Adapted from the Chicago Botanic Garden’s “Monthly Garden Checklist”

Monthly Gardening Tasks

 

January

 

Order seed, bulb, and nursery catalogs to assist in planning your garden for the new year.

Recycle Christmas tree branches (cut into 2- to 3-foot sections), swags, wreaths, and other evergreen material as mulch for garden and perennial beds. Lightweight, open evergreens permit moisture to reach the soil but also insulate the roots and crowns of plants from the freeze-thaw-freeze cycle of Midwest winters. An alternative use for a holiday tree is to set it in the backyard and decorate it with bird seed and suet ornaments for winter birds. Continue to supply fresh water for birds.

When clearing driveways or shoveling walks, distribute snow loads equitably on shrubs and garden beds.

Continue to use potassium- or calcium-based de-icing products on walkways rather than sodium-based ones. If possible, broadcast sand on slippery surfaces. Always shovel snow before using any de-icing product.

During periods of winter thaw, water garden beds, turf, and plants that have received salt spray from roads.

Monitor plants for signs of damage from animals, ice, snow, or wind.

Keep ponds free of ice by installing small pumps or pouring warm water over ice as it begins to form. Don’t bang ice with a heavy object if you have fish in the pond.

Continue to keep the garden tidy by removing any broken or fallen branches from the yard. If small plants have heaved out of the ground, gently press them back with your hands; avoid compressing thawed ground with heavy boots. Retie any vines that might have been torn from their supports.

 

 

 

 

 

February

 

Continue to order seed, bulb, and nursery catalogs to assist in planning your garden for the upcoming year.

Unseasonably warm and dry winter weather will further stress plants that were not watered adequately during a dry Chicago autumn. During periods of winter thaw, water evergreens, broadleaved evergreens, and conifers as needed. Water newly planted trees and shrubs and all plants, including turf, that might be in the path of salt spray from salted roads.

Continue to check plants for signs of damage from weather or animals.


If necessary, continue to use potassium- or calcium-based de-icing products on walkways rather than sodium-based products. If possible, consider using sand on slippery surfaces. Always shovel snow before applying any products.

 

 

 

 

 

March

 

Annual and Perennial Care
Look for early spring-blooming bulbs (sometimes beneath the snow or ground cover). If necessary, divide clumps of old, non-blooming bulbs or fertilize with a 5-10-5 granular fertilizer now and again in fall. Mark the spots with small stakes for locating next fall.

Gently press back any perennials that heaved out of the ground over the winter. Mulch those plants with several inches of shredded material.

As days warm up, gradually pull back mulch from around perennial crowns.

Remove dead leaves from perennial clumps taking care not to injure emerging new leaves.


Cut back to the ground all perennials and ornamental grasses that were left standing for winter interest.

Prune back to 12 inches stems of autumn-flowering clematis vines.

Fruit, Vegetable, and Herb Care
Prune grapevines according to selected method. For detailed information on pruning grapevines, contact plant information at (847) 835-0972 to order Plant Information Fact Sheet #36, Pruning Grapevines.

Prune raspberry bushes and reattach canes to support system, if necessary. Some gardeners mow their raspberry patches to the ground this month to encourage one big crop during summer. Everbearing bushes should not be mowed down.

When soil temperatures are consistently in the 50s, sow seeds of cool-season vegetables directly into the garden. If seeds were started indoors, small transplants can be moved outside after a period of adjustment.

Cool-season vegetables that can be direct-seeded include the root crops of beets, carrots, radishes, parsnips and turnips; the leaf crops of chard, loose-leaf lettuces, spinach, mesclun mix, mustard and collard greens, and kale. The crops that should be started indoors and moved outside as transplants are broccoli, the cabbages, and cauliflowers.

General Garden Care
On dry days remove winter debris from lawn and garden beds. Check for broken branches (prune immediately) or plants damaged by snow loads or rodents. Remove burlap screens erected to protect plants from wind or road salt spray.

