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Gardening Tips


Garden Tips for January

 This is the month for Armchair Gardening.

 Relax in a comfortable chair and enjoy looking through all the catalogs that are finding their way through your mailbox daily. Look for new plants and new colors for the coming seasons.

 After making a list of plants you like together with their size and color, make notes as to where in your garden these new plants will look their best.

 If you want to do something different, try forcing branches of spring-flowering shrubs. Go out on a warm sunny day cut some branches and stand them in warm water for one hour. Then put them in cold water. Mist daily to fight the dry air in the house. Try flowering dogwood, which takes 4-6 weeks, magnolia or pussy willow, which take 1-3 weeks.

 Before ordering new seed, test last year’s seeds for viability. To do this put 8-10 seeds between two pieces of damp paper towel, roll up and place in a plastic bag. Keep at 70 degrees. Check periodically. If at least 50% of the seeds germinate, it will be fine to plant them in the Spring.

 Clean and sharpen your garden tools. A light coating of oil will help prevent rust.

Linseed oil will keep the wooden handles from drying and cracking. 

Garden Tips for February

 Armchair gardening, this month, is a time to design your perennial beds to have the plants placed so that there will be color all through the year. This might mean moving some of the plants in the Spring. Now is when you have the time to research and plan.

 When looking to purchase new plants, be sure to keep in mind that Michigan is Zone 5 for hardiness. Do not purchase plants that are for Zones with a higher number than 5 unless you plan to dig them up in the fall.

 There is still time to do some forcing of branches for a bright splash of color. Try Japanese maple, redbud and crabapple. These all bloom in 4-6 weeks.

 If you get a nice warm day – above 40 degrees Fahrenheit you can apply another spray of anti-desiccant to protect your plants from drying out in the cold winds.

 You can prune your fruit trees, shrubs and shade trees in February.

 Now that most of your catalog seeds and plants have been ordered, take another look at where you expect to plant them.

Make notes as to when you should be planting your seeds. The packets should give you a number of weeks they can be started indoors ahead of the last frost. Then mark you calendar so you do not forget.

 When designing perennial beds you should work towards having 10-15% of the plants blooming at the same time. This gives you summer long color.

This is also a good time to design your vegetable garden. Make sure you plant your rows from east to west – keeping the shorter plants to the south side of the garden with the taller plants to the north.

 February is also a very good month for pruning your fruit trees, shade trees and shrubs.

Be careful when pruning the trees that you don’t tear the bark. Make the cut clean and close to the main trunk or stem without actually damaging the trunk or main stem.

Garden Tips for March

 If you are a rose lover, you should be prepared to start pruning your roses when you see the forsythia in bloom. Remove all dead branches and prune to open up the center of each bush. Be sure to make nice clean cuts and seal the cuts with carpenters’ or other household glue. This stops insects from invading the fresh cuts. As the weather warms, slowly remove the mulch. If you use rose cones, they can be removed on warm days. Keep them handy for days when the temperature dips.

 Stay off the soil until it is dried out enough that it falls apart easily after you have squeezed a small amount in your hand.

 Now you can start to sow seeds of cool weather crops, such as carrots, lettuce, beets, peas and spinach.

 The tender seeds can be started inside now. Check packets for the time you need to plant them before frost is gone and adjust your planting indoors so that the plants do not get too big before you can move them outside.

For your trees and shrubs, you should be spraying with dormant oil. Wait until temperatures are at least 40 to 45 degrees are expected to remain above freezing for the next 24 hours.

 March is a great time to do a soil test. The soil can then be amended before spring planting. Your local Cooperative Extension Office can help you get the soil tested.

 While you are waiting for the soil and temperature to get where you need it for planting, take the time to finish your winter clean up.

 Don’t forget in Michigan we can get plant-damaging frosts as late as the end of May.

If you put tender plants in the ground before that date, be sure have some protective covering nearby.

Garden Tips for April

If your forsythia did not bloom in March it will for sure in April. Get ready to prune your roses as soon as this happens.

As the leaf buds start to open on the roses, you need to begin applying fungicide sprays to stop black spot and other fungus related diseases. I usually do this every 10 days using several different fungicides and rotating them.

The time the forsythia is in bloom is also the time to apply crabgrass pre-emergent to the lawn.

