2021 Yard and Garden To-Do List


This is the third year of publishing these yard and garden to-do lists here on the blog. This is an attempt to FORCE myself into focusing and prioritizing my approach to the yard and garden in terms of what I buy, where I work, what I do in terms of the yard and garden. In 2019, I published my initial list on February 23rd and an addendum in April. In 2020, I published my list on February 22nd.

As recently as February 6th of this year, I published a "draft" list that had 15 items on it and just last week - in a post about bonsai - I created a second list of eight items related to bonsai. Just between those two lists, I'm already at 23 items. And, I try to keep my list to 25 items, so I have some, ummm, pruning to do. My 2019 list started at 10 items. I added 7 with the addendum. That was 17 total items for 2019. Last year, I had 25. And I didn't get them all done. Some of the already identified 23 items are on not up for debate. But you'll see that others have been either combined or left aside and tried really hard to limit this list to a numbered list of 25 items.  Some of these are combined items and that *may* make it more challenging come grading time, but this IS an ambitious list.

Here's my 2021 to-do list.

1. Priority Area 1 - calls for 15 #1 containers of shade perennials including Allium and Ferns. Hoping that at least one or two of the ferns I transplanted last year will come up and limit the number of new ones I need, but consider swapping in Japanese Painted Ferns with Ostrich ferns. 

2. Priority Area 2 - calls for A LOT of new perennials to buy and plant. This will consume much of our perennial budget and will work to correct at least one of my 'mistakes' - by adding nine Lenten Roses.  I initially had the idea of adding more Lenten Rose/Hellebores as a separate item on the list, but due to the fact that they're included in Area #2, I'm able to combine them here.  But also...don't give up on the path.  

3.  Work the 'strip' between two driveways by finishing the bed, topping it with fresh mulch, make a call on the troubled Chanticleer Pear tree, extend the bed down by the sidewalk and (potentially) cut a circle of turf out and add some vertical plantings.  And, down by the sidewalk tree, take advantage of that hard-to-grow area by Planting a mass of Lemon Coral Sedum like a carpet like they have at the Morton Arboretum.

4. Work to improve the back patio and Stain the patio container made of wood. (carry-over from previous year.). That means:  Do something along the back patio in terms of a bed. I'd like to add a small bed right off our patio (maybe right off the corner planter?) - something that takes up the space where I have a hard time growing grass and would provide a transition to the yard.  Would have to think about WHICH side to do it, because of future patio planning, but either off the north side, the northeast corner, the southeast corner or even the south.  

5. Lay down a new Soaker Hose under the Hornbeams.  

6.  Transplant Naperville Foster plants (carry-over from previous years) and divide up some of my existing perennials like the Coral Bells along the side of the garage and some of the 'parked' shade plants in back.  Also, move the backyard Disneyland Rose to the sideyard.

7.  Approach deciduous bonsai two ways:  collected and planted.  That means, going in on the American Elm "found" bonsai in the yard by clipping and removing the tree. And, take on/buy at least one deciduous tree and get it potted up - like a Redwood or Maple.

8.  Work the 3 junipers that I started over the years. Take a shot at the potted Juniper and dig out the pair of planted junipers and put in proper training pots with a pruning.

9.  Get a tropical bonsai going.  Either a new one - like the Buddhist Pine - or by focusing on the existing Umbrella plants in the house already.

10.  Think ahead.  Buy some small nursery stock for future bonsai - that means things like Dwarf Albert Spruce, boxwoods, junipers, maples, etc.  Small now that can just hang around for a couple of years and overwinter in the ground - in their pots. 

11.  Figure out SMALL tool storage - like pruners, saws, gloves, hand shovels, hose washers, other smalls.

12.  Figure out vegetables.  Last year, I took a step to build a raised planter box and it totally failed.  Too much shade.  So, maybe closer to the patio?  Also, what about planning for a gated area?  Or this kind.  And... maybe a stock tank pond

13.  Add a "true" third compost bin by buying four additional fence panels, three posts and a latch.  And, add at least SIX aeration pipes to the beds.  That would double the six existing by (ideally) adding three more to the 'currently cooking' bin to bring that bin to nine total.  And three to the "browns" storage bed.  Depending on how much pipe, putting nine pipes in each - or having nine for each on hand is the *right* solution.  That would require 21 new pipes cut from 7 10' lengths of 2' pvc pipe.

14.  Make a little bit of progress in being able to make some pizzas outside in our backyard.  I've been dreaming of an oven for years.  Talked about the placement and potential foundation details.  But, maybe baby steps is an Ooni oven.  