Consider a soil test of your entire yard or specific garden areas if you have not had one before. Consult the results of the test before adding amendments to your soil. Soil temperature must be 50 degrees for a proper reading. Tests can also be performed in the fall. Contact Plant Information at the Chicago Botanic Garden at (847) 835-0972 for a complete listing of soil-testing agencies.

To avoid compacting garden soil, wait until it has dried out before tilling, planting, or even walking in the garden beds. Mix in 6 inches or more of compost or leaf mold to lighten heavy soil.

 

 

 

 

 

April

 

General Garden Care
Cool-season annuals that can tolerate a light frost can be planted out early in the month after being hardened off. These include snapdragons, sweet peas, English daisies, pot marigolds, African daisies, lobelias, sweet alyssum, forget-me-nots, pouch flowers (Nemesia), baby-blue-eyes, larkspurs, love-in-a-mists, bush violets (Browallia), stocks, primroses, pansies, painted tongues (Salpiglossis), sweet Annie (Artemisia annua), and violets. Later in the month plant Shirley, Iceland, and California poppies, and Persian buttercups (Ranunculus).

Continue to remove all garden debris from last year. Shred and compost, leaving out diseased material. Add 2 to 4 inches of compost to garden beds if not done yet.

Plant trees and shrubs. Wait one year to fertilize new woody plantings.

Annual and Perennial Care
Plant perennials, hardy ornamental grasses, and roses. When planting bare-root roses, soak the roots in a bucket of water for several hours before planting. Be sure to choose a full-sun site before digging the hole. Remember that as soon as tall trees leaf out, full-sun areas can become partly shaded.

Divide mature summer- and fall-blooming perennials when they are 4 to 6 inches tall. Do not divide day lilies (September), Oriental poppies (July), or iris (late July) at this time.

Fertilize spring-flowering bulbs with a granular 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 mix as new green growth emerges or when they finish flowering. Remove spent flowers but allow foliage to wither completely before removing.

Divide clumps of older bulbs in need of rejuvenation. Replant in sunny spot and water in well. Bulbs prefer locations that are not heavily watered during their summer dormancy. Therefore do not overplant perennial bulbs with summer annuals. If botrytis blight or bud blast was a problem with peonies last year, spray newly emerging plants with an approved fungicide when the plants are 2 to 4 inches tall. When peonies reach 10 inches, stake or hoop them to support their blossoms. Avoid overhead watering. If fungus persists, consider relocating peonies to a more open, full-sun site. Move plants in the fall.

If weeds were a problem last year, spread a pre-emergent weed control over lawn as weather and temperature permit. Alternatively, consider hand-pulling weeds or spot-treating weeds after they emerge with a post-emergent weed control. Serious infestations often require several treatments to control the problem.

Fruit, Vegetable and Herb Care
Plant small transplants of asparagus, early potatoes, lettuce, radish, mustard, onions, peas, rhubarb, spinach, turnips, cauliflower, carrots, and all other cool-season crops as weather permits. Plant midseason potatoes in mid-April.

Plant strawberries and pinch off first-year flowers to develop strong root systems.

Later in the month, begin to harden off warm-season vegetable and flower transplants in a cold frame, or bring flats of small transplants outside to sunny, protected areas — but bring them back in at night.
If necessary, spray fruit trees with dormant oil for insect control. If apple scab was a problem last year with crabapple or apple trees, be ready to start spraying with an approved fungicide as soon as the leaf buds begin to swell and open. Spray routine will last until two weeks after petal drop. Wet weather will only aggravate the problem.

Call Plant Information for exact timing and recommended fungicides. Fertilize fruit trees and brambles. If growing fruit trees for their fruit yields, begin a spray program for insects and disease. Call Plant Information for exact timing and approved chemicals.

