almanac

Almanac: May-June 2107

by janem on May 10, 2017

What To Do in the Garden in May & June

Forsythia

Forsythia

ANNUALS & PERENNIALS
Buying Plants:
— Choose compact, healthy plants with unopened buds that are appropriate for your gardens.
— Check plant tags to make sure your growing conditions meet the plant’s needs and that the final height and width is appropriate for your space.
— Check for signs of insects (chewed leaves, puncture wounds, sticky substances) or disease (yellow leaves, stunted growth, signs of fungi). Be sure to look on both sides of the leaves.
— Buy yourself at least one new plant! Consider those beneficial to pollinators and birds.

In the Garden:
— Leave bulb foliage intact until it yellows and wilts but remove spent flowers to prevent seed formation. The foliage is required to give the bulb energy for blooming next year.
— Watch for pale yellow trails on columbine leaves caused by leaf miner. Remove and destroy infested leaves throughout the season.
— At the end of June, cut back perennials such as phlox, bee balm, sedum, asters, and goldenrod by one-third to one-half to control height or delay flowering.
— Cut back spring flowering perennials such as pulmonaria and perennial geraniums after they bloom to encourage the growth of new foliage and/or reblooming.
— Deadhead perennials and annuals to prevent seed formation and to encourage new growth and more flowers.
— Place stakes or other supports next to or over taller flowering plants so they can grow up through them without damage to foliage and flowers.
— Plant dahlias, gladiolas, lilies, begonias, elephant ears, caladiums, and cannas when the soil is warm.
— Place plants in the soil at the proper depth. Be sure to spread out the roots.
— After direct-sowing seeds, be sure to thin the seedlings to prevent crowding.
— Spring bulbs can be moved or divided as soon as the foliage dies.
— Weigela, forsythia, and spiraea can be pruned back after blooming. Cut about one-third of the stems to the ground.
— Remove spent flowers from azaleas and rhododendrons so energy goes to the foliage rather than to the making of seeds.
— If growing azaleas and/or rhododendrons in higher pH soil, be sure to add acidifying agents to the soil.

LAWNS
— Mow lawn at least three inches high. This helps the lawn outcompete weeds and encourages deeper, healthier root growth. Leave grass clippings on the lawn to return nutrients to the soil.
— The first application of lawn fertilizer, if needed, can be put down around Memorial Day. If fertilizer was applied in fall, a spring application is not necessary. A top dressing of compost is an excellent natural fertilizer.
— For optimal pre-emergent crabgrass control, do not apply until soil is close to 60 degrees. Crabgrass doesn’t germinate until the soil temperature two inches deep is between 60 and 64 degrees. Applying when the ground is too cold is a waste of money and chemicals.

VEGETABLES
— Check the Cornell Recommended Vegetable list for suggested and disease-resistant varieties.
— Plant your brassicas now: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and summer cabbage.
— Reseed bush beans every few weeks to replace plants that have finished producing.
— Leeks may be moved to their final growing place in the garden.
— Plant your tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, and peppers when the ground is warm to promote growth, lessen the chance of disease, and to prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes. End of May is recommended.
— If plants were grown from seed be sure to harden them off before planting them in the garden.
— Harvest salad greens, radishes, and spring onions if ready.
— Stake tomato plants. Pinch out sucker growth.

GENERAL GARDENING
— Start slug control.
— Check for four-lined plant bugs.
— Avoid overcrowding plants to discourage disease.
— Use deer repellants or consider deer resistant plants.
— Prune spring flowering trees and shrubs after blooming is finished.
— Weed now while weeds are small.
— Keep newly planted trees, shrubs, vegetables, perennials, and flowers well watered (about one inch per week.)
— Renew mulch if necessary.
— Turn your compost. Add finished compost to all beds. Distribute about 1/4 inch depth over your lawn as well. This discourages weeds and enriches the soil.
— Thin out your fruit trees to ensure fruit of a reasonable size.
— Gradually move houseplants outdoors to a site with some shade when night temperatures are above 50 degrees.
— Make softwood cuttings before the plant tissue hardens to insure success.
— Rethink at least one of your gardens. Begin to make changes now.

— Carol Ann Harlos and Lyn Chimera, Master Gardeners, Erie County

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Almanac: March-April 2017

by janem on March 17, 2017

March Edibles
Start onion/leek/celeriac seeds early in the month. Consider getting a heated germination mat. After the seeds germinate, take the plants off the mat and place about 4 inches below hang fluorescent or LED lights.

Start pepper, eggplant, and parsley seeds late in the month if you are in zone 6 or a warm microclimate of zone 5 (otherwise, early April). Soak parsley seeds in lukewarm water for a few hours first. Use the germination mat. Move to the light setup as soon as the seeds sprout.

If you have overwintered vegetable plants in a cold frame, make sure they don’t get overheated. If there are root veggies in the garden, dig them up as soon as you can before they resume growth or rodents get to them. Harvest overwintered leaf veggies (FEDCO Seeds has a great list of extra-hardy veggies that can be wintered over with the help of a cold frame or low tunnels or mulch.) Egyptian onion, also known as perennial or walking onion, needs no winter protection and provides an early harvest.

It’s time to start pruning fruit trees (except peaches) and grapes, before they leaf out. If you grow fall raspberries, and prefer to get the large crop in late summer and fall, prune all the canes down to the ground. ‘Polana’ is a great variety that fruits for over two months starting in mid-August. I avoid ‘Heritage’ due to late fruiting and susceptibility to Phytophthora root rot.

March Ornamentals
Observe where the snow melts first. This is your warmest microclimate. Consider putting your earliest spring bloomers there, such as snowdrops, winter aconites, and hellebores. Also, keep track of where the snow lingers longest. This is your coolest microclimate. When designing  your landscape, consider this site for plants that tend to sprout too early and get damaged by late spring frosts. By mulching heavily and siting them in a cooler spot, they will stay dormant later and hopefully avoid such damage.

Watch out for water that accumulates on top of frozen ground. Consider covering sensitive alpines with a bucket or plastic box to prevent this. Water puddles can kill evenwinter-hardy plants such as purple poppy-mallow. Plant them on a slope to allow the water to drain away.

Winter is a great time to plan garden improvements because the architecture of your design is most apparent then. Take a photo of an area of your garden, and print it out on 81/2” x 11” paper.  Tape a sheet of tracing paper over the photo and, with a pencil, sketch shapes and sizes that you might like to add to the picture. Sketch circles and sweeping lines of various lengths for shrubs and grasses. Use a stick and ball to represent flowering perennials. Is there a view you would like to maximize or hide? Use colored pencils to enhance your design.

Now is also a good time to evaluate and prune your ornamental trees and shrubs, except for species that are considered ‘bleeders’. Maples, birch, yellowwood, magnolia, linden, willow, and nut trees are just a few trees that should be pruned a little later, after the sap is finished running.

