2023 Yard & Garden To-Do List Scorecard - November 2023

Prioritizing is important for a gardener like me.  Without a task list, I end up spinning around and not getting things done that I wanted to/planned to/thought about.  Instead, I flutter about with the latest thing that I come across and when I look back at the season, I end up disappointed.  That's where this whole 'to-do list' thing came from:  prioritizing the many needs.  Like most growing seasons, I was optimistic. And went out of the gate hard with a big goal and started with 25 items on my 2023 to-do list - published in early April 2023.

Historical look at my previous lists:
I did a September check-in on the list and at that time, I had 13 completes and 12 incompletes.  That would have - if I stopped there - been my worst performance since I started prioritizing and tracking.  But, a bunch of those 'incompletes' were very likely - and I ended up checking-the-off. 

Here's a look at the list and how I did:

1.  Evergreens.  I set out to add more evergreens to the garden.  In front, in back.  Everywhere.  I talked about Winter interest, structure and textures.  At the mid-Summer check-in in September, I marked 19 new evergreens planted that included 18 boxwoods.   This Fall, I went ham on evergreens.  And conifers in particular.  Three Baby Blue Spruces lead the way, but I also added Weeping Norway Spruces, Birds Nest Spruces, an upright Montrose Charm, some Blue Star Junipers, more boxwoods and the last ones in the ground were three Soft Touch Japanese Holly.  All told, I count 36 evergreens added to our yard and garden in 2023.  Complete.  

2.  IB2DWs Extension.  Back in April, I added "with clustered evergreens, grasses and annuals".  I didn't follow any one plan - more like a combination of approaches - but I certainly 'extended' the IB2DWs bed by creating my new "Conifer Garden" with a variety of new dwarf conifers.  I also planted some groundcover (Stonecrop), perennials (Saliva, Echinacea and Pentsemon) and divided some of the existing plants like Blue Fescue grass clumps.  Is there more sculpting to do in the bed?  Yes.  But, did I do a lot of the big, plunge-worthy work?  Yes.  Complete.

3.  Front porch bed.  I set out to plan, improve and plant the bed.  This was a project that came in the wake of the removal of the large Norway Maple tree up there.  I worked to improve the bed with the additional of compost, composted manure and a lot of biosolids.  I went even further and created a vertical mulching project by using a post-hole digger to create deep holes that I filled with biosolids.  That soil improvement foundation helped create larger hydrangea blooms and let the plants take off.  I also planned and planted the bed out - including three (3) new Disneyland Roses, five (5) Green Velvet Boxwoods, a Fire Light Hydrangea (that might be wrong for the spot), transplanted grasses, added a whole run of Seslaria Autumnalis and Alliums, planted dwarf French Marigolds as a row of annual color, added a bunch of Ajuga Chocloate Chip and variegated sedum groundcover and a Matcha Ball Ash Leaf spirea by the roses.  I dug out and created a new front edge that I should extend even further next year.  I also planted out the front of the Little Henry Sweetspire - that currently is disconnected from the 'front porch bed', but will likely be connected next season.  I'd say this one is a big:  yep, I did it. Compete.

4.  Get (more) serious with vegetables.  The Greenstalk did that.  No hydroponics.  But, grew way more this year - including a number of potato containers.  Compelete.

5.  Install a second yard hydrant.  Done and done.  Has been a real game-changer and with this new one closer to my house has become my go-to hose.  Complete.  

6.  Become a gardener who weeds.  I used my hoe.  Can I do more?  Sure.  But, I feel good about what I did get done with the push/pull hoe.  I also did a late-season Creeping Charlie spray in the yard that fits here and #7 below.  Complete

7.  Keep working the lawn.  I used early-season biosolids and put down feed, insect and grub killer.  I didn't overseed because of some last-season activities in the yard.  But, I'll do a dormant feeding come Thanksgiving.  And, the backyard grass never looked better.  I'm thinking between the Turf-type Tall Fescue and KBG overseeding in 2022 and all the leaf litter that I mulched-in last Fall helped retain moisture and I didn't get those big brown patches that I have in previous years.   Next year, I should overseed to add some Turf-Type Tall Fescue to the front yard.  But, for this year?  Pretty good.  Complete.  

8.  Add a water feature and more landscape lighting.  Done and done.  I put up a wine barrel fountain and set uplights on a number of trees.  I should add more lights to the backyard and to my new conifer garden in front.  Complete.

9.  Work the Espalier'd trees.  Posts on Greenspire Lindens are down.  New training frames are up on the newly planted Kousa Dogwoods.  I pruned everything - Crabapples, Belgian Fence, Lindens and trained the new Dogwoods.  Complete

10.  Fern Upgrade.  Take out and replace the Ostrich Ferns (my first love).  Did I get rid of all of them? NO.  Not even close.  (Note to self:  for 2024...work on removing them from the northside).   But, I did add a number of ferns - two Crested Wood Ferns and five Autumn Ferns late in the season.  I also divided the Ghost Ferns to add three new plants.  If I wasn't so gunshy about late-season Autumn Fern planting (from 2022), I would have bought more than five this Fall.  Either way, eight new, upgraded ferns and a bunch of the Ostrich Ferns removed or moved to the back of the property.  Complete

11. Continue on composting journey. Turned, re-pile'd. Added Alfalfa cubes.  Added kitchen waste pretty regularly. And, added a third bin for Fall leaf collection.  Would love a leaf mulcher to get the leaf material cut up smaller.  But, that's for 2024.  Complete.  