 

 

 

 

 

May

 

General Garden Care
Plant warm-season flowering annuals, vines, herbs, and vegetables after the Chicago area’s average last frost date of May 15. Cautious gardeners often wait until Memorial Day before setting out cold-sensitive plants such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and squash. Pinch back one-third of new growth to encourage stocky habit (except vines). Be sure newly purchased annuals have been hardened off properly before planting them outside. Avoid fertilizing newly planted annuals for two weeks.

Continue to plant new perennials, ornamental grasses, and roses in containers. If plant roots are root-bound (encircling the pot), make four cuts into the bottom of the root ball with a sharp tool, and flare the sections outward when planting.

Provide a gentle water drip for migrating birds. The May migrants — warblers, tanagers, orioles and buntings — are all attracted to shallow pools and the slight pinging sound of dripping water.

Perennial and Annual Care
Stake tall perennials before they reach 6 inches. Begin to regularly pinch back fall-blooming perennials such as chrysanthemums, asters and tall sedums. Pinch once a week until the middle of July. This promotes stocky growth.

Continue to direct the growth of perennial vines on their supports. Climbing roses should be encouraged to develop lateral, flower-bearing canes.

Continue to check peonies for botrytis blight or other foliar fungal problems. Peonies that suffered from botrytis or bud blast last year should be sprayed regularly, starting when the plants are between 2 to 4 inches tall. Cage or provide support for peony blossoms when the plants are 10 inches tall.

Let spring bulb foliage yellow and wither before removing it. The leaves manufacture food that is stored in the bulb for next year’s growth. Even braiding the foliage of daffodils can reduce the food production of the leaves.

Spray emerging lily shoots with antirodent spray if rabbits and deer have been a problem. Be sure to reapply after rainfall.

Monitor all annual plantings in window boxes and containers. On warm, windy days, hanging baskets will require water every day. Always water the soil thoroughly before adding dilute quarter-strength fertilizer to containers. Terra cotta pots will dry out faster than plastic. Consider incorporating water-conserving granules into container soil.

Plant tender water lilies and lotus when the water temperature is over 65 degrees.


Plant summer- and fall-flowering bulbs such as Asiatic and Oriental lilies, dahlias, peacock orchids (Acidanthera), cannas, tuberous begonias, caladium, crocosmia, freesia, gladioli, montbretia, and calla lilies.

Vegetable and Herb Care
Plant corn, snap beans, summer squash, and New Zealand spinach in mid-May.

Thin carrots, beets, and late lettuce.

Harvest green onions, lettuce, and radishes. Any of the mesclun mix or cut-and-come-again lettuces can be harvested to a few inches three separate times before the plants have exhausted themselves.

Harvest mature asparagus and rhubarb.

Spread several inches of aged compost on vegetable and herb beds, if not done yet.

Remove flowers of June-bearing strawberries as soon as they appear. This is necessary just for the first growing season. The plants will now develop a stronger root system.

Remove flowers for everbearing and day-neutral strawberries as soon as they appear. Flowers that develop after July 1 can be left on the plants to set fruit for later in the season.

 

 

 

 

 

June

 

General Garden Care
Apply 1 to 2 inches of leaf mulch on flower beds and around trees, keeping mulch away from the trunks. Mulch conserves moisture, protects plant roots, suppresses weeds, and regulates soil temperature.

Make sure all trees, shrubs, perennials, and roses receive 1 inch of water per week. If Mother Nature does not provide this amount, it is best to water deeply once per week rather than water shallowly several times per week.

Perennial and Annual Care
When cutting peony blossoms to bring indoors, remove as few leaves from the plant as possible. Remove spent blooms after they are finished flowering.

Remove spent blooms of annuals and some perennials to encourage new flower formation. Stake tall perennials and continue to tie annual and perennial vines to supports. Continue to apply repellents to emerging summer-blooming lilies, if rabbits and deer have been a problem in the past.


Fertilize annuals in containers, baskets, and window boxes with a quarter-strength balanced fertilizer every seven to ten days. Always water the plants before adding liquid fertilizer.