This is a good time to repot houseplants and resume fertilizing lightly. Look for problems such as insects. Leggy plants such as angel wing begonias can be pruned and the cuttings rooted.

April Edibles
Start tomato, broccoli, cabbage, and basil seeds indoors in mid-month (if you will have enough space under your fluorescent lights). Start fava beans in individual cells or pots late in March or early in April, depending on your microclimate. This is a bean that tolerates light frosts, so plant the seedlings outside later in the month, to get production before hot weather.

In late April, move pepper, eggplant, and basil seedlings to individual pots indoors. Consider applying black plastic or IRT (infrared transmitting) mulch to warm up the soil in the veggie garden where you want to plant heat-loving crops.

If spring weather permits, direct-seed cold-tolerant veggies such as peas, spinach, lettuce, radishes and carrots around midmonth.

Finish pruning fruit trees (except peaches) and grapes before they leaf out. Prune berry plants per recommendations. Consider applying row cover on strawberry plantings. Fertilize blueberries with an acid fertilizer such as ammonium sulfate (NOT aluminum sulfate) and/or apply elemental sulfur to keep the pH acid enough.

April Ornamentals
Protect early-sprouters from late spring frosts. Candidates for protection include the true lilies, Japanese painted fern fiddleheads, Kirengeshoma species, and crown imperial, all of which have been zapped one time or another in my zone 5 frostpocket location. You can use the same covers that you employ to protect your tomato plants in fall: old sheets and blankets that are not too heavy, cardboard boxes, or upside-down buckets. Avoid using sheet plastic and tarps. Do not rush to cut off last year’s foliage as it does protect the crown and emerging sprouts.

Early April is a good time to divide Solomon Seal before the stems elongate, and bloodroot before it sprouts. Later in the month, it may be time to remove last year’s stalks from mums, and divide the clumps if needed. Also, it’s a good time to divide many hardy perennials such as phlox, Siberian iris, Hosta, daylilies, asters, Helenium, Boltonia, Heliopsis, Shasta daisy, and so on. Bearded irises may be divided, but they probably won’t bloom this year. Lavender, culinary sage, Russian sage, and butterfly bush can have dead wood trimmed off late in the month, when winter damage and live buds can be distinguished.

Protect crocuses and tulips from animal damage. Crocuses are particularly vulnerable because a new corm needs to be formed each year; they do not have persistent true bulbs like tulips. A mulch of pea gravel helps to discourage digging, and then repellent sprays are needed once they sprout. A deer fence helps, but I suspect rabbits may also browse on the foliage.

If the spring is dry, and you have plantings that receive salty runoff, water them heavily to flush the salt down below the root zone. Prune off branches damaged by salt spray, and make a mental note to install a burlap screen to prevent salt damage next winter.

Use your germination heat mat for getting heat-loving tropical ‘bulbs’ such as caladiums started. Use shallow pots until they sprout. Depending on your microclimate, you may need to pot them up again before they can be safely planted outside. Other tender ‘bulbs’ such as dahlias and cannas can be potted up early, but should grow at normal indoor room temperature.

— Pat Curran and the Tompkins County Master Gardeners

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Almanac: November-December 2016

by cathym on November 11, 2016

Preparing for Holiday Decorating

Now that you have put your outdoor gardens to bed, it is time to prepare for the upcoming Holiday Season.  Indoor plants can add beauty to your home during the cold and snowy months ahead.

Amaryllis:  To plant a newly acquired Amaryllis bulb, place a piece of clay shard over the drainage hole at the bottom of a pot that is 1-1 /2 to 2 inches in diameter larger than the widest part of the bulb. A suitable growing medium consists of 2 parts packaged potting soil, 1 part perlite, and approximately 1 tablespoon slow release fertilizer. Place the bulb so that the top half (pointed end) is protruding above the soil. After potting, water thoroughly.

Place the newly potted bulb on a sunny windowsill in a cool room (55 to 65°F). Water only when the top layer of soil in the container feels dry to the touch. If the soil is kept overly moist, the bulb may rot. As the roots develop and fill the container, the top layer of soil will dry more quickly and the frequency of watering should be increased accordingly. In approximately 6 to 7 weeks, flower buds will emerge.

Once growth begins, rotate the pot regularly to prevent the plant from leaning toward the light. If the amaryllis has been grown in a warm room, the flower stalk may require staking to be held upright; take care not to damage the bulb when inserting a stake into the container. For longer lasting flowers, move the plant out of direct sunlight and keep it in a cool room after the blossoms have opened.

After the flowers fade, remove the flowers but do not cut off the flower stalk or foliage. Place the plant back on a sunny windowsill and continue watering thoroughly.  Frequently the bulb will send up a second flower stalk.  After the last of the flowers fade it is essential to keep the foliage growing vigorously since it produces the food for the following year’s blossoms.

Poinsettia:  Place your newly acquired poinsettia in a sunny location, if you have one. Avoid an area where there is a draft or sudden fluctuations in temperature. Do not allow the leaves to touch cold windowpanes. The poinsettia’s flower bracts last longest when daytime temperatures are from 60° to 70° F and there is a slight drop in temperature at night.

When the top layer of soil feels dry to the touch, water the poinsettia thoroughly until water runs through the drainage holes in the bottom of the container. Wait 15 minutes, then discard the excess water that accumulated in the saucer beneath the pot.  Fertilize the poinsettia regularly with a water soluble houseplant fertilizer following label directions.

In order to have a well-shaped, bushy plant for the following year, cut the stems back to 6 inches in height sometime between February and early March.  Be sure to make the cuts just above a node. Contact your local Cooperative Extension for detailed instructions.

Christmas Cactus:  The Christmas cactus is native to tropical rain forests, unlike the vast majority of cacti.  As a result, the Christmas cactus is cared for quite differently from most of its relatives.

The Christmas cactus requires direct sunlight. However, during the summer, the midday sun can burn the stems. Thus, during summer, move the plant a few feet from the window or place the plant in a window that receives indirect light.

The Christmas cactus should be watered when the top inch of soil in the container feels dry to the touch. Soak the soil thoroughly until water comes through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Wait 15 minutes and discard the excess water that accumulated in the drop plate beneath the container.  The Christmas cactus grows best when humidity is high. The best way to increase humidity is to place the pot, with its drip plate, on a tray filled with small pebbles. The water will evaporate from the tray and humidify the air around the plant.

A soil mix consisting of equal parts of peat moss, perlite, and packaged potting soil is suitable for the Christmas cactus. Add 1 teaspoon dolomitic limestone and 1 teaspoon 5-10-5 fertilizer for each 2 quarts of soil used.  Fertilize the plant with a water-soluble fertilizer recommended for flowering houseplants. Apply fertilizer every month at full strength or every two weeks at half the strength suggested on the label. Reduce the frequency of fertilization from autumn until after plants have flowered and new growth has begun.

