Tuesday, November 18, 2014


One of my North Carolina friends can't resist sending me
 cheery maps like this one from last week.

     We are still a month away from the winter solstice and I am already overflowing with discontent. The Midwest seldom gets a long and luxurious spring, but it usually enjoys a leisurely autumn. Chicago stays pleasant until our first light frost about Halloween.

     Then we usually have a few weeks to get ready for winter. Our roses still look good and we can still harvest broccoli and parsley, but it is time to begin cleaning up our perennials as well as our tree leaves and putting our stuff way. In a good year our trees will lose leaves at a steady pace that allows us to keep up.

And now this one from the weekend.

     This year, though, we are once more being hit early and hard by record-breaking low temperatures, and, even worse, a record number of days during which the highs never break the freezing mark.

     I, for one, was caught completely unprepared. My trees simply dumped their leaves, which, despite several mulchings, are still heaped up; my hostas are not cut down; I still have three potted shrubs that have not been planted and my rain barrels are frozen up, as well as my composter and my hoses.

Tasks  ahead.

     I will have to do something about all this while the temperatures are in the 20's because next weekend it will finally get warm enough to allow a nice mix of rain and snow to make a big mess of everything.

     Discontent indeed.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fall Ends with a Bang, not a Whimper

31st  St. takes  it  on the chin.
     Season change in Chicago does not have  a "stealth mode." We know exactly when Autumn ended -- Halloween. Winds gusting to almost 70 MPH blew  away any trick-or-treaters under 100 pounds and whipped up  lake waves to  more than 20 feet. And then there was the more routine stuff like rain, sleet, snow and a bit of hail. This let up for the sole purpose of allowing the temperature to plunge below freezing for the first time.

     I was amazed that the sleet did not destroy my roses and hydrangea, but the wind did bring down one of my bean trellises. When the freeze followed the storm both beans and tomatoes decided it was time for early retirement. Fortunately, Wan and I had just held a final picking party for them, so they are leaving the scene fulfilled.

Halloween winds find a knot in my treated  lumber.

     Our cool weather crops like snow peas and Swiss chard are still  doing fine.... And I am still planting trees and shrubs for my clients. The soil is still relatively warm and as the plants shut down they demand less of their roots, giving them a chance to re-establish themselves with less transplant shock.

     Dormant plants are easy to deal with, but they are not care-free. All your trees and shrubs, but especially your new ones, could use a good dose of water before the ground freezes. Keep your hose  running while you are out raking leaves.