Thursday, April 11, 2019

April Midwest Gardening: Not so Pretty--Spring

It's April 11 and this week in Chicagoland, we have had 70 degree temps to below 30 several nights, rain, wind (35-45mph), snow, sleet, and well---meatballs--basically.

Such are the seasons here in Illinois. Spring???? Not Yet!

This little protected corner---actually produced some blooms on Monday, it was 70 degrees. I don't know what has survived the crazy winter yet, last year I lost a third of my perennials. 
We will see what survived, soon I hope.
We try to garden GREEN.

Two weeks ago, I started on winter clean-up in grass areas of the front yard. In the backyard here is one of three carts full of branches and twigs picked up on our front lawn. Our lot is 80x120. So far, I have picked up 2 1/2 carts and 4 garbage cans full of twigs/branches. It was a tough winter.

There are still a lot branches on the roof---it's so windy today---we will probably have another cart full. We don't have a fireplace (no hydrants in our area), so they do get burned in a firepit. We use the ashes for fertilizer.

I don't clear the flower beds of leaves in Fall, or in Spring until past the frost date, May10 or so. This is because, bees, butterflies and other helpful bugs need places to nest over the winter. If you remove everything---they have no place to winter over. 
Then you have no insect activity for pollinating.
Lots of GREEN tips on the site below, 

In Fall, we ran the lawn mower over everything and the excess chopped leaves were dumped in the garden or into flower beds. Honest it was clean. But so much wind and ice this winter---these leaves are probably from Iowa.

This used to be our lettuce bed---but it has too much shade, now. A rethink, we can remove the railing and add it to the garden. Hubby is a lover of wood and our exterior wood is non-harmful.

Shade and water is a BIG issue in this back area---the walk on the right is sand, gravel and smooth river stones. Great for drainage.

This week I cleared all the leaves and branches to see what was left in the backyard. We added the NW roof extension last year--and a final post solution is on the list for this year. You can see we  rerouted the drainpipe...which puts it away from the house. 

Much of the problem is due to the clay soil and the gentle slope. We have been averaging 3 or more 100-year rains, in the past few years---and that much water, 6-7inches at a time, is not what our lot was designed for. One year we had 19" in two weeks. 

Behind the grill and deck, you can see the water pools here, we have to improve drainage.

It's sunny now---but it is basically 1-2 hours of filtered sun a day here. The tree is a Silver Maple and last year had spotted leaves. The plan is to make a curved sand, gravel, and river stone pathway down the hill for our cart---and then a softer solution for under the playground equipment. 

You can see how bad the grass is---we have seeded, reseeded, sodded, re-sodded constantly since 1984. Nothing has grown here now for three years now, except moss. Grass Seed is drowned or washed away and sod just dies after one season.

In the way back corner, the neighbors started a huge wood pile 
on the lot line next to our compost pile.
So this area is also on the list. This area has also become too shaded 
for planting and seems to be a slug farm.

Our biggest disappointment this winter was this, below.

We paid over $400 for a greenhouse---we basically setup in Spring 2018. We had bought from this company before. Our previous greenhouse we used for over 10 years---It had only one issue with the door zipper and size. It needed to be moved out of the shade---so we decided to expand and buy a bigger one, since we had to move it.

This is the state after one summer and one winter ---the plastic totally deteriorated.

Unable to use it as is---with our horrible temps---we covered the roof with plastic to at least protect the equipment and wood shelving inside. The company's website is basically shut down. 
It's there, but no replacements or new products are for sale. 

We usually plant all our own plants from seed---so this is very disappointing and our tomatoes are now, 12" high inside of the house. (next post---what we came up with temporarily.)

Hubby thinks we can use the frame and build plastic corrugated paneling around the frame and have a semi-permanent house---as the frame is heavy tube aluminum. 
Not for this growing season, though as it will involve lots of ladder work.

This is another item to fix. I've been hiding the condition of this seat with cushions---but I think I have to replace the canvas this year....The frame is still in great shape, it needs a refresh of paint.
You can see the covers we put on the legs to keep wasps from nesting in them.

Another area that needs attention is our back stairs and deck. North side exposure holds snow and leaves until it is well, 70 degrees. We still had snow here two weeks ago.

We have more than a few bad spots on the deck. These we will replace with composite planking. Probably not the whole deck though. $$$$$ 

Here's the garden. Hubby never got the fall tilling done because of heavy rains. I'll dump the leaves I remove from ALL the flower beds---when frost is no longer an issue.

List for this year---in order of importance.

DIY List for Spring 2019. 
  1. Dig out a pathway wide enough for the cart to steer and also slow drainage. Terrace the rest of the slope for shade plantings. (I have plants to transplant for this as well as started Hostas from roots in pots.) 
  2. Deal with the Greenhouse---make it usable in two weeks with plastic at this point, and then a permanent solution later. 
  3. Get all the clean leaves from the flower beds tilled in or placed into the garden and tilled in. (This is great for replenishing the nutrients in the soil)
  4. Finish off the posts for the roof and come up with a design solution for the drain pipes.
  5. Fix or ditch the swing! It will need some new paint also. 
  6. Replace the back stairs and at least half a new deck in composite.
  7. Replace the roof on the grill gazebo---it's here and ready to go. 
  8. Raise the roof on the play set the Grand is so tall now! no pic for now.


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