Continue to start your seeds according to your calendar. If you mix one tablespoon of baking soda to each gallon of water, you can help prevent damping-off (fungus) of seedlings. Be careful not to over water seedlings.

You can start seeds of hardy annuals outside as soon as the soil is workable.

Plant flowering shrubs, perennials, berry bushes, shade trees, roses and evergreens this month.

Add your compost to your flower and vegetable beds – hoe in thoroughly. Also where you do not have flowers that may have dropped desirable seeds last year, you can spread pre-emergence herbicide to prevent weeds germinating in the spring.

Hostas and perennials can be divided now before they leaf out. If they are not divided every few years, the number of blooms will be reduced and the plant will die out in the center.

Crop rotation in your vegetable garden can help reduce disease. To do this you need to keep a map of the garden each year.

Feed your flowering bulbs before or as they bloom.

Garden Tips for May

Hollyhocks can be a problem with ugly rust on their leaves. To help prevent this starting, use a recommended fungicide as soon as they begin to grow. Continue spraying through the summer.

Your local County Extension Office can give you the average date for last frost in your location. This will help with planting out tender seedlings. Michigan can have a last frost as late as the end of May. There are variations depending on where you live in Michigan.

If you decide to plant your tender plants a little early – you should have some kind of protection handy in case a frost is forecast. A milk jug with the bottom cut out and tops off is one way.

Mulch should be added to flower and vegetable gardens to reduce weeds and conserve moisture. This also helps reduce earth born diseases as it stops soil from splashing up onto the plants during a heavy rainfall.

As your roses start to bloom you need to begin deadheading them to keep them blooming. As you do your spraying, you should be watching for other problems such as diseases or broken branches. These need taking care of right away.

If you have been saving your toilet papers, or paper towel cardboard centers, you can protect your seedlings against cutworms as you plant them in the ground. To do this you need to place 3 inches of the cardboard around the seedling and push halfway in to the ground.

Your peonies can be supported as they grow by using old tomato cages – cut down the tall ones and fit them over peonies. If you cut the cage just above a circle of wire, you have good wires to push down into the soil. They can be pushed down until the next ring or circle is on the ground. As the plant grows, the cage can be eased up from the soil to support the height of the leaves.

Your local Extension Office can tell you when to spray your fruit trees for prevention of damage from disease and insects.

June Garden Tips

Everything should be in full bloom or done blooming. Keep trimming back dead blooms to promote growth.

Start up your watering program. Roses especially need lots of water – deep watering less often is better than light watering more often.

Snails love to get into our plants around this time of year. If you have been saving your old coffee grounds, tealeaves and fireplace ashes, now is the time to spread them around the garden to keep slugs and snails away. Sprinkling dried, crushed eggshells around them can discourage slugs around your Hostas. You can also use Diamataceous Earth, but that is a little more expensive.

Keep the lawn mowed regularly at a 3-inch height to promote deep root growth.

After they finish flowering you should prune your flowering shrubs and trees. Don’t wait too long or you might damage next year’s blooms.

If you don’t get a steady amount of rainfall, be sure to water the new shrubs, trees and perennials you planted this spring.

Keep your tall plants tied to stakes as they grow. Using old pantyhose and nylon stockings works great as they stretch as the plants grow.

Keep the weeds down, keep the spraying timely and the mowing regular -- we are off to a great summer.

July Garden Tips

 Herb Garden: - Annual Herbs should have their flower heads pinched off. This will encourage leaf production.

 Collect the seed heads from Dill, as they turn brown. Store in paper bags until the seeds all drop.

 Trees and Shrubs: – Should be sprayed with a systemic insecticide to control larvae of birch trees which can cause leaf miner injury.

 Water mature spruce trees and shrubs at least twice each week.

Broadleaf evergreens and hedges can be pruned this month if they are not the blooming type. Blooming shrubs should be pruned immediately after blooms are finished.

 Vegetable Garden: - Chinese cabbage, collards, kale, endive, mustard and endive can be sowed later this month for fall harvest.

 Keeping the garden evenly moist can control blossom end-rot. This applies to tomatoes, squash and peppers.

 Flower Garden: - Seeds should be sowed for biannual spring flowers such as pansy, forget-me-not and sweet William.

