A green space for urban gardeners

Mother of all cleanup days: time for dirty job that has to be done

You can only put off cleanup day in the garden for so long before it has to be done.

You can only put off garden cleanup for so long before the day of reckoning arrives.

Those of you in warmer climes probably spent Mother’s Day Sunday winding down colorful garden paths and smelling the early roses, while here on Planet Chicago I tackled the dirty job of cleaning up the debris from last year’s garden.

I promise the garden duck and bird will stand upright when cleanup is done.

I promise the wooden duck and bird will stand proud again.

I know, many people choose to pull out the old plants in late fall, but for me it’s a pretty sad process at that time, since there always are a few flowers struggling to live on — if but for scant days more. I just can’t bear to deprive them of their extended moment of defiance. Cleaning up now, when I know the best garden days are ahead instead of behind, is a happier, more positive undertaking.

Today I removed dead stems from horizontal planters, from large clay pots used for the heirloom tomatoes, and from small pots used for morning glory and moonflower. I preserved a few sprouts from the horizontal planters that beat the odds against surviving a Chicago winter to germinate outdoors in a container. (I think they may be petunia, which would be a good thing since my petunia seeds didn’t sprout.)

When recycling soil, make sure to break it up and fluff so new roots have room to grow.

When recycling soil, make sure to break it up and fluff so new roots have room to grow.

I wasn’t able to recycle as much of the soil as I’d hoped, but where I could, I pulled out the dead stuff and broke up and fluffed the remaining soil to be topped off with new soil later this week.

My plan is to finish cleaning and sweeping up tomorrow and to pick up soil and replace a few of the pots that cracked due to the cold. (I should mention that this is one instance when you should do as I advise, not as I do, because if one is going to leave clay pots outside all winter you should definitely double bag them — with the heavy-duty “contractor” bags found at  hardware stores — so that they don’t crack.)

The next day I want to work on the “mise en scene,” that is make sure all the things that create the garden ambiance are in tip-top shape: net lights, wind chimes, floor mat, chairs, etc. And, the following day I’ll begin weathering my sprouts outdoors during the daytime, then bring them back inside for overnight.

The forecasted highs this week range from the mid-60s to low 70s, with lows mostly around 50, so Mother’s Day as the dividing line for safely being able to put out new plants seems to hold true this year.

Therefore, I can officially say to all those itching to get dirt underneath their nails: let the gardening begin!


  Stephanie wrote @

Hi Avis, I hope today you will be able to finish all your sweeping and cleaning up. Today is my cleanning day too. Have another great week and yes, happy gardening!

  Avis Weathersbee wrote @

I was thinking of you and Malaysia when I wrote the first sentence of this post! Enjoy your week, too!

  Stephanie wrote @

TQ for remembering us 🙂 I hope you will have warm weather soon.

  Lavender wrote @

Bravo! A job well done and now you can enjoy the satisfaction…spring is such a glorious time. Looking forward to seeing how you go this year, Cheers!

  Lynne wrote @

I have to go re-sweep debris from my kids (neighbor’s)party and the strong winds. But I am excited for the potted garden to come.

You know I’ll be wearing gloves!! Always do and I get the job done!!

  ChrisND wrote @

Hi. Thanks for visiting….Your balcony garden sounds exciting just from the prep-work you have done. You’ve done a lot with the space you have.

It’s exciting when you can really start to get plants growing outdoors…I just hate the part where everything has to go in at night.

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