Christmas Tree Care:  A few simple practices will help maintain tree color, reduce needle fall, and keep the tree moist and fire resistant.  When you bring home your cut tree, stand it in a bucket of water outdoors protected from sun and drying wind, or in a cool place inside.  When you bring the tree inside for decoration, make a fresh cut across the trunk at least one inch above the old cut.  The smoother and cleaner the cut is, the better the tree can absorb water.

Place the tree in a container of water or in a Christmas tree stand that has a reservoir of water.  Luke-warm water is taken up more readily than cold.  A tree in a warm room will absorb up to a quart of water a day; keep the reservoir filled above the base of the tree at all times.  Sterilization of the stand and tree base with boiling water before setting up the tree may also be beneficial in retarding the fouling of the tree’s pores that can ultimately reduce water uptake.

Place your tree in the coolest part of the room away from the fireplace, heaters, radiators, air ducts and TV sets, all of which can dry the needles.

 

—Sharon Rosenblum, Master Gardener CCE-Monroe County and Amanda Grisa, Horticulture Program Coordinator CCE-Monroe County

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Garden Maintenance

Continue to remove weeds to prevent perennial weeds from having a head start in the spring and to prevent annual weeds from setting seeds. If time constraints prevent digging up weeds, cut off the seed heads before they mature.

Water trees and shrubs to encourage full vigor and hardiness in preparation for the winter ahead.

Add compost to your beds to improve soil texture, promote beneficial microbes, and to prepare the garden for next spring.

Mulch newly planted perennials, trees and shrubs when the soil temperature reaches 50 F to prevent heaving in the winter. Make sure the mulch is not touching tree or shrub trunks. Pile leaves on your macrophyla hydrangeas.

Allow annuals such as nicotiana, annual poppies, cleome, and Verbena boniarensis to drop seeds in the garden.

Prevent mouse and rabbit damage to thin-barked trees and shrubs by installing 18 inch to 24 inch high hardware cloth. Cut any grass around the base of trees short to discourage nesting by these critters.

Don’t heavily prune trees or shrubs at this time. Severe pruning can disrupt normal dormancy.

Don’t prune your lavender. Wait until spring.

 

Perennials

Remove and discard all diseased plant material. Do not place in compost pile as some fungal spores winter over and may re-infect plants next season.

Disinfect your pruner after working on diseased plants before moving to a new plant. A quick spray with Lysol, a dip in a 10% Clorox solution, or using alcohol wipes all work well on your tools.

Remove and destroy iris foliage to eliminate the eggs of the iris borer.

Mound soil around your roses after the temperature drops. Bring in fresh soil to avoid disturbing roots.

Leave the seed heads of astilbe, black-eyed-Susan, coneflower, daisies, intact to provide food for the birds as well as giving winter interest. Also, leave ornamental grasses, red osier dogwood, asters, Russian sage, for winter interest.

Divide any perennials that have become overgrown, exhibit diminished bloom or have formed a “doughnut” shape with a bare spot in the center of the clump. It’s best to transplant early in the fall while there is still enough time for the roots to settle in for the winter. Extra plants can be shared with a friend.

 

Bulbs

Plant spring bulbs. You will get better results if you plant when there is a month of 40 degree or above soil temperature (mid Sept. – Oct.). This allows the bulbs to set strong roots and will give you a better bloom next spring.

Plant bulbs 2 to 3 times as deep as their height, a little deeper for naturalizing varieties.

It’s difficult to tell the top from the bottom of some bulbs. The skin is loose at the top and attached at the bottom. If you can’t tell, plant them sideways!

To deter moles, voles and squirrels, put a layer of pea gravel or small gauge chicken wire between the bulbs and soil surface.

 

Lawn

Overseed bare spots in the lawn. Filling in bare spots helps prevent weeds in those areas next year.

September is the best time to seed a new lawn. A top dressing of good compost is an ideal natural fertilizer.

Water the grass seeds regularly to keep the soil moist. Choose high quality seed appropriate for your site.

In early September check your lawn for grubs by lifting up about a square foot of sod. If there are more than 10-12 grubs per square foot you may want to treat for grubs. Complete your grub control program by the middle of September. Contact your Cooperative Extension for help in grub identification and treatment options.

Continue mowing the lawn. Make the last cutting one inch lower than usual to prevent matting and to discourage snow mold.

If the leaves aren’t too thick on your lawn leave them and mulch them in when you mow. They feed your soil naturally.

 

Vegetables & Herbs

Any time after the first frost through late October is a good time to plant garlic. Plant the largest cloves 3 inches deep in loose rich soil.

Pot up some parsley, chives, oregano, or mints to use indoors. You can also freeze or dry herbs for winter use. Wash off the plants to prevent insects from entering your home.

Pinch off tomato blossoms that won’t have time to develop so the nutrients go into the tomatoes already growing on the vine.

Plant cover crops when you harvest your vegetables. This will reduce the need for weeding and will add nitrogen to the soil.

Dig mature onions on a dry day. Store in well ventilated mesh bags (or even panty hose). Plant radish, kale, spinach, and lettuce seeds in early September as your last crops. Pull up your hot pepper plants and hang them until the peppers are dry. (Or thread them on a string to dry.)

If you had any vegetables with fungal problems make sure that area is cleaned of all plant debris and rotate vegetable locations next year.

Mulch strawberry plants.

 

Miscellaneous

Dig and store summer blooming bulbs, caladium and elephant’s ears before frost and tuberous begonias, cannas, dahlias after the foliage is blackened by frost.

Bring in or take cuttings of annuals and tender perennials such as scented geraniums, begonia and rosemary and any annuals you want to overwinter before you have to turn on the furnace.

Take cuttings from annuals such as scented geraniums, begonias, strobilanthus, and coleus.

Collect seeds from open pollinated plants such as Kiss-me-Over-the Garden Gate, Big Max Pumpkin, and Brandywine tomatoes.

If collecting seeds be sure to keep them dry and cool. Join a seed exchange such as Seed Savers. Contribute extra seeds to organizations such as the American Horticulture Society and the Herb Society of America.

Plant trees and shrubs now. They will have time to develop roots before winter sets in.

Fallen leaves are one of the most wasted natural resources the home gardener has. They can be used as a mulch to improve soil texture and to add nutrients. (Get some from your neighbors as well!)

Small leaves like linden or birch trees can be spread on gardens directly. Larger leaves can be shredded or run over with your lawn mower before spreading. Avoid using black walnut or butternut, as they can be toxic to many plants. Excess leaves can be composted for use next spring. They decompose faster if shredded first.

Begin bringing in houseplants that lived outdoors all summer. Wash them off with a good spray of soapy water. Check for diseases and insects before bringing them inside.

