When to Start Seeds Indoors - Zone 5B - Chicago Suburbs

Social Distancing means that we can't go to the store for anything other than groceries, but it doesn't mean that I can't putter around in the garden.  For me, that means that this year, I'm going to try something new:  growing some annual flowers from seeds.  Normally, we buy a set of annuals - like Zinnias - for our front beds and plant them out front of the boxwoods.  This year - I came across a seed set online and grabbed it.  But, when to plant?  It seems that Menards always puts out their seeds right after Christmas.  But, that's too early for us.

This piece from Gardener's Supply Company talks about when to start your seeds: they recommend different times for different varieties.  This piece from the Bump talks about sowing seeds indoors 4-5 weeks before the last frost in your zone.  For gardeners like me in the Western Suburbs of Chicago...when is that?

According to, our last frost is April 7th to 30th.  Let's use that date of April…

Today Is The Day: Pre-Emergent Application (Thanks GDDTracker)

In March, I shared the bag of Halts (no lawn food) that I had secured before Amazon started to slow down their shipping during the pandemic and referenced the Michigan State University Growing Degree Days tracker. is the day:  we're right in the middle of the "Optimum" range so it is time to put down that pre-emergent.  You can see where April 2nd lines up in the screenshot above.

My bag of grassy weed pre-emergent that I have from Scott's covers just 5k square feet.  I have about 15K square feet of turf, so this covers just part of my lawn - and I've been focused on the very far back 5k square feet.  That's where I applied this year's batch.  I'm trying to set a reminder for myself that I should throw down another round of this stuff in the Fall to take on the Poa that I think is taking over parts of my lawn. 

I went back to my ratty Scott's Edgeguard spreader for this job of what reminds me of cracked corn:

I'll be keeping an …

Going All-In On Wood Chip Mulch (Far Backyard) - April 2020

Well, that escalated quickly.  A little more than a week ago, I posted a photo showing the result of a five gallon bucket full of free wood chips/mulch from the Village of Downers Grove. Today, I've made 15 trips to what we're calling the 'mulch pit'.  I've gone all-in on the free wood chips/mulch for the very far back of our yard.  This is an area that I've done absolutely nothing to over the past few years and just let go natural.

I've cobbled together a series of buckets, trugs and one garbage can that I believe - when filled - total about 9 cubic feet of mulch.  That's about 1/3rd of a yard each trip.  15 trips = 5 yards.  I'm not quite 50% of the way done across the back of the yard, but with the social distancing being extended for another 30 days, that means that I might be able to get the far backyard covered in this weed barrier before I end up getting back to the office.   I figure that I'll need about 20 more trips to get all the mul…

The Hostas Are Back - March 2020

It may be the last day of March, but - just like the peonies - the hostas are now tipping through the mulch.  You can see the purple tips that have sort of spiraled their way through the ground and are ready to unfurl in this bed underneath our kitchen window.  Those of you eagle-eyed readers might also spot something else in this photo:  a piece of burned wood/charred hardwood.  On the right side of the photo in the middle. 

That's a result of spreading the hardwood ashes from our fireplace out in the yard.  I've put some of it in the grass, some in the beds including around these hostas. 

This is the teardown hosta that I've been tracking since I transplanted it. 

Here's a look at this plant in mid-Summer last year

This is a bed that I'm going to try to tend to with a topcoat of hardwood fine mulch because, as you can see, most of the remaining mulch is the larger, more coarse pieces.

Lenten Roses In The Backyard? There's a Plan For That.

You can't open up gardening Instagram this Spring without seeing a post or a story about someone's hellebores in bloom.  Oh...what's that?  You call them Lenten Roses?, too.  Actually, I haven't thought much of them at all.  But, all this posting made me remember that we have a few clusters of them spec'd in our backyard landscape plan.  Like this section you see below that calls for a grouping of ten (10).

What are hellebores or Lenten roses?  From one of my favorite gardening bloggers Deborah Silver in Detroit who posted about the month of March in her garden and how Lenten Roses or hellebores play a role:
Any gardener who reads here knows I am a fan of hellebores. They are, in my opinion, the perfect perennial. Thick glossy foliage persists in its green state until late in the winter. The flowers emerge on leafless stalks in April, and bloom for a very long time. The green remains of the flowers can persist in the garden well in to June. The current y…

Social Distancing Project: Making Anthony Falco(ish) Chilies

I've been hanging onto this screenshot Via Adam Kuban on his Instagram stories for a number of months in preparation for times *just* like these.  Being stuck at home, I figured it was time to try something like this.  The problem?  I didn't have a ton of peppers, so I improvised. 

The recipe calls for 5 chilies - and it looks like Adam Kuban used jalapenos.  I had one jalapeno on hand.  And a couple of Fresno peppers.  And a bell pepper.  So, I used them all.  I also didn't have coriander seeds, so I just tossed in a little ground coriander. 

I've posted about Adam Kuban before - who is someone that I watch like a hawk when it comes to pizza.  He's both great at knowing/sharing/talking pizza and seems like a pretty great dude at the same time.  But, I haven't posted about the other guy mentioned in his story.

These are courtesy of "International Pizza Consultant" Anthony Falco - who you can find on Instagram @millenium_falco.

As for mine?  Here'…

Vintage Disney ToyTown Christmas Sign

Walt Disney Productions retail store sign, circa 1930s — The-Disney-Elite (@JuoshM) March 17, 2020
I came across this tweet recently and it made me pause.  Not just because of the fact that it sits at the intersection of my interests:  Vintage Disney + Vintage Christmas.  But, also because of the description:  'Retail Store Sign'. 

I found this post on Hakes Auction that talks about the use case of signs like this one.  From a description of a different Disney ToyTown sign:
Double-sided 11x14" cardboard features repeated image of Mickey Mouse on skis, Donald Duck throwing snowball and Santa Claus pointing at large blank area for store to write advertising text or store name. So...the folks at Disney would give these signs out to retailers?  Genius.