12.  Improve my container game.  Did I plant containers?  Yes.  Are they good?  Not at all.   But, were there bright spots? Yes.  The Zinnias and Euphorbia that we bought at Northwind (without thinking about it) looked great.  The Purple Heart plant is a great trailer. I planted a number of Elephant Ear bulbs in the back and they were stars - per the usual.  I even made some cut flower bouquets this year.  My early Spring container was too Pansy-oriented.  And, Fall container was too Kale/Cabbage heavy, but I still put out seasonal plants.  What should I do next year?  Begonias in front - fewer, more interesting.  Same coleus.  Fewer, more interesting. Foxtail ferns, Elephant Ears and even a Japanese Maple could work in front.    Complete.     

13.  Fix/upgrade the back stoop beds.  I transplanted the rhododendons that were struggling and replaced them with the dwarf Spring Grove Ginkgos.  I also added some Angelina Sedum to the southside to balance out the legacy stonecrop. I also planted my first Geraniums and this Fall put in a Blue Star Juniper in the north one as a test due to the sunlight.  The Ginkgos are real garden stars and a total surprise to me.  Complete.

14.  Pick a project:  Boardwalk or Orangerie Box.  The boardwalk is done.  Well...mostly done.  The transition up to the patio isn't done, but I ran the boardwalk out to the end of the length-of-run, and floated it using Camo Blocks.  I feel good about it - as it was a big construction project.  I'm going to watch it closely this Winter and see how it does with heaving.  Next year...the Orangerie Box seems doable.  Unless...I take on a pizza oven build.  Complete

15.  Upgrade the firepit area.  New plants include climbing hydrangea, boxwoods a Japanese Maple and some Ajuga.  I also piled a ton of new Bluestone chips on top and hung up bistro lights with posts and added three new chairs.  Complete

16.  Continue seasonal projects.  Feeding, treating, collecting.  Fed and treated roses.  Fed and treated Lindens.  Applied lime to Ginkgos.  Removed Wild Onions.  Pruned shrubs.  Collected acorns and prepped them for cold stratification.  Complete.  

17.  Keep going on groundcover.   At the September check-in, I documented 20 groundcover plants.  This Fall, I added 30 more.  50+ groundcover plants in 2023.  Big.  Complete.

18.  Deal with the 'Kitchen curved' border.   I added Wave Petunias as bedding annuals and that was a nice little win.  I also added a small Japanese Maple - Emperor 1 to the border.  This Fall, I moved a Cat's Pajamas Nepeta and a Japanese Anemone there this Fall.  And put in a Baby Blue Spruce, some Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip' and a Matcha Ball Ash Leaf Spirea to the bed, too.  Complete

19.  Staghorns.   Three remaining - two mounted, one potted.  The two small ones showed a comeback - with shield fronds.  The larger one keeps on going.  I'd say I feel good about them, but know that Winter is going to be tough on them.   Complete.  

20. Process the firewood. I did quite a bit of it. But, when my maul broke, I stopped. I set up the Stumpery Garden, but that didn't use all the stumps. Still quite a bit left to do, so this has to be in the 'not done' column. Incomplete.

21.  Plant trees.  I planted 21 of them.  Holy cow.  Biggest tree-planting year ever.  Complete.  

22.  Take another look at bonsai.  Nothing here. Didn't start. Didn't buy anything that can be trained.  Incomplete.  

23.  Stain the patio container.  Same as bonsai.  Another year.  Another miss.  Incomplete.  (again!)

24.  Try to get cuttings to root.  Boxwoods this year - and kept the Limelight Hydrangeas alive.  I also tried a number of other shrubs and trees.  I'm hoping the boxwood survives until Spring.  Complete.

25.  Use annuals beyond the container.  I put down a number of bedding plants - Petunias, lobelia, begonias, impatiens and even a number of Polka Dot Plant.  All in the landscape.  Up front, I carried the porch border with a tri-color dwarf French Marigold and had volunteer Dusty Millers.  Complete

How many Complete?  22 items that I feel good about.
How many Incomplete? 3 that I didn't get done.  The good news?  They're small ones - like staining the patio container, working bonsai and processing the firewood.  

22/25 = 88%.  Pretty good - and it included a number of sizeable items like the evergreen plantings and the boardwalk.  

What did I learn and what do I want to take away from 2023?  Here's 10 things that I've learned:

1.  Trees.  I think that we can take a break from shade trees in 2024.  Japanese Maples and conifers?  Those are probably the only ones that I should be buying.  
2.  Can't have enough evergreens.  I added 36 just this year.  And they hardly make a difference.  Mostly, I suppose, because they're so small right now.  But, Evergreens should come first is an important lesson.
3.  Groundcover is something that I have a tortured, 1980's and 1990's view of:  mostly ivy and pachysandras.  But, Ajugas are awesome.  So are sedges.  And I'm learning to like sedums, too.
4.  Forget staining the patio container.  It will never happen.  Just be happy with it aging grey.  
5.  Stop it with the containers from the big box store.  Buy bedding annuals - like French Marigolds there - but don't be lured in.  Spend the Winter and Spring learning about containers and come up with a plan for them in 2024.  
6.  Flowers continue to be a little bit outside my comfort zone.  Change that.  I started this Fall, but plenty more room to grow/go.   Countertop arrangements need flowers.  Try some dahlias, too.
7.  A construction project (boardwalk) helps create new planting needs.  Same thing will happen with a pond or pizza oven or moongate.  
8.  Weeding can be not-so-bad.  I think I need a 'weed bucket' that I just leave out all Summer to toss things in, though.  
9.  Dwarf Conifers everywhere. Just plant more.  
10.  Next year, convert the raised bed to a table (or at least...part table) and plant multiple flushes in the vertical garden.



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