Take pictures of your gardens and notes for next year’s gardens now: what worked, what didn’t, what to add, remove, or move. (You think you will remember next year but you probably won’t.)

Let your amaryllis bulbs begin a 2 month rest period.

Lay out thick layers of cardboard or newspaper covered with mulch over areas that will become new beds in the spring. These will smother grasses and weeds as they break down making spring efforts easier.

— Carol Ann Harlos & Lyn Chimera, Erie County Master Gardeners

 

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JULY
In the food garden
Continue to cut off curly garlic scapes to encourage larger bulbs. You may be able to harvest garlic in late July.

Remove spotted or yellow leaves from your tomatoes. This will slow down early blight and septoria leaf blight. If you suspect late blight, take leaf samples or pictures to your local Extension office.

Protect berries from the birds with bird netting. If some berries look moist or misshapen, check for the maggots of the two-spotted drosophila fruit fly. Destroy all the bad fruit. If a lot of fruit has been set, you can then use rowcover to keep the fruit flies out, but this will also prevent further pollination so wait until they are done flowering. Consult Cornell CE for spray recommendations. Also look out for the marmorated stink bug. The Cornell Insect Diagnostic Lab has good links for both pests at http://idl.entomology.cornell.edu/factsheets/

Keep your food plants weeded, watered, and mulched. Blueberry bushes are particularly sensitive to drought. A five-gallon bucket with holes, next to each bush, provides an easy way to water and measure how much water you’re applying (10 gallons each is good in drought situations, once or twice a week).

Keep tomato branches inside their cages, and guide melon and squash vines.

This is the last month to plant these veggies for a fall crop if you are in zone 5: snap beans, peas, cucumbers, carrots, kohlrabi, summer squash, early sweet corn, green onions. Zone 6 gardeners get a couple more weeks of growing season. Cover newly planted seeds with rowcover to keep them cooler and moist.

It’s time to renew or move the strawberry bed. Moving the plants allows a thorough weed removal, and then there’s still time to plant a succession crop (see above).

Keep the asparagus bed weeded. You shouldn’t be harvesting any longer. Look out for asparagus beetles; drop them in soapy water.

To maximize basil harvest and prevent blooming, cut plants back by one-third, rather than just plucking leaves. You can probably do this three times. You can overwinter a few basil plants in pots on a warm sunny windowsill (put parsley on your cooler windowsill).

Handpick Japanese beetles, Colorado potato beetles, etc. Look for the eggs on undersides of leaves. Use B.t on cabbage family plants. Remember B.t will also kill the caterpillars of desirable butterflies; instead, grow extra parsley, dill, or fennel, to have more black swallowtails. Leave common milkweed in rough areas for monarch caterpillars.

Don’t panic if you have few apples or crabapples this year. We should have a large fruit set next year. Thinning the fruit then may reduce the tendency to biennial bearing that might result.

Black knot is a fungus that affects some plums and cherries. If you haven’t planted plums yet, seriously consider the hybrid plums that appear to be totally resistant. Most of these are products of plant breeding in the upper Midwest, so they are hardy to zones 3 or 4.

Ornamentals
It’s finally okay to remove daffodil and tulip foliage – removing it prematurely has a negative effect on flowering. This is also a good time to move the bulbs, or you can dig them up and dry them off, for planting in September.

Early July is a good time to move Colchicums. The dormant foliage should still allow you to find them. Try growing plumbago, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, as a fall-flowering groundcover with the Colchicum. The foliage will help support the Colchicum flowers and keep them out of the mud.

A good rainy day chore is sorting seed packets. Also, if you forced bulbs this past winter, you can take them out of the pots and store them dry and cool for the summer (except for delicate ones like snowdrops).

Leggy annuals may need to be pruned back to encourage new growth and more flowering. Some annuals don’t take hot weather and may need to be replaced.

Unruly perennials such as spiderwort can be cut back by two-thirds, and then watered. They will send up fresh new foliage. Deadhead some other perennials, like catmint, and salvia either for continued bloom, and improved foliage.  For more details, consult the excellent book by Tracy DiSabato-Aust: “The Well-Tended Perennial Garden.”

Bearded irises can be divided and replanted now. Get this done before Labor Day, to allow sufficient time for rerooting. If you want to order more, do so right away. Late-planted bearded irises may heave out of the ground and die in the winter, but if they have enough time to root, they are very winter-hardy. A tip from the Southern Tier Iris Society: put a brick on late-planted rhizomes to prevent heaving.

Continue to go on garden tours at private gardens and arboreta. Take your camera and notebook, because you are sure to get ideas for your own garden.

Mark colors of phlox or daylilies in case you want to propagate them for friends or Plant Sales.

Watch your viburnums for viburnum leaf beetle adults, especially if they were defoliated by the larvae. Consider a pesticide treatment to save the shrubs. Do not cut back branches just because the leaves have been eaten or damaged. Scratch the bark with your fingernail. If it’s green underneath, the branch is alive. Dormant buds under the bark just need time to develop into sprouts and leaves. If the leaf defoliation isn’t too bad, an organic control method is to snip off the twigs that contain the VLB eggs. Although the egg-laying sites are most obvious in the fall, one actually has until April to trim the affected twigs. See the VLB factsheet for details.

This is the last month to fertilize woody plants, without encouraging tender late growth that may not harden off in time for winter. It’s also the last month to prune woody plants—except for dead or diseased wood.

Spring-planted woody plants need to be watered every week unless there is an inch of rain. Ten to 15 gallons per plant is recommended. If you haven’t protected them from deer yet, start planning how to do it.

AUGUST
In the food garden:
This is the last month to plant these veggies if you are in zone 5: broccoli or cauliflower transplants, leaf lettuce, spinach, and turnip. Protect them from the scorching sun with rowcover or milk crates.

The easiest way to expand the veggie garden is to sheet compost now with flattened cardboard boxes. Overlap the edges and then cover them up with whatever you have – grass clippings, woodchips, spoiled hay, or bags of leaves. By spring, most of the weeds will be dead. This is also a good way to prepare the ground for shrub borders, berry plantings, or flowerbeds. You can also use thick newspapers, but they take longer to apply.

Harvest garlic when the leaves are yellowing. Then you can weed the area and plant a late crop (see above). It’s best to rotate where you grow garlic, so pick a new spot with lots of sun and good drainage. Maybe, sheet compost the new spot now, until planting time in mid-October.

Keep up the weeding, watering, and mulching, as needed. Try not to get leaves wet as that might spread disease. Keep a close watch for tomato/potato late blight.

Keep harvesting beans, basil, okra, cucumbers, summer squash, eggplant, etc., in order for plants to keep producing. It’s okay to leave some peppers on the plant to ripen and turn color.

Fall-bearing raspberries should start producing by mid or late August. If you have the variety ‘Heritage’ and have had problems with early fall frosts destroying part of the crop, plant an earlier-bearing variety, such as ‘Polana.’

