2021 Yard And Garden To-Do List Scorecard


For the past few years, I've tried to create an early-season yard and garden 'to-do list' that keeps me focused on completing some key tasks. I've also worked to keep score on those lists over the years to make sure there's some level of accountability involved.

Starting in 2019, I had a short 10 item list and a 7 part addendum. The scorecard: 12 of 17 complete. 70.5%

Last year, in 2020, I had 25 items on the list. The scorecard: 22 of 25 complete. 88%.

This year, I had another 25 items on my list and with December, it seems like it is a good time to score my activities.

How did I do?

Here's my 2021 to-do list:

1. Planting Priority Area 1 in the backyard. Not done. Punted because of the fire pit area.  

2. Planting Priority Area 2 in the backyard. Check. Way more than a simple, check though. Planted hostas, shaped the beds, Ghost Ferns, Brunnera, Ligularias, transplanted hostas and an Oakleaf Hydrangea and a Weeping Nootka Cypress tree as a focal point. The plan calls for ten Lenten Roses (didn't plant any), 4 Viburnum (didn't plant any) and two more Oakleaf hydrangeas. Feels like some of those will go on 2022 list.

3. Work the 'strip' between two driveways. Check. Finished the bed with new mulch, pruned back the troubled flowering pear (but kept it).  I also transplanted a Karl Foerster grass here (could use even more), transplanted a peony from the back, too.  I also planted a bunch of Allium bulbs and a trio of Serendipity Alliums.  Down close to the sidewalk, I took out the burnt turf and planted some Lemon Coral Sedum and a Switchgrass.  And, even added a (very small) Ginko tree.  

4. Work to improve the back patio and Stain the patio container made of wood.  50% credit. Still haven't stained the container, but I'm going to try with my own Walnut Stain this Spring.  That will go on 2022 list (again).  But, I did transplant a trio of grasses on the corner of the patio

5. Lay down a new Soaker Hose under the Hornbeams.  Check.  Done and done

6. Transplant Naperville Foster plants (carry-over from previous years) and divide up some of my existing perennials.   This one is tougher to grade. Did I move the fosters?  No.  But, did I do A LOT more dividing?  Yep.  I divided the Coral Bells.  A ton of hostas.  And most of the grasses.  I'm going to call this one done.  Check. 

7. Approach deciduous bonsai two ways: collected and planted. This one is a miss. Didn't do either.

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. Not really done, either.

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. So, did I bonsai?  No, not really.  I did prune the Umbrella plant pretty good. I also added some other interesting house plants including a topiary Mickey Mouse, a Staghorn Fern and divided a big ZZ plant.   So, I did do EXTRA STUFF, but didn't do this.  (I think that's going to be a pattern here.)

10. Think ahead. Buy some small nursery stock for future bonsai.  Done.  I put a Bird's Nest Spruce and a a Mugo pine in the ground.  

11. Figure out SMALL tool storage - like pruners, saws, gloves, hand shovels, hose washers, other smalls.  Nope.  Didn't do this.  I didn't do a mailbox or storage box.  But, did keep a nice pair of Niwaki pruners all season.  Still need to solve for next year.  

12. Figure out vegetables. Done.  Yep. Grew tomatoes in raised bed. First time in Downers we saw fruit.

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 This is another one that is mixed.  Did I add aeration?  Yes.  Did I create a three bin system?  Kinda.  Two bins and a tumbler.  But, I added Alfalfa cubes.  So...I'm going to call this one green - done - but could revisit in 2022.  

14. Make a little bit of progress in being able to make some pizzas outside in our backyard. Done.  Using the Ooni.  Did I build an oven?  No.  But, am I making 'outdoor pizzas'?  Yep.  

15. Take next step on espalier.  Done and Done. In a big way.   I treated the Lindens.  Added a few crabapples to the Belgian Fence.  Added two new trees on house southside and even began to think about pleaching some London planetrees. 

16. Light up the Disney Parks DIY Twinkle lights on the Hornbeams. Done.  Have one tree light up.  And working.  Need to do the rest.  

17. Check the box on turf management. Done and done.  Lowered the mower.  Fed the lawn.  Added some biochar to the mix.  And did a late-season feeding.  Can more be done? Yes...next year should include a renovation in back. 

18. Continue to build towards a Japanese woodland-inspired garden.   Done.  Added two Japanese maple trees, a whole bunch of ferns and even some toad lilies. 

19. Add a focal point tree to the backyard on the south side and extend the bed out to meet it.  Done.  Weeping Nootka Cypress and the new beds.  

20. Keep going to the mulch pit in the Spring to bring back wood chips and bio solids Nope.  Didn't do that this year.  

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.  I'm calling this one done.  I made the new firepit.  Did I build a shed?  No.  But, I did clean up firewood.  Can more be done?  Yep.  Sure can.  Next year.  

22. Just like in year's past...Build something.   Not really.  No wood projects to speak of, but I did build the firepit and paths.  

23. Closely monitor and document the vitality of the two large Oaks in back and the front porch Norway Maple in front Yep.  Done.  Had Davey treat all of them again this year.  Think the Oaks are bouncing back.  Not sure about the Maple.  

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.  Done.  Yews and more Yews back there now.  

25. Buy a conifer tree of meaning. Done. Weeping Nootka Cypress. 

By my count, it looks like I've ended up with:
17.5 completes
2 semi-completes
5.5 not-completes

On a strict reading, that would be a 70% complete rate.  Right where I was in 2019.  And far under my 2020 scorecard.  

However, like A LOT of things in life....it isn't so clear.  I'm not talking 'fake news' or the two realities that seem to exist for the left and right of our country.  But, I am talking about things not being clear when you look at the totality of the work for the season in the yard.  Do I feel like I really only should receive a C- for the year?  Based on this list, maybe.  But, when you look at some of the other MAJOR items that aren't reflected here, I think the grade may shift.   Let's look at some of them.

1. We have ALL new, curvilinear beds.  In their final form.  This is a big item. 
2.  We put down a new firepit.  And a path from our driveway all the way to my office landing.  And laid down bluestone chips as the gravel.  Again...major improvements. 
3.  I got ahead on the aphids.  And treated the Magnolia this Fall.  This has been a tough item.  But, I feel good about the process now.  
4.  I planted a whole bunch of small Yews.  Give them a few years and we'll have something special, I hope.  None of these (but for the topiary ones) are/were accounted for in the plan nor list.  
5.  I've begun my transition away from a monoculture of KBG in the yard.  Tall Fescue is where I'm headed.  
8.  I planted a bunch of bulbs.  Front and back.  
10.  I planted 13 trees.  13 trees!  That's pretty incredible to think about. 
11.  Grew some tropicals in the ground - elephant ears.  
12.  Planted a new Hops vine
13.  Did my own mulch and Fall cleanup.  
14.  Removed my arch nemesis in the lawn:  Wild onions

Those 14 items are all varying difficulty, effort and impact.  But, combined, they certainly add some weight towards taking the grade (imho) from a C- to (at least) a solid B.  The Bed-shaping and sideyard gravel path are enough to lift the grade to a B-.  Then, add in the other stuff?  Sure, let's say:  solid B.

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