2022 Yard And Garden To-Do List

As the calendar is showing late March, we're now STARING down the real beginning of gardening and yard care season here in USDA Growing Zone 5b.  And, like a lot of amateur gardeners and landscape caretakers, I often find myself adrift - drawn to things in garden centers that I don't have in my plans, pulled to focus on projects that steal time and end up planting things in places that don't make sense for the long haul.  However, I *do* have a landscape plan that was drawn by a professional.  I have of gardening rules don't buy just ONE of anything and dig a $5 hole for a 50 cent plant.  (That makes me think that I *should* write a post that outlines my adopted gardening rules that I've collected over tim).  And, I have list of projects that I'd like to tackle.   Using those tools and direction SHOULD make the growing season go smoothly.  But, everybody - including me - needs to be held accountable.  

That's why, over the past three growing seasons, I've published an annual "Yard & Garden To-Do List" that includes items that I wanted to focus on during the season. 

Here's the 2019 List.  I also wrote an addendum in 2019. And, here's my 2019 scorecard
Here's the 2020 List. And, here's my 2020 scorecard
Here's the 2021 List. And, here's my 2021 scorecard.  

Last year's list included 25 items and a STRICT reading of the results would show a 70% completion rate, but that far undersells both the activity and outcomes from the 2021 season.   There were a bunch of major projects that weren't accounted for in the list (new curvilinear beds, gravel paths, firepit, worked on aphids, planted 13 trees and more). 

Also, in terms of categorization of the lists, here's the breakdown of the included items for the past few years and the averages.

Since the end of last year, I've been posting various ideas and thoughts in my garden diary with the [2022 to-do list] tag and I even went so far as to create a work-in-progress DRAFT 2022 list late last year as I tried to organize my thoughts.  At that point, I wrote 19 potential items for inclusion that included 5.5 carry over items that I didn't complete in 2021.  That list served as a good starting point and many of those 19 items are reflected in this new, final list, but there's a few that have faded into the background.  Without more delay, here's my 2022 Yard & Garden To-Do List:

1.   Focus on shrubs.  Adding shrubs, replacing some and following the plan (with a tweak to include evergreens *behind* shrubs.  My 2022 Priority #1 post outlined some of the shrub needs including viburnums, yews, hydrangeas and more.

2.  Buy Perennials that work one of three ways: Four-Season, natives or ones that work in shade.   Bit the bullet and pay a fortune for the Hellebores that are called for in the plan in two places.  Lean even further into ferns.  Buy more Toad Lilies and/or Spring ephemerals like Virginia Bluebells.  Find another snakeroot or two. And interesting Epimedium and Hostas.  

3.  Build the 'upper' retaining wall by screened porch.  Wood timbers is the most likely solve and allows for options to do the walkway and lower retaining wall in a variety of ways. 

4.  Enhance the "in between two driveways" strip.  This is a direct carry-over from 2021 when I did *some* work here.  More can be done.  Expand beds, plant divided grasses, look for shrubs and remove even more turf. 

5.  Fall in love with Groundcover.  That means more sedges as well as the three worts: moneywort, lungwort and barrenwort.  As I said in December, if I don't add two dozen sedges this year, it will be a miss.  My goal is to buy an even small quantity of hardwood fine mulch each year.  

6.  Have even more 'fun' with trees and vines.  Espalier, pleach and trellises. Take the next steps on espalier'd and pleached trees.   Work the Lindens. Think about removing the frames. Set up some frames to pleach the London Planetrees. Wire up the crabapples on the south side of the house. Replace the crabs/apples in the Belgian Fence. Frame up the top, too to extend their height. Although it isn't traditional espalier, I want to wire up the hops vine we have to allow it to grow vertically on a trellis

7.  Keep working (normal) trees 3 ways:   Planting new trees, measuring trees and work seedlings.  Buy only "interesting" trees - that means columnar or native (Tuliptree, Blackgum, Sweetgum) or planned (i.e. Tri-Color Beech).  Front yard and (maybe) some patio trees.  Get caliper measurements updated on all trees.  And, deal with both Kentucky Coffee tree seedlings and (hopefully) Catalpa tree seeds

8.  Keep finding joy with houseplants.   Hang Staghorns. Mount the last two on hand, but on interesting mounts.  Replant Firesticks cactus. Do some bonsai - both pre and non-pre bonsai. Keep the Mickey topiary happy.  Think about adding another topiary with a frame.  Also, refresh the soil in some of the legacy houseplants.

9.  Test and Learn With Landscape Lighting.  Do some uplighting on trees and think about lighting the sideyard path to start.  Also....Expand the proof-of-concept with the Disney twinkle lights and add them to a few more Hornbeam trees before they leaf out in Spring.