 Keep deadheading all plants especially roses to maintain highest possible blooms. Remove debris from garden area. Many prefer not to compost this debris.

 Spray with foliar sprays using a balanced fertilizer.

 Dormant bulbs can be dug and stored for fall planting.

 Continue spraying fungicide to roses and other susceptible plants on a regular basis.

August Garden Tips

 Lawns: - can be aerated and dethatched this month, following up with fertilization. Sod will take well this month. Patching with new seed while the weather is still warm will work well for you.

 Flower Gardens: - Start looking at where and what you would like to see next spring as the bulb catalogs start to show up. Order now for fall planting.

 Late August is a good time to divide peonies. Lift crown with garden fork leaving most of the leaves attached and divide with sharp knife. Best to keep 3 to 5 eyes in each division. Replant with the eyes no more than 2 inches below soil surface, or at the same level as before they were dug.

 Cut back all spent flowing plants. Cut back on fertilizing your flower gardens, especially roses. New growth in the fall will be killed by early frosts, which is damaging to the plant itself.

 Dahlias will give you lager blooms when you cut back the side buds.

 Vegetable Gardens: - As plants stop producing, harvest remaining crops and remove plants from the garden to reduce possible disease and insect problems. These plants, except tomato plants, can be composted.

September Garden Tips

Flower Gardens: Now is a good time to divide spring blooming perennials. Take the leftover plants to plant exchanges in your area.

 You can start planting spring flowering bulbs this month and keep on as long as you can dig the soil.

 Take a good look at your garden while all the perennials are at their full size and decide what needs more space and where you can fill in next year.

 You can start taking cuttings of your favorite annuals to root for winter houseplants. Coleus and begonias will root easily in a glass of water or damp sand.

 Don’t forget to treat the plants you are taking into the house for the winter with an insecticide – follow label instructions.

 Houseplants: – Need humidity – preferably over 30%, so start up your humidifiers as the humidity in your home falls. Stop fertilizing houseplants until spring.

 Lawns: - If you have grub problems in your lawns – now is the time to use the granular insecticides in areas showing problems.

Compost Piles: – Should be turned from time to time to maintain proper aeration. Try to keep them moist but not wet and soggy. It does not hurt to add a little fertilizer from time to time as more material is added to the bins.

October Garden Tips

Flowers: - Perennials, not yet divided, should be taken care of before a hard freeze.

Add mulch where needed and make sure all tender perennials are mulched, hilled or burlaped. Roses should be coned or burlaped. Be ready to do a temporary removal of cones if the temperatures rise above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Replace them as soon as the temperature drops.

I find that if I cut one or two holes (approx 2”) on the less windy side of the snow cone it allows heat to escape and does away with the need to remove on hot days. I try to turn the holes toward a building or toward the East. Make sure you put a weight (I use old bricks) on each cone to keep them from blowing away.

 You can still plant bulbs for spring bloom.

 Lawns: - Leaves should be shredded or mulched and they will break down and feed the soil. Whole leaves should be composted.

November / December Garden Tips

By now, you should have put your gardens to bed for the winter.

 If you have a lot or rabbits in your area, you should protect tender shrubs and plants by circling them with rabbit wire – the 1-inch mesh type.

 Once the leaves are gone – usually after several hard freezes, the sap is low in the plant and you can safely prune away unwanted limbs and branches. This includes damaged and crossing branches.

 Do not prune evergreens at this time. You can also trim the evergreen perennials.

 By now, you should have all your equipment and outdoor furniture under cover. Gas powered lawn equipment should have the gas line turned off and the engine ran until all the remaining gas is gone.

 Be sure to put the dried seeds you have collected into small envelopes and label. Store in a dry place until spring or give away at your next garden meeting.

 By now, you should have all hoses disconnected from outdoor faucets – very important.

 After a hard freeze where temperatures dip down below 30 degrees F. and stay there for a few hours, almost all plants can be considered dormant. That means they can be safely transplanted.

 Yes, transplanted. Think about it. Transplanting a tree or shrub is like you or I having surgery. Roots are severed. You wouldn’t want to undergo surgery while you are awake and alert would you? Neither do your plants.

 You can continue transplanting, weather permitting, until early spring when they start to leaf out. Then stop.

 Happy Holidays!!!



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Last modified:    April 2013