Timely Tips & Gardening Information
Gardening can be a fun hobby but sometimes the hardest part is knowing when to do what. When is the right time to prune? When is the right time to fertilize? When should I start planting? All of these are important questions to ask when beginning and maintaining your garden. Below is a great list of tips for each month of the year so you know what to do each month to keep your garden looking beautiful year after year.
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Make your bed:
It’s time to build your garden beds and prep them (if they are not already done).
• Make sure to add organic amendments, such as Bumper Crop, and/or last year’s compost
• Clean debris from beds
• Finish perennial and ornamental grass cut backs
• Clean up evergreen perennials (liriope, heuchera, lenton rose, carex)
• Divide perennials when you see them start to wake up
• Prune shrubs that bloom on NEW wood (spirea, smooth and panicle hydrangea, barberry, abelia) and certain evergreens
• Remove deadwood
• Prune damaged branches from winter
• Prune fruit trees in late winter, early spring before flush
As always, if you are unsure of what to prune and when, please contact us at Bucks Country Gardens for help with your projects.
What to plant:
• Uncovered, you can add potatoes and onion sets to your vegetable garden as soon as the ground is workable. I also transplant some strawberries that have gone rogue at this time.
• Plant cool season crop seeds: lettuce, spinach, peas, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, collards, Swiss chard, carrots, beats, radish, escarole, arugula. *Note: If these are direct sow they will take a while to germinate unless covered with row covers. Plant starter plants as soon as they are available.
• Start warm season crops seeds indoors: tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant
• Plant hardy perennial herbs: thyme, rosemary, sage, and chives
• Plant spring annuals, summer and fall bulbs
Many of the same things can be done in April as you have done in March (if they are not done already).
What to plant:
• You may want to plant secondary crops of your winter veggies to lengthen your harvest
• Start warm season crop seeds indoors: beans, summer squash, and cucumber
• Plant the remainder of herbs by end of month *Remember: Keep mints in planters!
• Plant summer and fall bulbs
Time to mulch! Mulching in April allows you to see where the perennial root crowns are, and gives fairly easy access to most parts of the garden as a lot of items are not fully flushed out yet.
Bucks Country Gardens is fully stocked by mid-April and will have wonderful availability at this time. Stay in the loop with our weekly plant features and promotions!
Time to start reaping the benefits of gardening! Depending on when and how you started planting (starter plants vs. seeds and whether or not they were covered), this month you should be seeing your first spring harvest of your cool season crops.
What to plant:
• Make sure to plant one more round of cool season crops at the beginning of the month to harvest before the summer
• You can direct sow cucumber, corn, and squash at this time. *Please note: Direct sowing and starting your own seeds are good for gardeners that grow a lot of that type of plant and have more time to dedicate to their veggie garden.
• For the gardeners that are doing smaller container gardens, or are short on time, purchasing starter plants may be the way to go for you. This saves time in prep and growing. We recommend planting tender plants after May 15th, the frost-free date. It is unlikely for frost to occur after this date.
• All herbs can be planted now
• Plant summer annuals
You can find starter plants at Bucks Country Gardens throughout the growing season, as well as tools and materials needed to start seeds.
• Heavy rains encourage slug problems. Check for slugs during rainy periods and hand pick the pests
• For hanging baskets in cool, shady locations, use tuberous begonias, ferns, impatiens or fibrous rooted begonias in combination with trailing plants, such as English ivy.
• Remove old flower heads from annual bedding plants to keep them blooming.
• Disbud Chrysanthemum flowers to secure large, beautiful blooms on straight, strong stems. To disbud, remove the small side buds along the stems which form in the angles of the leaves. This will allow all of the food reserves to be used for one large flower rather than many smaller ones.
• Plant annual flowers in tubs or large containers for the porch or terrace. Make sure there are holes in the container’s bottom to provide good drainage.
• Remove foliage from spring bulbs after it turns yellow and begins to dry. Set out bedding plants to cover the bare spots using care not to damage the bulbs.
• Watch for and control blackspot and powdery mildew on rose foliage.
• Use bark mulch around young trees to protect them from lawn mower damage.
• Spring flowering shrubs such as Spirea, Viburnum, Lilac and Forsythia should be pruned as soon as they are done blooming.
• Mid to late June is an excellent time to take softwood cuttings of shrubs to start new plants. Some shrubs which can be propagated in this way are Spirea, Lilac and Viburnum.
• Snapdragons should be pinched back after blooming to promote a second flush of growth.
• Cut back and fertilize Delphinium and Phlox to encourage a second flowering.
• Many plants are easily propagated by layering. Verbenas, Euonymus, English Ivy and Climbing Roses are a few plants that will root if the stems are fastened down and covered with soil.
• Cutting flowers is best done with sharp shears or a knife which will help avoid injury to the growing plant. A slanting cut will expose a larger absorbing surface to water and will prevent the base of the stem from resting on the bottom of the vase. It is best to carry a bucket of water to the garden for collecting flowers, rather than a cutting basket.