Fertilize bulbs with a 9-9-6 slow-release fertilizer if you did not do so at planting time. Mark the spots with small stakes to repeat fertilizer application in the fall (when plants are not visible).


Continue to remove yellowing leaves of summer-flowering bulbs.

Tall, floppy plants such as chrysanthemums, asters, and tall sedums can be cut back by as much as half or pinched to regulate their height.

Sow seeds of biennials, such as hollyhock, directly into the garden this month for next year's bloom. Mark the area carefully to avoid accidentally disturbing the seeds.

Monitor plants, especially succulent the new growth, for insects. Infested plants can be hosed down to remove small insect populations. Don't apply chemical treatments if ladybugs or other predator insects are present.

Mite activity often increases in hot, dry weather. Symptoms include stippled foliage which can be removed from plant. Refrain from applying chemical miticides which will also kill beneficial mites and increase mite populations. Consider releasing predators such as ladybugs or praying mantis to consume unwanted mites.

Fruit, Vegetable and Herb Care
Harvest peas, raspberries, and all cool-season lettuces and vegetables as they ripen.

If squash vine borer has been a problem in your garden, cover small transplants of squash, cucumbers, and zucchini with row covers to prevent moths from laying eggs on vines. Remove row covers when plants begin to flower. Consider planting resistant varieties next year.

Pinch top growth of herbs to encourage branching and keep them from flowering. Snip or cut off sprigs of herbs to use in cooking all season.

A fascinating nature project for families is to plant dill or fennel to attract swallowtail butterflies to lay their eggs. Watch for tiny eggs to develop into plump caterpillars that will feed on the herb foliage before pupating into butterflies.

Plant pumpkins at the first of the month. Large varieties require a 100-day growing season. If you gently carve names in developing pumpkins, the letters will enlarge as pumpkins grow.

Stake or cage tomatoes and peppers as they continue to grow.

Mulch your vegetable garden with straw to retain moisture.

 

 

 

 

 

July

 

General Garden Care
Newly planted trees, shrubs, perennials, and roses must receive 1 inch of water per week throughout their root zones. This is especially important in hot, dry weather.

Continue to cultivate and weed. The return of hot weather will certainly push weed growth.

If not done yet, mulch garden beds immediately after weeding with 2 to 4 inches of shredded bark. This is the best way to retain moisture and keep weeds under control.

Annual and Perennial Care
To promote a second, late-summer flower show, cut back, shear, or remove flower spikes from the following early blooming perennials: catmint, geraniums, salvia, and delphiniums.

Annuals in containers and hanging baskets may require daily watering during hot or windy weather. Continue to fertilize container plants with half-strength balanced liquid, but avoid applying in the heat of the day or during long, hot dry spells. Always water plants before fertilizing.

Remove spent flowers or seedheads of daylilies immediately to conserve plant energy.


Monitor foliage of densely planted annuals and perennials that might show fungal attacks due to cool, damp weather earlier this season.

Continue to pinch out new growth of tall sedums, asters, and chrysanthemums until the middle of the month.

Stake tall plants, if necessary, by tying with soft nylon ties.

Continue to guide clematis vines and all other soft-stemmed vines to their supports.


Make note of empty spots in borders that might benefit from planting summer-flowering bulbs next year.

Seeds of perennials can be sown directly into the garden at this time. Note their location to avoid accidental "weeding" next spring.

If necessary, dig and divide Oriental poppies as their foliage yellows and dries. Always plant poppies in sunny, well-drained areas. Avoid moving them, if possible. Since poppies fade out by midsummer, plant annuals or later-blooming perennials in front of them to conceal their unattractive yellowing foliage.

The lush greenery that grew abundantly during a rainy spring might become a target for insects. Monitor closely but avoid drastic action or strong chemicals until insects are correctly identified. Many, like aphids, will go away with a strong stream of water from a hose. Aphids have many natural enemies and are rarely cause for harsh pesticides. When in doubt, visit the Plant Information site at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Fruit, Vegetable and Herb Care
Continue to harvest herbs to use fresh, and dry or freeze them in small batches in an ice cube tray. Pinch off developing flowers to retain essential oils and flavor in the plants’ foliage.

