A blog about the restoration, remodel and renovation of a 1929 Chicago-style brick bungalow

Yard Conundrum

We have finally gotten the side yard in decent shape. Not to say there isn’t more work to be done, but now that we built additional raised vegetable beds toward the back it no longer looks like a junk yard. (You’re welcome, neighbors, and thanks for your patience!)

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Right now, in addition to the 4 tomato plants we planted in the large bed (background), we’re growing Kale, Celeriac and Kohlrabi. I got turned on to kohlrabi and celeriac from our CSA share, which we’re not doing this year. Now that we have several beds I’m hoping to grow more veggies of our own. I have seed packets for other herbs and veggies but I haven’t gotten around to sowing them.

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In the photo below, the black-eyed Susans to the left, along with the clump of taller plants in front of the vegetable beds are temporary/left over from previous plantings. We’ll be planting grass where the black-eyed Susans are, along with a section of our backyard. The other plants, Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), get too scraggly and mildewy so I’m going to say buh-bye to those. There is a shorter, more compact version of that plant, Monarda bradburiana, which apparently doesn’t get mildewy so I’m going to try those next year in another spot. I’m planning to plant more shrubs in this area instead.

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2013080604So now that it’s already August, I’ve been thinking about the front lawn. I have been reading up on How to Plant a New Lawn, and Pete and I were thinking about renting a rototiller to turn the weeds under.

I decided to start digging up the turf by hand, at least along the edges, since the tiller would be unwieldy near the sidewalk and garden border. This edge of the lawn was okay, but as I worked my way in front of the house I was finding lots and lots of fine roots from our established Norway Maple. This was not a good sign and I realized that this is probably the main cause of our crappy, uneven lawn.

I went back and did more research. I know that the Norway Maple is considered an invasive species (ours was probably planted 40 or more years ago, I’m guessing) and it turns out it has very shallow roots in addition to its dense canopy. The more I read the more disheartened I became that our front lawn appears to be doomed — hence my yard conundrum.

I contacted the Morton Arboretum Plant Clinic to confirm that rototilling would not work with the shallow roots, and they also said that even Roundup on the weeds could cause a problem with the tree roots. And they basically said “good luck” in trying to get any grass to grow under the tree canopy.

Because the tree is in the parkway (space between the street and public sidewalk), it’s technically village property that the homeowner must maintain. They will do the trimming of the tree, which they already did, but they will not remove a tree unless it’s dead, diseased or hazardous. I just put a call in to the village to discuss my options with them. I’m hoping I can convince them that it’s a tripping hazard in our yard (which it really is). I also called a couple arborists to get a quote on having the tree removed ourselves, which we’d have to get a permit from the village to do. It’ll probably be cost-prohibitive, but I’d like to find out anyway.

It sure would be nice to plant a native tree in its place.

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