope the tree survives and thrives 🙂

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  10. I had similar problems with three of our fruit trees when we had a lot of rain and early windstorms one fall when the leaves were still on the trees (catching the wind like a sail). The tree roots lost some of their grip in the soggy ground and were being pushed over by the wind. We did the same as what you’ve done with the ropes and restraining setups.

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  11. I hope you can save this beautiful tree. Best wishes. from Mary & Suzie

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  12. I see others have already given great advice about consulting an arborist.

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  13. The rope should work. It’s not uncommon to do that. We used to do it to pawpaw trees in our backyard when I was a kid.

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  14. Hope the tree pulls through.

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  15. Lovely to see that you protected the bark when using support. The tree likes that I’m sure. I really hope it can be saved. It’s very beautiful and I don’t know anything about pawpaw but I’ll look it up now. Do the best you can for the tree and give that lovely pooch a hug while you’re at it.

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  16. Hopefully you’ve given it enough support Rachel.

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  17. Many paws make light work Rachel. Hope your tree stays growing. Allan

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  18. I was going to suggest what you and your mom accomplished. I have a gorgeous Rose of Sharon tree that has delicate pink blooms on it. It was planted the Spring after I moved in my house, so it’s been here for eight years almost. There are furious winds that blow westward past my house that faces north. The ROS tree is in front of my house and takes the full brunt of those horrible winds. It was tilting fairly severely and I was afraid I’d lose it because the wind would blow it over and it would die. A kind neighbor did a version of what you and your mother did though, only he took four metal fence posts (the kind that go with barbed wire or are put up as temporary fencing around construction sites and so forth, and then tied bungee cord type ties to the tree so it was supported on all sides with equal tension. Now it’s tending to lean the other way, but not badly and the neighbor said he’d come with his grown son and they’d straighten the tree again. I’m glad you were able to tend to your beautiful paw paw tree. It has a lot of history now and has become part of the fabric of your stories, so long may it live!!

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  19. “Where oh where is sweet little Nellie? Way down yonder in the paw paw patch!”

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  20. Your tree is lucky to have someone who cares about and who looks after it. The brace should definitely help. Hope you have many pawpaws this summer.

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  21. Loving trees has been part of my life. Sometimes I think about how long so many of them have been around. I think I wrote a blog about the one in my former yard. Wouldn’t you like to know what they have seen.

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  22. We’ve used bungee cords to hold up plants too, LOL. We have a couple helping some ivy hold on to a fence after some overly enthusiastic trimming.

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  23. I totally get the obsession of your pawpaw tree’s tilting.
    I hope it will remain strong for you. Truly I do.

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  24. You found a workable solution. It’s not uncommon to see this done with trees in Japan. It’s also a way to induce bonzai-like changes to a tree’s natural direction.

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  25. I hope your tree makes it! Such devotion.

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  26. Well done for stepping in to help your tree. There’s a long tradition of propping up or helping trees along. Kew Gardens in London has a very old Japanese Pagoda tree that his held up with props and other aids. It was planted there in 1760 and it’s still doing ok. Enjoy your pawpaw and savour its dignity and strength.

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  27. We roped a silver birch up after wind pulled it over. After two years it is straight and very healthy. Don’t give up!

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  28. Oh those PawPaw trees. I hope it makes it. As if YOU would run out of something to write about. 😉

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  29. Great story Rachel. Hopefully it will thrive for you…love your cute little dog!
    Dwight

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  30. Love always demands sacrifice. Your Pawpaw tree is blessed to have your love.

    Reply

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