Carol Ann Harlos

Almanac: September-October 2018

by cathym on September 5, 2018

What To Do in the Garden in September & October

Planting spring flowering bulbs

Remove, pick up, and discard any diseased plants or leaves. Disinfect your pruners as you move from plant to plant to prevent spreading fungal spores, bacteria, phytoplasma, and viruses.

Divide early-summer–blooming perennials that have become overgrown, show diminished bloom, or have a bare spot in the clump center (doughnut). Do this in early fall while there is still enough time for the roots to settle in for the winter.

Deadhead (cut off the flower/seed heads) plants that seed freely unless you want seedlings. This will cut down on your weeding next year. Leave the seed heads of astilbe, black-eyed-Susan, coneflower, and daisies intact to provide food for birds and winter interest.

Remove weeds to prevent both perennial and annual weeds from getting a head start in the spring.

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

Spread fallen leaves to serve as a protective mulch for your plants.

Don’t heavily prune trees or shrubs at this time. Pruning now may prevent hardening off and encourage new growth that can be killed back during the winter.

Don’t prune lavender, azaleas, viburnums, rhododendrons, forsythias, or spiraea.

Plant spring flowering bulbs from mid-September through October to allow bulbs to set strong roots—resulting in more successful blooms.

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, ring the planting area with a mixture of soil and gravel or put small chicken wire between the bulbs and soil surface.

Plant bulbs two-to-three times as deep as their height, or a little deeper for naturalizing varieties.

Dig and store summer-blooming tubers such as caladium and elephant ear before frost and tuberous begonias, cannas, and dahlias after the foliage is blackened by frost.

Pot up some of your garden herbs and bring them in the house for fresh herbs during the winter.

Cover plants if early frost is expected.

Harvest frost-tender veggies and herbs such as basil, tomatoes, beans, peppers, eggplants, squash, and pumpkins.

Don’t wait too long before picking pears—they ripen from the inside out. Take a fruit in your hand and tilt it horizontally. If the fruit comes off the branch it is time to pick your pears.

Cut off the growing tip of each tomato stem to prevent new flowering. The energy will then go into the tomatoes already on the vine.

Continue watering into the autumn so developing vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers mature.

Allow winter squash such as butternut and acorn to fully ripen on the vine. The rind will be hard and not easily punctured. Harvest before the frost.

Harvest onions when the bulbs are mature and the tops start to turn yellow. Store in a dry place.

Plant radishes, kale and spinach for your last crops of the season.

Plant your largest garlic cloves around Columbus Day about three inches deep.

Plant cover crops or spread composted manure or compost over unplanted areas.

Mulch carrot rows for winter harvesting.

September is the best time to fertilize your lawn or seed a new one. Remember to water newly seeded areas regularly to keep the soil moist. Choose high quality seed appropriate for your site.

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

Check your lawn for grubs by lifting up about one square foot of sod. If there are more than 10–12 grubs per foot you may want to treat the lawn.


Don’t spread mulch until the ground freezes.

Trees, shrubs or any newly planted perennials should be  kept well-watered until the soil freezes.

In late September, bring in any houseplants that have been outside or annuals you want to winter over. Give the foliage a good soapy bath and check them carefully for insects. Keep them isolated from your other houseplants for two to three weeks. Do this is before you have to turn on the furnace. This cuts down on the shock of moving inside.

Harvest sunflowers when the seeds are firm. (Cover with mesh if birds are a problem.) Cut the heads with about a foot of stem. Hang in a dry area to complete seed ripening.

Watch out for Asian ladybugs, stink bugs and western conifer seed bugs that enter homes looking for warmth and shelter. Caulking and weather stripping helps prevent their entry. They are not harmful and can be vacuumed up. Empty the vacuum bag to dispose of them.

This is the time for fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea). Spraying is not necessary. Consider hosing down the webs to disturb the cycle.

Take pictures of your gardens. Make 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 won’t!

Plant winter pansies, ornamental kale, and mums. In October bring some pumpkins and gourds to the landscape for seasonal interest.

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

{ 1 comment }

Almanac: March-April 2108

by cathym on March 12, 2018

What To Do in the Garden in March & April

Cherry blossoms by Jane Milliman

The following are some general ideas for early spring. Take weather conditions into account.

Winter Damage
Remove leaves and winter debris (frequently loaded with phosphorus) from paved surfaces and sewer drainage openings. This helps to increase soil drainage and improve water quality by reducing the potential for algae growth later in the season.

Thoroughly soak areas near roads, sidewalks, and driveways to flush out de-icing salt that may have been deposited over the winter.

Prune out branches damaged by the snow, wind, and ice.

Replant plants that have heaved from the freeze-thaw cycle as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the roots.

