Hurricane Sandy

This Shout Out by is about how A Lawn and Stonedesigned and provided professional and courteous service to a townhouse community in Wayne, NJ. I am one of the homeowners who benefited from A Lawn and Stone’s professional landscaping services. In 2012 Hurricane Sandy knocked down a group of pine trees in a backyard section of one of the Quads (a grouping of four townhouses) in my community. The pine trees that fell were at least 35 feet tall and provided each townhouse with privacy. When Hurricane Sandy came through the trees were left on the ground with one of them leaning against one of the townhouses as seen below.

Downed Pine Trees in Quad Area.tree1

The only way the fallen trees were able to be removed was via a crane that could reach over one of the townhouses, as this backyard section (in the shape of a U)  is adjacent to the woods, and only has access via a small, narrow steep hill, 5 feet wide, between two of the townhouses. The steep hill only allowed for small equipment like a Bobcat to get back there. The trees were too large for a Bobcat to remove them.

200 foot crane reaching over a townhouse to remove the downed pine trees.

Once these trees were removed, the community association had many discussions regarding landscaping options. The association decided replace the pine trees lost in the storm with three small pine trees in addition to rocks to handle the ground erosion on the slope area. The decision of the association did not address the townhouse owners desire for trees that would offer the shade and privacy that they had before.

The Plan

The four townhouse owners decided they wanted to augment what the community was willing to provide. Initially the thought was to put in the largest trees possible (14 – 16 feet), which after some guidance from the association and A Lawn and Stone  was changed to putting in four slightly larger trees than what the community association planned on providing. In addition, other plantings were to be added to enhance the appearance of the backyard section. In the end, six trees, instead of three were planted to provide good coverage and enhance privacy for the homeowners in years to come.A Lawn and Stone were very willing to guide and adjust the association and homeowners plan to provide the most cost effective layout in light of the association and homeowners budget. Because of the guidance of A Lawn and Stone, each townhouse owner gladly put in an equal share to foot the additional cost with the understanding that their goals of beauty and privacy would be accomplished. Below is the finished landscaping job.

tree2View of Newly Landscaped Back Section of the Townhouse Quad.

The pine trees are 9 to 10 foot Zebrina Western Arborvitae, a fast growing upright  evergreen broadleaf shrub that can grow to a height of 30 to 50 feet and spread 8 to 12 feet.

For up on the steep hill section, two trees were chosen that would have a deep root system, better suited for that type of terrain. They are Krauter Vesuvius Flowering Plum, medium growing upright deciduous broadleaf tree, height 20 to 25 feet, spread 10 to 15 feet. Produces light pink flowers and deep purple leaves.

The Project

Plant four pine trees in the center of the Quad in the shape of a diamond and two more trees up on the hill section to provide each townhouse owner with as much privacy as possible while handling the soil erosion issues all done in a park like setting. Prior to this arrangement there were going to be a row of bushes on the hill, but it turned out that the pine trees alone were not going to provide the privacy that each townhouse owner wanted. A Lawn and Stone had no problem making suggestions and changing the original plans to adding two more trees that could grow on the steeper hill section of the backyard. Below is a log of the landscaping project.

Three Days of Labor

From the photo above it is hard to imagine how much work was involved in this landscaping project. But when you think about how every boulder was brought in individually, all rocks, gravel, mulch and soil was brought in wheel barrel by wheel barrel, and each tree was individually carried in, you begin to realize how much work and planning was involved. If you consider the only way to get it all back there was a 5
foot wide gap between two of the townhouses at the top of the hill, it was amazing that this was possible at all.

They were able to bring back the Excavator Bobcat seen below, you can see to the left the path it took from around one of the townhouses, it is a steep hill that would not be good for going back and forth with all of the materials needed for this job.

This Bobcat Excavator was the only equipment used in the back section of the yard. Here it has excavated the land, creating a flat section out of the steep hill section.

The first load of boulders were brought in and dumped in the street in front of the townhouse area. To get an idea of how large these are, just compare to the Bobcat. (Click on each image to see a larger photo.)

First of many truck loads of boulders, rocks, soil, mulch and plantings.

Anthony Cerretta, one of the owners of A Lawns, at the helm of the Bobcat

Small path between Townhouses used by Bobcat and Wheel Barrels

Catching One Boulder at a Time with the Claw of Excavator Bobcat

Most of the dumped boulders have been transferred to the back section

Building the First Retaining Wall, It is Like Putting a Puzzle Together

The next big issue was getting the trees into the back section and placing them in the ground along with top soil. They brought the top soil in via wheel barrel, one at a time, through the same access way that the boulders came in.

As each tree was pulled into the backyard section, they were placed into the general area they were going to be planted. A Lawn and Stone then measured out where they should be planted and dug out a large area for the ball of each tree to be placed. They put in fresh top soil for each individual tree.

Placing Tree in General Area of Plantingtree4

Measuring Proper Placement for Each Tree

Watch the next video to see how they placed each tree into its respective hole and then added more fresh top soil.

Now that all of the trees are planted, they added additional top soil, then a very thick layer of cedar mulch.

Pine Trees All Planted with Boulders and Top Soil

Planting the Plum Trees with Boulders and Top Soil

Adding Cedar Mulch One Wheel Barrel At a Time

Adding Cedar Mulch to Plum Trees One Wheel Barrel At a Time


Once all of the Cedar Mulch was in place, they started to bring in rocks that they covered the steep slope with to prevent soil erosion. At around 100 wheel barrels full I lost count as the crew kept bringing in the rocks through that same access path between the two townhouses, wheel barrel after wheel barrel and placing them on the slope. Below is the finished product with these rocks in place plus small gravel area on the lower section of the yard, plus a few perennial plants in the center!

Of course they carefully staked each pine tree to make sure that they stay upright while they establish their root system. They even arranged for the underground sprinkler system to water them every morning for the next three weeks to be sure they got the watering they needed.

A special thanks to Anthony and Bill Cerretta, pictured below, for their on the job attention. Both Anthony and Bill worked along with their crew, they were not just supervising, they were working.  Here they are discussing how the job is coming along and how to handle the planting of the trees in this tough terrain.

Anthony and Bill Cerretta