Monitor tomatoes during hot weather. Tomatoes appreciate an even supply of moisture rather than a heavy soaking and then a drought. Straw mulch is helpful in these beds.


Many hot-weather-loving veggies, such as peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and cucumbers, might be delayed in fruit production due to a cool, wet spring. Side-dress these vegetables with a nitrogen fertilizer, taking care not to spread it on the plants’ foliage. Water in well.

Monitor vegetables for symptoms of fungus or blight: soft, darkened areas; yellow and dropping leaves; or sunken dark spots on otherwise green foliage.

Harvest onions and garlic as they are ready, and begin the drying process.

Seeds for fall crops may be sown toward the end of the month. These include beans, broccoli, spinach, cool-season lettuce crops, and cabbages.

Monitor all plants for insects. The return of sunny, hot weather will bring a bumper crop of insects. Hand-remove large insects such as tomato hornworms and other caterpillars.

 

Caterpillars on fennel, dill, and carrots might likely be those of swallowtail butterflies, which lay their eggs on these favorite host plants. Consider planting a special herb crop just for them next year.

Monitor apples during late July when apple maggots are laying their eggs. Visit Plant Information for current control methods. Some gardeners place red decoy apples in trees to trap these pests. When the insect count reaches a high level, control steps are then taken.


Espaliered fruit trees should be pruned for the second time once their spring flush of growth is over. The first pruning is done in late winter when plants are dormant.

 

 

 

 

 

August

 

General Garden Care
Continue to water, weed, and monitor for insects on all garden plants. In times of drought, prolonged hot weather or water restrictions, first water all newly planted trees and shrubs, newly planted perennials and vines, and newly sodded or seeded lawns. Annual plants should be the last on the list, simply because of their ephemeral nature.

Annual and Perennial Care
Continue to deadhead annuals and perennials to encourage additional flowers. Allow certain dried flowerheads to remain standing for fall and winter interest, including astilbe, coneflower, globe thistle, and others.

Remove yellowed or dried stems and flower stalks of lilies by gently pulling them from the underground bulbs.

Place small stakes in the garden bed where tulips, narcissus, lilies, alliums, and other fall-planted bulbs will go.

Water container gardens as needed. Continue to feed container plants with quarter-strength liquid balanced fertilizer twice a month.

Consider adding to garden beds garden chrysanthemums, asters, or other fall-flowering plants to further extend the flowering season. Many greenhouse-grown mums are not hardy and will not survive over the winter. The earlier the mum is planted in your garden, the greater the chance of survival over winter. Mulch newly planted perennials immediately.

Remove yellowing daylily foliage or leaves that are browned and spotted. Green leaves must remain on the plant to continue to manufacture food. Deadhead individual flowers to keep plants looking tidy.

Daylilies can be divided and replanted or new plants can be installed at the end of this month. Peonies can be planted at the end of this month and into early fall.

Fruit, Vegetable and Herb Care
During the first week of August, plant short-season snap beans, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, carrots, mustard greens, spinach, and radishes for fall harvesting.

Cool-season lettuces, mesclun mixes, and unusual greens that were planted in early spring can be planted again this month. If weather is unusually hot, plant these greens in partial shade.

The best quality and best tasting salad greens come from plants that were watered frequently and lightly rather than infrequently but deeply. This advice is the exact opposite to what is recommended for watering trees, shrubs, perennials, grass, and other plants.

When harvesting lettuces, cut every other plant to the ground. This practice allows each lettuce head to develop fully.

In hot weather, lettuces and cabbages can bolt quickly and form seed stalks. These stalks render the leaves bitter. Remove any stalks as soon as they begin to grow.