15.  Take next step on espalier.  The saying goes (something like):  Espalier when you are young for fun.  And, espalier when you are older for enjoyment.  That means that every year that goes by is a missed year for getting espalier in the ground.   For 2021, what does that mean?  Continue pruning the Lindens, but also stay close to the aphid problem on them. Replace the dead Apple trees in the Belgian Fence.  And, buy a tree to train on the south side of the house.  Something small and cheap - like perhaps a flowering tree.  Reach one?  Think about espalier on the north side (shade) as buffer between driveway and walk. 

16.  Light up the Disney Parks DIY Twinkle lights on the Hornbeams.  Starting with 40 bulbs and one transformer - along with buying the wire, connectors, fixtures and bulbs.  

17.  Check the box on turf management.  For the backyard turf - fight the two pests - wild onions and Creeping Charlie.  Monitor the circle pattern from the large tree fertilizer programTime the application of Halts.  Feed with an organic food - like Milorganite according to the schedule.    Test the soil again.  Reach one?  Think about doing a full renovation on the back 2/3rds of lawn that is a hodgepodge of turf and weeds.   For the front yard turf - test the soil - year three.  Once again, apply a heavy dose of biosolids to the parkway and remaining portion of the strip 'between two driveways'.  Cut it a tad shorter than I have been - maybe one click down from tallest setting.

18.  Continue to build towards a Japanese woodland-inspired garden.  Last year, I dreamed of Forest grasses and ended up buying them. We added a Red Fox Katsura tree, too.  Double down on existing ferns, buy even more Japanese Painted Ferns ...and buy some toad lillies.   Could there be a Japanese Maple in our yard?  Maybe in the shade of the north side?  By the nook?  Outside of the screened porch and adjacent to the patio - as part of #4 above?

19.  Add a focal point tree to the backyard on the south side and extend the bed out to meet it.  Ideally a columnar tree like this columnar Bald Cypress.

20.  Keep going to the mulch pit in the Spring to bring back wood chips and bio solids.

21.  Relocate our fire pit and organize/plan the NOOK area - including an outbuilding/shed AND seating area behind the 'focal point' of the Harry Lauder Walking Stick tree.   Also, clean up the firewood situation back there, process all the newly acquired wood and try to acquire even more in 2021 from tree guys.

22.  Just like in year's past...Build something. Could be something FOR the nook area in #21 above like Chairs. Could be a Moongate as part of the nook?   Or a Versailles Box for the patio or yard.  Or a bonsai table or rotating platform for a bench.  Or repair the bee house and get it remounted.

23.  Closely monitor and document the vitality of the two large Oaks in back and the front porch Norway Maple in front.  We invested in those three trees last year with Davey - doing pruning, feeding, treatment and a growth regulator and have them coming back to tend to them with treatments and fertilizer this year.  I'd like to see the trees recover; Swing Oak = more full/lush growth.  Norway Maple = filling out canopy.  Southern, Northern Red Oak = steady as she goes.

24.  Buy the boxwoods or arborvitae, build the topiary box and get started on a container topiary like the Block I topiary and figure out overwintering.  And consider shaping the boxwoods a little bit more

25.  Buy a conifer tree of meaning.  Like, something larger than what I've bought in the past.  Just stop buying the little deciduous trees and buy a more mature conifer that can tolerate shade or is columnar.

In terms of breaking down the 2021 list by categories:

2021 To-Do List Categorized
Planting: 6, 12, 18, 24
Lawn:  17
Trees: 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, 19, 23, 25
Beds: 1, 2, 3, 4, 20 (note:  I put the priority areas as beds, despite them having a bunch of planting.)
Builds: 5, 11, 13, 14, 16, 21, 22

2021 To-Do List Summary by Category
4 Planting
1 Lawn
8 Trees
5 Beds
7 Builds

Compared to last year, the 2020 list looked like this - which I seem to have NOT categorized all of them(??) - which feels like something I can retroactively correct.

2020 To-Do List Categories
7 Planting
3 Lawn
7 Trees
2 Beds
4 Builds

In terms of year-over-year data, it seems that my priorities have shifted (again...note...the priority areas in 2021 are listed as 'beds') a bit.  A lot more on the 'build' and 'beds' side.  Less on plantings and less on lawns.

2021 vs 2020 List Stacked up:
-3 on Planting
-2 on Lawn
+1 on Trees
+3 on Beds
+3 on Builds

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