Enjoy blueberries until Labor Day if you have planted the late-bearing variety ‘Elliott.’ Maybe you’ll have room to add it next spring, if you’ve not planted any!

Ornamentals:
Nursery stock goes on sale and may be a good money saver if it has been well cared for. Be sure to water weekly after planting if rain is insufficient. Keep the watering up until the ground freezes, unless rain is adequate.

The second half of August is a good time to start to move and/or divide some of the hardier perennials. Try to be done by the end of September.

It’s time to order bulbs for fall planting, to get the best selection of varieties. Lots of spring-blooming bulbs are deer-resistant. Avoid tulips and crocuses, and enjoy carefree alliums, winter aconite, snowdrops, snowflake, Siberian squill, glory-of-the-snow, Puschkinia, Fritillaria, and Anemone blanda. Grape hyacinths send up fall foliage, but even when it’s browsed, it doesn’t seem to affect their vigor.

Repot your houseplants to get them established before they need to be brought back inside.

Keep the lawn mowed at a three-inch height for the strongest root development and drought resistance. But if a drought drags on, allow the lawn to go dormant. It will revive on its own when rains resume.

Late August and early September is the best time to renovate the lawn or to seed a new one.

This is the time to start protecting tree trunks from ‘buck rub’ damage.

— Pat Curran and the Tompkins County Master Gardeners

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May is here; air and soil temperatures are warming back up after bouts of winter-like freezing weather in April. Gardeners will enjoy spending time tending to their landscapes. Below I have highlighted some gardening /landscape tasks for May and June.

As gardeners, we should be aware that the tick population is on the rise. We should take steps to reduce tick bites and the spread of Lyme disease. Cornell Cooperative Extension has created brochures and fact sheets to help you, your children, and pets to minimizing interactions with these pests while outdoors. Find the brochure titled Ticks, Create a Tick Safe Zone at cceonondaga.org/environment/invasive-nuisance-species/terrestrial-animals/ticks. One can reduce tick populations in the landscape by creating buffers, fencing off ornamental and vegetable beds, detaining rodents, and mulching. Take action now to help safeguard your gardening and outdoor experiences this season.

grass

Mowing your lawn, make sure mower blades are sharpened. Set the mower deck to 3 to 3 ½ inches high. This will help increase your lawn grass density while shading out the weeds. Also let grass clippings fall back into the lawn, they will break down and add nutrients back to the soil.

Lawn Care

Cornell University Department of Horticulture Turfgrass has booklets and video that can be downloaded to help guide lawn care. The site address is hort.cornell.edu/turf.

Now is a good time to repair the bare lawn spots from winter’s wear and tear. Select grass seed from the kind you already have growing. Consider the location; sun and shade grass varieties are available. Make sure to water what you have seeded. Irrigate in the morning hours.

Does your lawn need fertilizing? Did you test your soil to see how much phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) fertilizer your lawn needs? Lawns should have a pH in the range of 6.0 to 7.0, which is slightly acidic. Check with your local Cornell Cooperative Extension Office to see if these tests are offered. If your lawn falls below or above these soil pH ranges, add either lime or sulfur to bring the pH to the proper range. Follow the instructions given from the pH test.

The ideal time to fertilize grass is when it is actively growing, usually the end of May to beginning of June or around Labor Day in September.

Make sure your mower blades are sharpened. Set the mower deck to 3 to 3 ½ inches high. This will help increase your lawn grass density while shading out the weeds. Also let grass clippings fall back into the lawn, they will break down and add nutrients back to the soil.

Tree & Shrubs

Spring flowering deciduous shrubs produce blooms on last season’s growth. These shrubs should be pruned after the flower blooms are spent. Pruning by pinching off or cutting will help boast next year’s flower production and adds to the shaping of the shrub. Lilacs, spireas, rhododendrons and azaleas are a few of these shrubs that benefit from pruning in the spring.

Needled evergreens such as yews, hemlocks, pines and arborvitaes can be trimmed and shaped in May. Just snip off the tips of soft new growth which will help promote compact bushy growth.

Flowers and Vegetables

Leave the foliage of spring flowering bulbs growing until it turns yellow; nutrients are going back into the bulbs. In early June, dig up tulip bulbs. Clean off the soil and make sure the bulbs are dry before placing them in storage (cool, dry and a dark location) until fall planting. Other spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils, hyacinths, and crocus can be moved to a new location after they have bloomed and the foliage has past.

Cool season annuals and vegetables seeds can be sown directly in the ground or transplanted in the soil or in containers.  Make sure to harden off transplants before transplanting. It is better to transplant on a cloudy day.

Many folks plant their dahlias, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants over Memorial Day Weekend or early June. These are considered tender annual flowers and vegetables. Usually by those dates we are safe from a frost here in Central and Western NY. Be cautious. They may need to be covered if a frost is predicted later than those planting dates.

May and June is a good time to plant perennial plants. Be sure to follow the plant labels for placement in your garden.

A good guide for growing vegetables in the home garden can be found at Cornell Garden Based website at blogs.cornell.edu/horticulture/vegetables/. You can also rate the vegetables that they grow by participating in Cornell’s Citizen Science Vegetable Varieties program. For more information on rating the vegetables that you grow check out the website at vegvariety.cce.cornell.edu.

— Holly Wise, Cornell Cooperative Extension Oneida County Consumer Horticulture Resource Educator

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Depending on the weather, last minute gardening chores can be squeezed in during early November, leaving December a time to relax and enjoy looking through 2015 gardening catalogs as they arrive by mail or online.

 

Piles of fallen leaves should not just sit on top of a lawn all winter long. They can mat together, causing damage to the turf grass crowns. Leaves should be shredded using a mower, with the small pieces allowed to filter between the grass blades, or can be added back as a thin layer of mulch to garden beds, where they will break down and add natural nutrients. Some folks rake and bag their excess leaves, saving them to be shredded in the spring. Then they add them as a mulch and weed barrier around perennial flowers and/or vegetable plants.

 

If one has not had time to tend to roses after the hard frost in October, November can be a good month to winterize them while temperatures are still relatively mild. Soil should be mounded up around the base of the Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora and Floribunda plants 10 to 12 inches deep. The mounded soil will add winter protection. Prune back the rose canes that are taller than two feet or tie them to a stake so they don’t not get wind-whipped.

 

Loosen the canes of climbing roses from their structure and tie them together. Bend the canes arching them near the plant base to avoid breakage, and lay them at ground level, pinning them down with crossed stakes. Mound the canes with soil and mark them so once spring comes you can carefully remove the soil and reattach the canes to their structure.

 

Ornamental grasses can be cut back or left for the winter months. Taller ornamental grasses may need some staking to prevent the blades from getting weighed down with snow. Grasses can add some winter interest in a landscape and offer a place for the birds to congregate.

