Cold, Rainy Spring

Cold, Rainy Spring

For the first time ever–in 13 years–I was not able to burn my prairie gardens this spring.  Too wet, too cold, or too windy.  So I finally had to have it cut down, raked up, and tied up or stuffed into waste bags.



I don’t have a place to compost this much stuff, so I put it out for the city to collect and compost.  My gardens won’t be fertilized by the ashes of all these dead leaves and stems that grew here, breaking nature’s cycle. How will this affect my gardens this year?  Should I apply some organic fertilizer?  Blood meal, bone meal?  I don’t know.


Believe it or not, though, Spring is coming!

Get your native plant gardens started with plants from Northern Kane County Wild Ones Plant Sale on Saturday, May 5, at the Elgin Nature Center.


or call 847-794-8962

17 Responses to Cold, Rainy Spring

  1. Benia Zouras April 19, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

    We haven’t mowed our native yard yet this year, but we always mulch up last year’s growth with the mower and leave it to compost in place. Have you considered this option?

    • PatHill April 21, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

      A neighbor boy mows what’s left of my lawn and I don’t think his lawn mower is up to mowing down my gardens, particularly the grasses. But thanks for the tip. I’m going to burn this fall after the foliage dries and see how that works. I’ll let you know.

  2. Guy Smith April 21, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

    You are incorrect about “not having a place to compost that much stuff”: You WILL if you would just pile it up in the “backyard”, and start a compost pile, and stop making excuses why you feel compelled to not want to really deal with your compostable materials. If not YOU, the Who?!, If not NOW, then When?! Don’t be an “Ecological NIMBY”!
    You need to just DO IT!- You need to get over this throw-away Ecological mindset and learn to deal with reality, before it’s too late!

    • JFSinIL April 21, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

      Dude, have you seen Pat’s backyard? There is no place to compost that big a heap! I walk past her corner lot (walking my dog) daily – there is truly no place to have more than the typical small compost container most of us have in this neighborhood. Which is why, most years, Pat is able to have a controlled little burn to take care of the material (and return it to the soil). Did you not read her post?

    • PatHill April 21, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

      Are you a new reader? If you have seen pictures of my yard, you could see that it’s all gardens with grass paths. There literally is no room to compost. You can click on past blogs listed on the right side of the page. And, as I said, this is the first year in 15 years that I haven’t burned.

  3. Valerie H April 21, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

    I don’t think one season is enough to worry about. I doubt every spot in the prairies enjoyed a burn every single year.

  4. chris darbo April 22, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    Wow! I’m thinking Guy Smith owes Pat an apology! No need to be abusive, Guy!

    • Pat April 22, 2013 at 8:59 am #

      Yeah, I think he’s way out of line, too.

    • Guy Smith April 30, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

      Hey, I have nothing to apologize for. I wasn’t making flimsy excuses why I should be allowed to ship perfectly good organic materials from my backyard off to some distant site where others have to deal with it, or worse.
      Perhaps you are way too worried about your social perception, and are too little concerned about the realities of the burgeoning problems of loss of organic matter, and nutrients from our soils, and loss of habitat (including the necessary habitat for detritivores in close proximity to where they are needed most = in every yard in suburbia!
      Sorry?, – I’m not the one who’s missing the point of what I wrote. Please, go back and ‘meditate’ on what I wrote. Then start composting in earnest.

      • PatHill April 30, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

        Compostable materials picked up in Elgin where I live are composted in Elgin.
        AS I said before this is the first year that I was unable to burn my prairie and savanna gardens because of the wet conditions all spring. And I still have no open space, no lawn to put a large compost pile My lot size is 50 x 120 and contains a bungalow, a garage, and a driveway. The rest is in prairie and savanna gardens with grass path running through them.

  5. Pat April 22, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    Interesting isn’t it? Every year brings something new to observe.

    I have 3 prairie areas, one of which I did manage to burn. Another is a ditch garden which does not have enough burnable material and, of course, it’s wet in the spring! The third is a tall grass prairie from seed that is still standing erect, surprisingly still attractive.

    I’m also curious as to how this will effect the new season. Perhaps more seed will allow the tall grass area to expand???

  6. Robin April 22, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    Way to go, Guy! You’re making fast friends, eh? Not…

    This is my first year in the ‘hood with Pat and I also walk and/or drive by her house daily. For some reason, I thought you burned in the fall, I don’t know why. I am eager to learn about natural gardening and will be watching your yard with great interest this Spring & Summer. I don’t know if I can to much in my yard yet as we’re just renting the property, but I can still learn. 😀

    • PatHill April 22, 2013 at 9:25 am #

      Some people, notably Dr. Jerry Wilhelm, author of Plants of the Chicago Region, advocate fall burning. I’m going to do that this year.

  7. Jack Shouba April 22, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Apparently the Native Americans usually burned in the fall. According to a display at Starved Rock, there was a “moon” in the late summer (fall?)called the “narrow fire moon”. Fall burns are supposed to favor the flowers while spring burns favor the grasses. That said, it is very hard to burn in the fall: by the time the vegetation dries out, you get rain or snow. At Campton Township we only got in one burn last fall, and about 4 this spring. Historically, prairies did not burn every year, and some insects overwinter in the plants, so (at least in larger prairies) it is good to vary the area and the timing. In practical terms, we burn whenever we can, as often as we can, and it is not enough.

    • PatHill April 22, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

      I’ve wanted to do a burn in the fall before, but you’re right–by the time the grasses dry out, it starts to snow. My permit is good until next spring, so I’m going to really try to do it.

      Check out Sue’s comment and my reply below.

  8. sue April 22, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

    Call me if this happens again. I’ll pick up your bags and spread them around our prairies.

    • PatHill April 22, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

      I never thought of that, Sue. That would have been a great solution. The Prairie Dropseed was not easy to cut down, so today, with the beautiful warm, sunny day, I burned the grass.

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