When buds form on Brussels sprouts, remove the lower leaves. Taller plants with more sprouts will result. Sidedress plants with balanced fertilizer when sprouts are marble-sized.


Keep vegetables picked so the plants will keep producing.


Avoid letting squashes, zucchini, etc., become giant-sized. They may win county fair prizes, but they will have little flavor.

Monitor for blossom end rot on tomatoes. Tomatoes are very moisture-sensitive. Mulch garden beds and keep moisture evenly available for these plants. They don’t grow well when exposed to cycle of rain, drought, rain, drought.

Keep records of harvest dates to help plan next year’s garden.

Continue to harvest herbs by either snipping foliage, drying entire sprigs or plants, or freezing individual portions in ice-cube trays. Pinch off developing flowers to retain essential oils and flavor in the plants’ foliage.

Herb plants that can be brought inside for a windowsill garden will be dug up and transplanted into pots next month.

Continue to monitor edible crops for disease or insect problems. Avoid spraying strong insecticides or fungicides on food products. Hand removal of caterpillars is recommended.


If hot, dry weather persists, some fruit trees might abort their crop. Apple trees require deep watering for maximum fruit production.

 

 

 

 

 

September

 

General Garden Care
September is a good time to begin a compost heap. Begin to layer grass clippings, dried fallen leaves, soil, a handful of fertilizer, and a little moisture. Shredded garden debris can be added as annuals and perennials die back next month.

Pick a dry day this month to test your soil. Plant Information at (847) 835-0972 has listings of soil testing agencies. Follow agency instructions on where and how to collect soil samples. Refrain from adding amendments, fertilizers, or other chemicals to your soil until you know what your soil lacks.

Annual and Perennial Care
Continue to deadhead both annuals and perennials to encourage additional flowers.

Return of cool weather is a good time to refresh annual containers with cool-season favorites such as pansies, ornamental cabbage and kale, chrysanthemums, or fall-blooming asters. Asters and mums purchased in bloom this month are usually greenhouse-grown and not necessarily hardy. To increase their chances of making it through the winter, plant them directly in garden beds, rather than containers, early this month so they can establish their roots for a good four to six weeks before frost. Water well and mulch plants right away.

Do not cut back perennials until their leaves and stems have lost all green color.

Daylilies and peonies can be divided or planted early this month. Water well to encourage healthy root development. Peonies should be planted so that the buds or eyes are no deeper than 2 inches below soil level. If planted too deeply, they will fail to flower.

Make final selections of spring-blooming bulbs but don’t plant any until later in October and November.

Fruit, Vegetable, and Herb Care
The next six weeks will provide an abundance of produce. Continue to harvest vegetables as they ripen. Warm-season crops like peppers and tomatoes must be picked as soon as possible. If an early frost threatens, cover these plants with baskets or light blankets. Refrigerating tomatoes causes them to lose their flavor. Store in a cool, 60- to 70-degree room for a few days.

Begin to harvest late-season squash and early pumpkins. Full-sized pumpkins need to remain on the vine as long as possible to achieve their maximum size.

Allow collards, kale, and Brussels sprouts to be hit with frost before harvesting. This improves their flavor.

Begin to harvest a second crop of any cool-season lettuces, spinach, peas, radishes, or chard that were planted in August.

Continue to snip herbs to use fresh, to dry, or to freeze. If herbs have gone to flower or seed, discontinue harvesting, since the flavor has then left the foliage.

Everbearing raspberry bushes will produce their fall crop on the top half of the canes. After harvest, prune out the top half of the plants. The lower half of the canes will produce fruit early next summer. After harvesting the summer crop, prune the canes to the ground.

Maintain good sanitation throughout the vegetable garden. Remove diseased plants immediately as well as those that have finished their growth cycle for the year. Compost only healthy plant material.