 

Gardening tools and equipment should be cleaned and prepped for winter storage. Lawn mower blades can be sharpened, spark plugs changed, oil changed and gasoline drained. Some folks will instead add a fuel stabilizer to a full tank of gas before storing their mowers. Garden tools and planting containers can be cleaned and stored. Soak planting containers with a bleach and water based solution to disinfect them.

 

Last winter, many trees and shrubs were damaged from the sub-zero temperatures, winds and warm sun. Evergreens needles and leaves transpire moisture during the winter leading to desiccation, the drying out of needles. If an evergreen dries out too much dead brown areas may be seen come spring on the plant material. An autumn without much rainfall may increase the chances of this happening. To help reduce moisture lost during the winter months, give your evergreen trees and shrubs a deep soaking of water before the ground freezes.

 

Deciduous trees that have thin bark may show signs of splitting on the trunks caused by sunscald. This can happen when the air temperature on a sunny day warms the tree trunk, especially on the southwest side. After the sun goes down temperatures fall back causing cracking/splitting. To help reduce this cracking, the trunks can be wrapped with burlap strips or commercial tree wrap, or even shaded with a wooden board. All of these preventive methods reflect sunlight and will help reduce the buildup of heat during the day, thus reducing the temperature fluctuations that cause splitting. Once spring has arrived make sure all trunk wraps are removed, to prevent insect or moisture damage.

 

Rodent damage to trees can be prevented by making sure mulch is pulled away from the base of the trunks. Hardware cloth, galvanized screening or tree wrap can be used to protect young, thin-barked deciduous trees and shrubs from mice and rabbit damage.

 

— Holly Wise, Consumer Horticulture Extension Educator, CCE Oneida County

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Almanac:

WHAT TO DO IN THE GARDEN IN SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER

Garden Maintenance:

Continue to remove weeds to prevent the perennials from having a head start in the spring and the annuals from shedding seeds into the soil. If you don’t have time to weed at least cut off and discard the seed heads.

Watering trees and shrubs is as important as watering your perennials, especially anything planted this season.

Mulch newly planted perennials, trees and shrubs to prevent heaving in the winter. Make sure the mulch is not touching plant and shrub stems or tree trunks. Pile leaves on your macrophylla hydrangeas.

Add compost to your beds now.

Allow annuals such as nicotiana, annual poppies, cleome, and verbena bonariensis to drop seeds in the garden.

Prevent mouse and rabbit damage to thin-barked trees and shrubs by installing 18 inch to 24 inch high hardware cloth. Cut any grass around the base of trees short to discourage nesting by these critters.

Perennials:

Remove and discard all diseased plant material. Do not place in compost pile as some fungal spores can winter over in ground litter and soil and will re-infect plants next season.

Disinfect your pruner after working on diseased plants before moving to a new plant. A quick spray with Lysol or a dip in a 10% Clorox solution works well.

Remove and destroy iris foliage to eliminate the eggs of the iris borer.

Mound soil around your roses when the temperature drops. Bring in fresh soil to avoid disturbing roots.

You can leave the seed heads of astilbe, black-eyed-Susan, coneflower, daisy etc. intact to provide food for the birds as well as giving winter interest.

Don’t cut back grasses and plants such as red osier dogwood. They provide winter interest.

Divide any perennials that have become overgrown, diminished bloom or have formed a “doughnut” shape with a bare spot in the center of the clump. It’s best to transplant early in the fall while there is still enough time for their roots to settle in for the winter.

Bulbs:

Begin planting spring bulbs. You will get better results if you plant when there is a month of 40 degree or above soil temperature (mid Sept. – mid Oct. in our area). This allows the bulbs to set strong roots and will give you better blooming.

Fertilize bulbs when you plant them using compost or 5-10-10. Cover the planting area with 2-3 inches of compost.

With some bulbs it’s difficult to tell the top from the bottom. The skin is loose at the top and attached at the bottom. If you can’t tell, plant them sideways.

To deter moles, voles and squirrels, put a layer of pea gravel or small gauge chicken wire between the bulbs and soil surface.

Plant bulbs 2 to 3 times as deep as their height, a little deeper for naturalizing varieties.

Lawn:

Over seed bare spots in the lawn. Filling in bare spots helps prevent weeds in those areas next year.

September is the best time to fertilize your lawn and seed a new one. A top dressing of good compost is an ideal natural fertilizer.

Remember to water the grass seeds regularly to keep the soil moist and choose high quality seed appropriate for your site.

In early September check your lawn for grubs by lifting up about a square foot of sod. If there are more than 10-12 grubs per square foot you may want to treat for grubs. First identify what type of grub you have so you know the proper treatment. Complete your grub control program by the middle of September. Contact your Cooperative Extension for help in identification and treatment options.

Keep mowing the lawn. Make the last cutting one inchone-inch lower than usual to prevent matting and to discourage snow mold.

If the leaves aren’t too thick on your lawn leave them there when you mow, it feeds your lawn naturally.

Vegetables & Herbs:

Any time after the first frost through late October is a good time to plant garlic.

Pot up some parsley, chives, oregano, or mints to use indoors. You can also freeze or dry herbs for winter use. Be sure to wash off the plants.

Pick off the tomato blossoms that won’t have time to develop tomatoes so the nutrients go into the tomatoes already growing on the vine.

Plant cover crops such as peas or clover as you harvest your vegetables. This will reduce the need for weeding and will add nitrogen to the soil.

Another option is to sow a cover crop such as rye or winter wheat in the vegetable garden. Turn it over in the spring.

Dig mature onions on a dry day. Store in well ventilated mesh bags (or even panty hose).

Plant radish, kale, spinach, and lettuce seeds in early September as your last crops.

Pull up your hot pepper plants and hang them until the peppers are dry. (Or thread them on a string to dry.)

If you had any vegetables with fungal problems make sure that area is cleaned of all plant debris and avoid planting the same variety in the same spot next year.

Mulch your asparagus and strawberries.

Miscellaneous:

Dig and store summer blooming bulbs, caladium and elephant’s ears before frost and tuberous begonias, cannas, dahlias after the foliage is blackened by frost.

Bring in tender perennials such as scented geraniums and rosemary and any annuals you want to overwinter BEFORE you have to turn on the furnace. This cuts down on the shock of moving inside.

To start annuals for next season, take cuttings from plants such as scented geraniums, begonias, strobilanthus, and coleus.

Collect seeds from open pollinated plants such as Kiss-me-Over-the Garden Gate, Big Max Pumpkin, and Brandywine tomatoes.

If collecting seeds be sure to keep them dry and chilled 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Join a seed exchange such as Seed Savers. Contribute extra seeds to organizations such as the American Horticulture Society and the Herb Society of America.

Plant trees and shrubs now. They will have time to develop roots before winter sets in.