• Divide and transplant bearded iris using the vigorous ends of the rhizomes. Discard the old center portion. Cut the leaves back to about six inches.
• A garden needs one inch of rain or water each week. Early morning is the best time to water. Evening watering is less desirable because plant leaves that remain wet through the night are more susceptible to fungus diseases. Mulch plants to reduce water losses and improve yields.
• For fall harvest of lettuce, radish, carrots, beets, turnips, kale and spinach, sow seeds in late July to early August.
• Continue to make successive plantings of crops like beans and sweet corn to provide a continuous harvest until fall. A small garden will produce a large quantity of vegetables if replanting is done throughout the summer.
• Check the soil moisture of container grown vegetables and flowers daily. As the temperature rises, some plants may need water twice a day.
• Continue attracting insect eating birds to the garden area by providing them with a fresh water source.
• Colorful plastic golf tees can be stuck in the ground to mark the location of dormant plants such as spring bulbs or perennials.
• Keep tall flowers staked and cut out dead flower stalks.
• Disbudding Chrysanthemums produces larger blooms. Most mums, except spray types, respond well to disbudding.
• Since container-grown plants have a limited area from which to absorb water, plants in a sunny location may require watering several times a week. Check plants often to avoid water stress.
• Cut Strawflowers intended for dried flower arrangements when the blooms are only half open. Tie small bundles of the flowers together and hang them upside down in a well ventilated place to dry.
• Check on water needs of hanging baskets daily in the summer. Wind and sun dry them much more quickly than other containers.
• Clean up fallen rose and peony leaves. They can harbour disease and insect pests over the winter if allowed to remain on the ground.
• Pinch off onion flower buds from the top of the plants to direct all of the plant’s energy into the developing bulb instead of seed production.
• Mound soil over the lateral or brace roots of corn stalks for extra support against strong winds.
• Pick summer squash and zucchini every day or two to keep the plants producing.
• Remove old plants which have stopped producing to eliminate a shelter for insects and disease organisms.
• Plant peonies now, but make sure the crowns are buried only one and a half to two inches below ground level. Planting them deeper than two inches may keep them from blooming.
• Root cuttings from annual bedding plants such as begonias, coleus, geraniums and impatiens. These plants can be overwintered in a sunny window and provide plants for next year’s garden.
• Before the first frost dig up Caladiums. Allow them to dry and store them in a dry place for the winter.
• Perennial phlox can be divided about every third or fourth year. Divide big clumps of perennial phlox into thirds. Early fall or early spring are the best times to plant or transplant them.
• Select accent plants for your landscape that will provide autumn colors. Trees that have red fall color are flowering dogwood, red maple, sugar maple, Norway maple, red oak and scarlet oak. Shrubs with red fall foliage include Sumac, Viburnum, Winged Euonymus and barberry.
• Allow plants to finish the summer growth cycle in a normal manner. Never encourage growth with heavy applications of fertilizer or excessive pruning at this time. Plants will delay their dormancy process that has already begun in anticipation of winter in the months ahead. New growth can be injured by an early freeze.
• Tree wound paints used after pruning are no longer recommended as they can slow healing and may promote decay.
• If pesky seedlings of woody plants, such as elm, mulberry, hackberry or maple are found growing in your yard, remove them as soon as possible. If left too long they will take over gardens and other landscape plantings.
• Rake up leaves, twigs and fruit from crabapple trees and dispose of them in the trash to help control apple scab disease.
• Fall is a good time for improving your garden soil. Add manure, compost and leaves to increase the organic matter content.
• Plant spring flowering bulbs.
• Cut down stems and foliage of herbaceous perennials after two or three hard frosts and when leaves begin to brown.
• Dig and bring in Cannas, Dahlias and Gladiolus. Dry, clean and store in a cool location free from frost.
• After several hard frosts add mulch to your perennial flower garden. A one inch layer of straw or chopped leaves will help conserve soil moisture and protect the root system.
• When deciding on new trees or shrubs to plant around your home, remember to select varieties that will fit the location when they are at their mature height. This will greatly reduce pruning and other maintenance in the future.
• Pick bagworms from evergreen shrubs. This will eliminate the spring hatch from over-wintered eggs.
• Fall is the time to control certain broadleaf weeds in the lawn, such as white clover, dandelion and ground ivy.
• Make a note of any particular productive or unsatisfactory varieties of vegetables that you planted this year. Such information can be very useful when planning next years’ garden.
• Remove any diseased or insect-infested plant material from your garden, it may harbour over-wintering stages of disease or insect pests. If you leave this plant material in your garden, you are leaving diseases and insects which will begin to reproduce again next spring and add to next years’ pest problem.
• Cure Pumpkins, Butternut and Hubbard squash at temperatures between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit for two or three weeks immediately after harvest. After curing, store them in a dry place at 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit.
• After chrysanthemums have stopped blooming, cut stems back close to the ground and dispose of stems and all dropped and dried leaves and branches.
• Reduce peony botrytis blight and hollyhock rust by removing and disposing of all old stems this fall. This will reduce the carryover of the diseases during the winter and you will have less trouble next year.