 

 

 

 

 

October

 

General Garden Care
Keep the compost pile active by adding layers of green material (grass clippings and frost-killed annuals or perennials) and brown dried material (fallen leaves, shredded twigs, and dried grasses) with small amounts of soil, fertilizer, and moisture. Turn regularly. Keep diseased material out of the pile.

Excess fallen leaves can be shredded and kept aside to use later next month as mulch for perennial and garden beds once the ground has frozen hard.

Annual and Perennial Care
After a killing frost, remove annual plant material from your garden and add it to your compost heap.

Any soilless mix from window boxes or containers can be discarded or kept aside for one more year. If used for a second year, mix equal parts old mix with fresh soilless mix.


Clean and sterilize containers before storing over winter.

Do not mulch your perennial garden area until the ground has frozen hard later in November.


Begin to plant spring-blooming bulbs. Mulch area after planting. If rodents, deer, or rabbits have been a problem in the past, consider planting varieties of the following pest-resistant bulbs: ornamental onion, grape hyacinth, fritillary, narcissus, windflower, winter aconite.

A few weeks after a killing frost, lift and store tender bulbs. This might be as late as November. Cut back above-ground foliage and stems of cannas and dahlias to 4 to 5 inches. Gently lift up tubers using a pitchfork. Shake off excess soil and dry tubers in a warm dry place. Do not separate the mass of tuberous roots at this time. When dry, place labeled tubers in cardboard boxes lined with newspaper and filled with barely moist wood shavings, peat moss, or vermiculite. Store between 40 and 50 degrees in a darkened room. Check periodically to be sure tubers haven’t rotted (throw away) or begun to dry out (sprinkle gently with water).

 

Tuberous begonias can be dug in the same fashion. Remove all foliage and stems and place in a cardboard box lined with newspaper and filled with barely moist wood shavings, peat moss, or vermiculite. Store tubers in dark room between 45 and 55 degrees.

Caladium bulbs are lifted and stored like tuberous begonias.

Gladioli corms are dug, dried, and stored between 35 and 40 degrees in paper bags or open-weave mesh bags.

Tuberose planted in the garden should be dug up and have its foliage removed, then stored in a pot with very dry soil in a darkened warm room. Those planted in containers can be moved straight to storage after cutting back the darkened foliage and stems.


Winterize aquatic gardens. Hardy water plants may remain in ponds as long as they don’t freeze.

Protect small ponds from freezing by covering them with thin plywood sheets and layers of mulch or shredded leaves. Or install a pond heater to keep the water surface from freezing. If a thin layer of ice forms on the water surface, pour hot water on the ice to melt it. Banging on ice can hurt fish.

Remove tropical water plants, cut off all foliage and flowers, and store tubers in an indoor aquarium where the water remains 55 degrees or in moist sand in a bucket at 55 degrees.

Fruit, Vegetable, and Herb Care
Harvest pumpkins before a killing frost.

Continue to harvest vegetables. If hard frost threatens, pick all tomatoes, including the unripe ones, and store in cardboard boxes or paper bags in basement.

Cut back any remaining herbs and bring them indoors to use fresh or dry.

Cover tender plants from light freezes at night by covering them with sheets, plastic, or upturned bushel baskets.

Apply a heavy mulch over leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, beets, and turnips to continue the harvest into early winter.

After a hard frost, remove all dead plant material from the vegetable garden and compost. Rototill 1 to 2 inches of organic material, composted manure, or shredded leaf mold into garden soil. Add granulated sulfur according to package directions.

Remove all fallen fruit from your garden and yard. Maintain proper sanitation throughout entire garden area.

 

 

 

 

 

November

 

 

General Garden Care
Add 2 to 4 inches of shredded leaves, composted manure, or garden compost to perennial borders and garden beds once the ground has frozen completely.

Continue to feed the compost pile with grass clippings and dried plant material removed from garden beds. Avoid adding diseased plants to the pile. Turn the pile regularly to speed decomposition.