Fallen leaves are one of the most wasted natural resources the home gardener has. They can be used as a mulch to improve soil texture and to add nutrients. (Get some from your neighbors as well!)

Small leaves like linden or birch trees can be spread on gardens directly. Larger leaves can be shredded or run over with your lawn mower before spreading. Avoid using black walnut or butternut, as they can be toxic to many plants. Excess leaves can be composted for use next spring. They decompose faster if shredded first.

Begin bringing in houseplants that lived outdoors all summer. Wash off with a good spray of soapy water. Check for diseases and insects before bringing inside.

Take pictures of your gardens. Make notes for next year’s gardens now. What worked, what didn’t, what to add, remove, or move.

Begin to get poinsettias ready for December flowering. They need fourteen hours of total uninterrupted darkness and ten hours of bright light. Let your amaryllis bulbs begin a 2 month rest period.

Lay out thick layers of cardboard or newspaper over areas that will become new beds in the spring. These will kill grasses and/or weeds as they break down making spring efforts easier.

Take notes on what worked or didn’t.  (You think you will remember next year but you probably won’t.)

—Carol Ann Harlos & Lyn Chimera, Master Gardeners, Erie County Cornell Cooperative Extension

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JULY

In the food garden:

Cut off those curly garlic scapes and use them for garlic pesto or stir-fries. Doing so will encourage larger garlic bulbs.

Protect your berries from the birds with bird netting. If some berries look moist or misshapen, check them for the maggots of the Spotted Wing Drosophila, a new fruit fly pest. Remove decaying fruit to help minimize your fruit fly populations. Also look out for another new pest, the marmorated stinkbug.

Keep your food plants weeded, watered, and mulched. Blueberry bushes are particularly sensitive to drought. A five-gallon bucket with tiny holes in the bottom, next to each bush, provides an easy way to water and measure how much water you’re applying (10 gallons each is good in drought situations, once or twice a week).

Keep tomato branches inside cages, and guide melon and squash vines.

This is the last month to plant these veggies for a fall crop if you are in zone 5: snap beans, peas, cukes, carrots, kohlrabi, summer squash, early sweet corn and green onions, among others. Zone 6 gardeners get a couple more weeks of growing season.

Time to renew or move the strawberry bed. Moving the plants allows a thorough weed removal, and then there’s still time to plant a succession crop (see above).

Keep the asparagus bed weeded.

To maximize basil harvest and prevent blooming, cut plants back by one-third, rather than just plucking leaves. This can probably be done 3 times, thus avoiding having to start new plants from seed. If you grow basil in containers, you can overwinter a few plants on a warm sunny windowsill (ditto for parsley, which can take your cooler windowsill).

Handpick conspicuous pests such as Japanese beetles, Colorado potato beetles, and so on. Look for the eggs of insect pests on the undersides of leaves. Use Bt on cabbage family plants, but judiciously. Remember it will also kill the caterpillars of desirable butterflies; instead, grow extra parsley, dill, or fennel, to have more black swallowtails. Leave common milkweed in rough areas for the monarch caterpillars.

Don’t panic if you have few apples or crabapples this year. Last year’s apple crop (2013) was enormous due to the hard frosts in the spring of 2012, that killed the flowers. Last year, the trees put most of their energy into fruit, rather than forming the flower buds for spring 2014. If weather permits in the spring of 2015, we should have another very large fruit set. Thinning the fruit next year may reduce the tendency to biennial bearing that might result.

Black knot is a fungus disease that affects some plums and cherries. Refer to the factsheet for control, but if you haven’t planted plums yet, seriously consider the hybrid plums that appear to be resistant. Most of these are the product of plant breeding in the upper Midwest, so they are hardy to zones 3 or 4.

Ornamentals:

It’s finally OK to remove narcissus foliage that seems to hang on forever – but removing it prematurely really does have a negative effect on flowering. This is also a good time to move the bulbs, or you can dig them up and dry them off, for planting in September.

Early July is a good time to move Colchicums. The dormant foliage should still allow you to find them. Try growing plumbago, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, as a fall-flowering groundcover with the Colchicum. The foliage will help support the Colchicum flowers and keep them out of the mud.

A good rainy day chore is sorting the seed packets. Also, if you forced bulbs this past winter, you can take them out of the pots and store them dry and cool for the summer (except for delicate ones like snowdrops).

Leggy annuals may need to be pruned back to encourage new growth and more flowering. Some annuals don’t take hot weather and may need to be replaced.

Continue to go on garden tours at private gardens and arboreta. Be sure to take your camera and notebook, because you are sure to get ideas for your own garden.

Invest in a rain gauge and keep track of your rain. This is not only helpful, but fun as well.

Watch your viburnums for viburnum leaf beetle adults, especially if the larvae defoliated them. Consider a pesticide treatment to save the shrubs. Do NOT cut back branches just because the leaves have been eaten or damaged. Scratch the bark with your fingernail. If it’s green underneath, the branch is alive. Dormant buds under the bark just need time to develop into sprouts and leaves. If the leaf defoliation isn’t too bad, an organic control method is to snip off the twigs that contain the VLB eggs. Although the egg-laying sites are most obvious in the fall, one actually has until April to trim the affected twigs. See the VLB factsheet for details.

This is the last month to fertilize woodies, without encouraging tender late growth that may not harden off in time for winter. It’s also the last month to prune woodies, for the same reason – except for dead or diseased wood, which can be pruned any time.

Mark colors of phlox or daylilies in case you want to propagate them for friends or Plant Sales.

Deadhead some perennials, either for continued bloom, or for improved foliage.   For more details, consult the excellent book by Tracy DiSabato-Aust: “The Well-Tended Perennial Garden.”

Bearded irises can be divided and replanted now. It’s best to get this done by Labor Day, to allow sufficient time for rerooting. If you want to order more, do so right away. Late-planted bearded irises may heave out of the ground and die in the winter, but if they have enough time to root, they are very winter-hardy. A tip from the Southern Tier Iris Society: put a brick on late-planted rhizomes to prevent heaving.

Spring-planted woodies need to be watered every week unless there is an inch of rain. Ten to 15 gallons per plant is recommended. If you haven’t protected them from deer yet, start planning how to do it.

AUGUST

In the food garden:

This is the last month to plant these veggies if you are in zone 5: early broccoli or cauliflower transplants, leaf lettuce, spinach, and turnip.

The easiest way to expand the veggie garden is to sheet compost now with flattened cardboard boxes. Overlap the edges and then cover them up with whatever you have – grass clippings, woodchips, spoiled hay, or bags of leaves. By spring, most of the weeds will be dead. This is also a good way to prepare the ground for shrub borders, berry plantings, or flowerbeds. You can also use thick newspapers, but they take longer to apply.

Harvest garlic when the leaves are yellowing. Next you can weed the area and plant a late crop (see above). It’s best to rotate where you grow garlic, so pick a new spot with lots of sun and good drainage. Maybe, sheet compost the new spot now (see above), until planting time in mid-October.