• Clean up rose beds. Be sure all diseased leaves are raked up and disposed. *Inspect trees and shrubs for bagworm capsules. Remove and destroy them to reduce next year’s pest population.
• If you’ve purchased gourds this year as decorations, plan to grow them yourself next year. They make great garden projects for kids.
• Be sure not to store apples or pears with vegetables. The fruits give off ethylene gas which speeds up the breakdown of vegetables and will cause them to develop off flavors.
• After the ground freezes, mulch small fruit plants such as strawberries. One inch of straw or leaves is ideal for strawberries. Small branches may be used to keep mulch in place.
• Remove all mummified fruit from fruit trees and rake up and destroy those on the ground. Also, rake and dispose of apple and cherry leaves. Good sanitation practices reduce re-infestation of insects and diseases the following season.
• African violets do well when potted in rather small pots. A good general rule is to use a pot one third the diameter of the plant. Encourage African violets to bloom by giving them plenty of light. They can be in a south window during dark winter months. They bloom beautifully under fluorescent lights. In fact, they seem to prefer them.
• Clean power tools of all plant material and dirt. Replace worn spark plugs, oil all necessary parts, and sharpen blades. Store all tools in their proper place indoors, never outdoors where they will rust over the winter.
• Remove snow from evergreen shrubs to prevent the branches from breaking. Tap the branches gently.
• Place Christmas trees away from fireplaces, radiators, heat vents and anything else that could dry the needles. Keep your Christmas tree well watered from the time it is brought home until it is discarded.
• Minimize traffic on a frozen lawn to reduce winter damage.
• A common complaint in growing rubber plants indoors is yellowing leaves with dead spots on the edges. This is usually caused by over-watering. Bottom drainage helps remove surplus water.
• House plants with large leaves and smooth foliage such as Philodendrons, Dracaena and rubber plant, benefit if their leaves are washed with a damp cloth to remove dust.
• A home weather station that includes a minimum/maximum thermometer, a rain gauge and a weather log is a good gift for a gardener.
• Check belts and spark plugs, change the oil, sharpen the blades and clean off dirt so equipment will be ready to go when you need it next spring.
• Drain the fuel tank of the lawn mower or tiller before putting the machine away for the winter.
• Clean and sharpen lawn and garden tools and store them in a dry storage area.
• After Christmas, your live tree can be moved outside and be redecorated for the birds. Anchor the tree in a bucket full of damp sand. Put on strings of popcorn and cranberries. Apples, oranges, leftover breads and pine cones covered with peanut butter then dipped in birdseed can also be added. For best results, push the edible ornaments well into the tree.
• When using salt to melt ice on walks and driveways, spread it carefully to avoid damage to nearby shrubs.
• Brush snow from evergreens as soon as possible after a storm. Use a broom in an upward, sweeping motion. Serious damage may be caused by heavy snow or ice accumulating on the branches.
• Avoid heavy traffic on the dormant lawn. Dry grass is easily broken and the crown of the plant may be severely damaged or killed.
• Analyze last year’s planting, fertilizing and spraying records. Make notes to reorder successful varieties as well as those you wish to try again.
• To prolong bloom, protect poinsettias from drafts and keep them moderately moist.
• Turn and prune house plants regularly to keep them shapely. Pinch back new growth to promote bushy plants.
• During the winter most homes are too dry for house plants. Increase humidity by placing plants on trays lined with pebbles and filled with water to within one half inch of the base of the pot.
• If you have some time this winter, paint the handles of garden tools red or orange. This will preserve the wood and make the tools easier to locate next summer when you lay them down in the garden or on the lawn.
• Feed the birds regularly and see that they have water. Birds like suet, fruit, nuts, and bread crumbs as well as bird seed.
• Do not wait until late in the winter to order seeds. Many varieties sell out early.
• Check stored bulbs, tubers and corms. Discard any that are soft or diseased.
• Don’t remove mulch from perennials too early. A warm day may make you think spring is almost here but there may be more cold weather yet to come.
• Branches of Forsythia, Pussy Willow, Quince, Spirea, and Dogwood can be forced for indoor bloom. Make long, slanted cuts when collecting the branches and place the stems in a vase of water. Change the water every four days. They should bloom in about 3 weeks.
• Late winter is the time to prune many deciduous trees. Look over your plants now and remove dead, dying, or unsightly parts of the tree, sprouts growing at or near the base of the tree trunk and crossed branches.
• This year plan to grow at least one new vegetable that you’ve never grown before; it may be better than what you are already growing.
• Don’t start your vegetable plants indoors too early. Six weeks ahead of the expected planting date is early enough for the fast growth species such as cabbage. Eight weeks allows enough time for the slower growing types such as peppers.
• Prune fruit trees and grapes in late February or early March after the worst of the winter cold is passed but before spring growth begins.
• Fertilize fruit trees as soon as possible after the ground thaws but before blossom time.
• Repair and paint window boxes, lawn furniture, tools and other items in preparation for outdoor gardening and recreational use.