Before temperatures go below freezing, disconnect outside water sources, drain hoses, and store indoors. Sharpen and oil tools. Store all unused herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and chemicals in original, labeled containers. If cardboard containers have become wet, consider disposing of the product. Avoid storing chemicals in unmarked plastic or glass containers because it’s too easy to forget what they are. Check expiration dates on products to be sure they’re still viable.

Clean birdbaths, but try to maintain a water supply for birds over winter. Small heating coils can be used in stone birdbaths to prevent water from freezing.

Clean and refill bird feeders. Regularly cleaning and rinsing bird feeders is essential to prevent spread of disease.

All ceramic, cement, or terra cotta containers should be emptied, cleaned, and stored in a frost-free space. Soilless mix from containers can be stored in a pile outside and combined with equal parts fresh mix for next year’s containers.

In the event of snowfall, avoid using salt-based de-icing products in or around garden areas. Shovel snow before it freezes on sidewalks and sprinkle sand on walkways close to plantings.

Annual and Perennial Care
Continue to plant hardy spring-flowering bulbs early this month if weather and soil conditions permit. After planting, broadcast a 5-10-5 fertilizer over the soil surface and water well.

If rabbits, rodents, or deer have been a problem in past, consider planting varieties of the following pest-resistant bulbs: ornamental onion, grape hyacinth, fritillary, narcissus, windflower, or winter aconite. Some gardeners recommend lining the planting hole with ½ inch of sharp sand or gravel before setting in bulbs. These products help deter rodents from digging.

Cut to the ground all remaining dried perennial material not intended for winter interest. Add to your compost pile.

 

 

 

 

December

 

General Garden Care
Mulch perennial beds once the ground has frozen hard. Apply 2 to 4 inches of shredded bark, composted manure or garden compost, if not done already. Evergreen boughs from seasonal wreaths or small sections of Christmas tree branches may also be used as winter protection on garden beds.

If ice forms on surface of aquatic garden pond, pour warm water over it. Banging ice with heavy object can injure fish.

Try to avoid salt-based de-icing products in or around garden areas. Sodium chloride products are more damaging to plants than potassium- or calcium-based products. Always shovel before spreading de-icing material.


When shoveling snow, try to distribute snow equally on garden plants instead of piling it up against foundation plantings or in the root zone of one tree.

If possible, maintain a supply of water for birds over winter. Small heating coils can be used in stone birdbaths to prevent water from freezing.

Clean and refill feeders. Regular cleaning and rinsing is essential to prevent spread of disease to visiting birds.

Holiday Plant Care
Ivy topiary is a popular holiday plant that can last for years if given proper care. Ivy also prefers quite cool conditions in bright light far away from heating vents or fireplaces. Mist the plant regularly or swish upside down in a bucket of tepid water to keep the foliage clean and free of mites. As new growth emerges, train tendrils to desired form. Take the plant outside after May 15.

Poinsettia plants appreciate bright light away from heating vents, fireplaces, and drafty windows or doors. Maintain even moisture (but never soggy); plants will wilt dramatically if allowed to dry out.

Moth orchids prefer warm rooms in bright, but not direct, sun. Sudden temperature changes can cause a plant to drop buds. Orchids potted in fir bark generally require once-a-week watering. Those in potting soil can be watered less often. Moth orchids will bloom for months. Remove drying buds to maintain the beauty of the plant. After flowering, allow the stem to yellow before removing it. Begin fertilizing the plant twice a month with a dilute orchid fertilizer. This will encourage a new stem and more flowers the following year.

Paperwhite narcissus will require a cage or a ring of raffia tied around them to keep them from flopping as they grow. If purchased as bulbs, grow them in a shallow dish filled with pebbles rather than soil. Arrange the bulbs close together and cover them with pebbles, with just their tips exposed. The weight of the pebbles helps to keep them from falling to the side as they grow. Water just enough to encourage root growth, without soaking the bulbs. Discard after flowering, but rinse and keep the pebbles for future forced bulbs.

Wayne Countryside Garden Club