Keep up the weeding, watering, and mulching, as needed. Try not to get leaves wet as that might spread disease. Keep a close watch for tomato/potato late blight.

Keep harvesting beans, basil, okra, cukes, summer squash, eggplant, etc., in order for plants to keep producing. It’s OK to leave some peppers on the plant to ripen and turn color.

Fall-bearing raspberries should start producing by mid or late August. If you have the variety ‘Heritage’ and have had problems with early fall frosts destroying part of the crop, plant an earlier-bearing variety. ‘Polana’ has proven successful.

Enjoy blueberries until Labor Day if you have planted the late-bearing variety ‘Elliott.’ Maybe you have room to add it next spring!

Ornamentals:

Nursery stock goes on sale and may be a bargain if it has been well cared for. Be sure to water weekly after planting if rain is insufficient. Keep the watering up until the ground freezes, unless rain is adequate.

The second half of August is a good time to start to move and/or divide some of the hardier perennials. Try to be all done by the end of September.

Order bulbs now for fall planting, to get the best selection of varieties. Lots of spring-blooming bulbs are deer-resistant. Avoid tulips and crocus, and enjoy carefree alliums, winter aconite, snowdrops, snowflake, Siberian squill, glory-of-the-snow, Puschkinia, Fritillaria, and Anemone blanda. Grape hyacinths send up fall foliage, but even when it’s browsed, it doesn’t seem to affect their vigor.

Repot your houseplants to get them established before they need to be brought back inside.

Keep the lawn mowed at a 3-inch height for the strongest root development and drought resistance. But if a drought drags on, allow the lawn to go dormant. It will revive on its own when rains resume.

Late August and early September is the best time to renovate the lawn or to seed a new one.

This is the time to start protecting tree trunks from ‘buck rub’ damage.

—Pat Curran and the Tompkins County Master Gardeners

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March 2014 Almanac

by janem on March 17, 2014

The following are some general ideas for early spring gardening. Take weather conditions into account and wait until the soil is above 50 degrees to try any planting.

Winter damage:

  • Clean up and remove leaves and winter plant debris, which are loaded with phosphorus, from paved surfaces and street drainage openings.
  • In the absence of heavy spring rains, the salt residue in areas near a road, sidewalk, or driveway can be flushed out by thoroughly soaking the area a few times with a hose.
  • Snow, wind and ice can cause damage to trees and shrubs. Prune out any damaged branches.
  • Plants that have “heaved” from the freezing and thawing action of the soil should be replanted as soon as the soil is workable.
  • Don’t walk on your gardens if the soil is saturated and squishy. You don’t want to compress the soil and destroy its structure.

Pruning:

  • Early spring is a good time for pruning many shrubs. Even spring bloomers such as forsythia and lilac can be cut back in early spring if you’re willing to sacrifice the flowers for one year.
  • Prune trees too now if needed. Maple and birch should be pruned only after their leaves have fully emerged since the wounds may bleed.
  • Never “top” a tree. This produces a weak tree with an unnatural shape.
  • Fruit trees should be pruned in late winter or early spring before bud break. Pay particular attention to any twigs or branches with cankers or black knot (dark swollen galls). These should be removed and discarded before bud break.
  • Prune brambles (raspberries and blackberries) during March to remove any dead, diseased, or damaged and the oldest canes to increase air circulation.
  • When pruning, be careful to not to cut flush to the trunk. Cut outside the branch collar (the swelling in bark around the area where the branch meets the tree). For more information on proper pruning techniques contact your local extension office or look for extension resources online.
  • Wound dressing or paint is no longer recommended. If properly pruned the wound is best left to heal naturally.
  • Cut back and prune roses when forsythia blooms. Cut back dead or crossing canes to about one-quarter inch above an outward facing bud.
  • Prune back pussy willows after the catkins are finished blooming. Remove dead branches. Cut the older gray branches to the ground.
  • Cut winter dieback off lavender by pruning into green wood late in April.

Perennials:

  • Cut back grasses and other perennials that have been left up for winter interest. Ideally this should be done before the new growth gets more than a few inches high so you don’t damage the new growth while cutting back the old.
  • Any plant material that has not harbored disease can be put in the compost pile.
  • When you can work the soil, plant pansies, foxglove, and other cool weather plants.
  • Sow coriander, orach salad greens, baby’s breath, poppy, phlox, and cornflower seeds directly into garden beds.
  • Pull emerging weeds by hand so as not to disturb emerging perennials and bulbs. This also prevents new weeds from growing from disturbed soil.
  • Hostas, liriope, daylilies, dicentra, coral bells and Shasta daisies are some perennials that can be divided before new growth starts in spring.
  • Scatter annual poppy seeds in the garden for bloom in June and early July.

Vegetables:

  • Take the time to plan your vegetable garden taking care to use crop rotation. Do not plant members of the same plant family (tomatoes and peppers for example) in the same spot as last year.
  • If you decide to push the season by doing early plantings, be sure to use row covers for protection.
  • Seed a crop of lettuce either directly into the garden or start the seeds indoors and transplant.
  • Top-dress your gardens with mulch for weed prevention.
  • Put up a trellis for your peas.
  • Check your seed packages to see whether you should start seeds indoors or direct-sow them outside. Also check information on the envelopes for the appropriate number of weeks prior to planting outside.

Houseplants:

  • Houseplants are coming to life with the increased hours of sunlight. This is a good time to resume feeding.
  • Give houseplants a good “shower” in the sink or tub to clean off dust buildup from the winter months. For plants too large to move, give the leaves a sponge bath.
  • Prune off any dead or yellowing leaves and branches.
  • Any plants that have outgrown their pots can be repotted. If you want the plant to continue increasing in size just repot it in a larger container. If you want to keep the plant in the same size container the roots can be trimmed back.

General:

  • Apply horticultural oil to trees and shrubs that have had past problems with sucking insects such as mites, aphids, scale, whitefly and adelgids. Carefully follow the application directions for temperature and weather conditions. If applied at the wrong time they are not effective.
  • If you didn’t clean, sharpen and check garden tools in autumn do it now. It makes a huge difference in how well they work and how long they last.
  • Place new birdhouses outdoors and/or clean out older ones.
  • Scrub and sterilize reusable pots and seed starter trays by washing them in a dilute mixture (10%) of warm water and bleach.
  • Set up a notebook or computer folder so you have a place to keep notes and pictures to learn from this season’s successes and disappointments.
  • Plant a tree on Friday April 29 to celebrate National Arbor Day.
  • If you have not planted herbs previously include them in your garden plan.
  • Fertilize your spring bulbs when the leaves first appear.

—Carol Ann Harlos & Lyn Chimera, Master Gardeners, Erie County Cornell Cooperative Extension

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