Putting the yard to bed

There was a time, back when I was a naive newbie homeowner, when I honestly thought I could and should follow Martha Stewart’s planning calendar to complete house & garden rituals. I even made a Google calendar, reminding myself when to remove the storm windows and hose-down the siding (April 1: Spring Maintenance), brighten the porch floor (June 1: Summer Maintenance), etc. In reality, the porch has only been brightened once since it was renovated three years ago, and I have no idea which day it was, and I don’t care.

Instead, I have learned over many Chicago winters that the most important thing I can do for the yard each fall is to put it to bed properly before the first frost. (Martha doesn’t have this task on her calendar until Nov. 24, but she’s tempting fate.) So last weekend, I harvested all that was left of our herbs & veggies, then tore up the roots till the beds were bare.

The lighter soil you see was dumped from potted herbs. Next step: cover everything up nice and snug. Martha uses compost; I use what I’ve got plenty of this time of year: pine needles from our giant tree.

Some perennials don’t like pines, but these are dead needles — harmless. And there is an abundance of them in the backyard, so I use them on all of the perennial beds.

I even use them on the window boxes. There’s enough for all four.

When everything is tucked away for a long winter’s nap, it looks pretty cozy. Hard to believe this will all be covered by snow in a matter of weeks!