10. Continue a few seasonal projects.  That means: continue to collect walnuts, treat pests in Lindens and Magnolia trees, collect native seed pods and both feed AND winterize roses. Additionally, to deal with the rabbits, I need to add winter protection to more shrubs. 

11. Lawn Schedule, Overseeding and Renovation.  Keep an eye on the schedule and try to stick to it in the coming three seasons.  Bite the bullet and kill all the Poa in the backyard and do a full lawn renovation with the back-half of the lawn. Also, overseed the KBG with Tall Fescue in the front-half of the backyard.  These are both late Summer/early Fall projects. 

12. Add more 'free plants' through division. Continue to divide even more grasses, hostas and heucheras. Go get fosters from Naperville. I divided a bunch this year, but there's more available to continue to divide and replant. This sets the plants back a couple of years, but gets us more coverage.

13. Composting Improvements and Schedule. Based on the current state, I need to add a true third storage bin. Have to continue to use the alfalfa cubes again to speed things up, have a watering schedule and think about turning things on the regular.  Get back to using the under-the-sink composting bin.  Get the 'black gold' out of the tumbler and put to use in the front yard bed (see #19 below). 

14. Expand my use of tropicals and sub-tropicals in the garden. In the ground. In containers, too.

15.  Add a second backyard retractable water hydrant.  Same retractable hose setup as in back. But, this one should be free-standing (on a post) and closer to the house and patio.

16. Design with dark foliage and add color with shade annuals. Think about dark foliage when options exist. And splurge with annuals including polka dot plants and begonias in the ground. Like this bed at Morton.

17.  Get back in the Bird Feeding Groove.  First, my platform feeder broke.  Then, with the kids leaving before the sun gets up, I've missed my bird feeder buddy.  As a result: Our feeders have been hit-or-miss this Winter.  Get a new platform feeder, too. 

18.  Make a more permanent Fairy Garden setup.  Maybe it is with stumps.  Or in/around trees.  But, something that feels more substantial than the Bird's one-container setup.

19.  Improve front porch bed mulch and soil conditions.  Between hydrophobic mulch, the surface roots of the Norway Maple and floating mulch situation that is calling for a retaining wall or outcropping, I need to keep working this area. A little bit of advance work - I applied alfalfa cubes early this Spring, so this one is already partially done.  I think the application of the compost from the tumbler along with a thin layer of mulch will help enrich this area.  Think about expanding this bed and building an outcropping or retaining wall here to deal with the chronic floating mulch situation - based on learnings from the screened porch retaining wall. 

20.  Stain the patio container.  This will be the third year of having this on the list.  

21.  Enhance fire pit area. Bring electric back there - likely with the pool heavy-duty extension cords which will allow us to bury posts and hang some bistro lights.  Improve the actual firepit.  Plant shrubs from #1 above around fire pit border.  Could I build a Moongate back here?  Thinking about the notion of 'hide and reveal' for the seating area.  Also, add more gravel And/Or expand the gravel path.  And while not right NEXT to the area, I need to clean up the racks, process the wood and lay down some paver stones to make that area (behind the trampoline) a bit more tidy. 

22.  Add a water feature.  Finally.  Stock tank pond.  Fountain.  Rill.  Pondless waterfall.  By the patio.  Or....Maybe by the fire pit - which would require electric that I talked about in #21 above.

23.  Upgrade garden tools.  Add a new tool (like a Dutch push/pull hoe) or upgrade my most-used tools like pruners, clippers, shovels and rakes.  

24.  Clean up the south side gate entrance area.  Expand the bed forward towards the street (and fill in the gully), lay out large flagstones for walkway and add self-closing gate hardware.   Think about cleaning out strawberries that have run wild there and (potentially) expand the beds under the Lindens.

25.  Build a Versailles planter box.  Even though I don't have an Orangerie here in Downers Grove, I want to build a large-scale planter box.  And...paint it 'Go Away Green'.  

This year's list skews way more heavily towards projects - which is daunting because those require planning, time and focus.  While a few items that aren't *really* "projects" ended up here (like garden equipment, bird feeders), the data suggests a migration towards almost double the projects year-over-year and a big drop in trees.  That makes sense as I've planted 68 total trees on the property across five growing seasons and have more than 45 that are still alive.  There are very few spots we can take trees, thus the declining focus on trees is logical.   Similarly, I've consolidated all the lawn items into one macro lawn care item on the list, but that certainly underplays the importance in the activities.

I'll revisit this task list later this Summer to check-in and again when the season is over for a final grade.  If I can get many of these items done, we'll have a successful growing season. 


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