Prune summer-flowering shrubs if they need restructuring or have been damaged.

Prune dormant Bradford pear, wisteria, butterfly bush, potentilla, honeysuckle, and flowering plums.

Don’t prune ash, oak, elm, azalea, crabapple trees, forsythia, big leaf hydrangeas, lilac, mock orange, rhododendrons, or weigela.
Never top a tree! Cutting off the top portion produces an ugly, weak tree!

Prune fruit trees and grapevines before bud break. Prune out any branches with cankers or black knot. Clean your pruners in between cuts so you don’t spread disease.

Prune brambles (raspberries, blackberries) in March to remove dead, diseased, or damaged canes and to increase air circulation.

When pruning trees be careful not to cut flush to the trunk. Cut outside the branch collar. Wound dressing is not recommended. (For more information contact your local CCE or go to

Prune roses when forsythias bloom. Cut back dead canes to the crown. Cut back crossing canes to about one-quarter inch above an outward-facing bud.

Cut pussy willows back drastically after they bloom to encourage stronger plants and more blooms next year.

Cut back lavender into green wood late in April.

Cut back grasses and perennials that remained as winter interest before new growth is more than a few inches tall, and place plant material that has not harbored disease into the compost pile.

Move mulch away from emerging spring bulbs.

Hand pull emerging weeds so you don’t disturb the roots of perennials and bulbs.

Wait until the soil is workable before digging up and dividing perennials such as hostas, liriope, daylilies, Shasta daisies, dicentra, and coral bells.

Scatter annual poppy seeds in the garden for bloom in June and early July.

Plan your vegetable garden now. Be sure to rotate families at least every three years.

Direct-seed cool season vegetables and flowers.

Read seed packages so you know when to start seeds, where to start seeds (indoors or out), and the time needed for setting young plants outdoors.  Make sure you can provide seedlings with adequate light.

Resume feeding of houseplants following directions for dilution and application.

Check houseplants for disease and insects. Check roots to see if the plants need division or repotting. If you want a plant to continue to grow just repot in a container about one-inch greater in diameter but the same depth. If you want the plant to grow in the same container but its roots are taking up the space, root prune, and repot.

Prune any dead or yellowing leaves and branches.

Make cuttings of appropriate plants for gifts, garden sales, or for yourself.

Apply horticultural oil to trees and shrubs that have had past problems with piercing and sucking insects such as mites, aphids, scale, whitefly, and adelgids. Follow the application directions for temperature and weather conditions.

If you didn’t clean, sharpen, and check your garden tools in autumn do it now!

If your mower doesn’t start easily move it out into the warmth of the sun. It may make starting easier!

Place new birdhouses outdoors and/or clean out older ones.

Make cuttings to force branches indoors. Examples include forsythia, weigela, and pussy willows.

Turn the compost pile.

Scrub and sterilize reusable pots and seed starter trays by washing in a dilute solution of bleach and warm water.

Inspect stored summer tubers and rhizomes. Discard ones that have decayed.

If you overwintered zonal geraniums make cuttings now.

Start seeds of slow growers now: celery, leeks, onions, and pansies.

Replace fluorescent bulbs in grow lights that have been in use over two years.


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


Almanac: November-December 2107

by janem on November 13, 2017

What To Do in the Garden in November & December

Frost on crabapple, Caledonia, November 2009

Reduce the fertilization of most indoor plants from late October to mid-March. An exception would be plants under grow lights.

To avoid fungus gnats on your houseplants keep them on the dry side as the gnat larva live in moist soil at the top inch or so.

Watering from the bottom also helps.

Start cuttings of your favorite Christmas cactus (Easter and Thanksgiving cacti too!). Make a cutting with four or five joints. Insert the basal end into a pot of moistened vermiculite.

Place in a brightly lit area. Rooting should occur in three to four weeks.

Plant amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus bulbs now.

Select poinsettias with green leaves and colorful bracts. Keep in bright light away from pets, children, drafts, and direct heat.

Be sure to remove foil or other wrapping from around the pots of plants you may receive as gifts so proper drainage can occur.

If you didn’t clean your garden tools, do it now. Don’t forget to disinfect and sharpen your tools too. Sharpened pruners, hoes and shovels make work much easier.

After mowing your lawn for the last time, winterize your lawn mower. Have blades cleaned and sharpened for a head start on spring.

Drain and store garden hoses and turn off outside water spigots.

You can still plant spring-flowering bulbs until the ground freezes.

Finish any garden cleanup you still haven’t completed. Be sure to remove and discard any plant material that was diseased.

Newly planted trees and shrubs need adequate moisture even at this time of year. Water deeply anytime there is less than 1 inch or rain per week, until the ground reaches 40 degrees F.

Once the soil is frozen put protective mulch over tender perennials and shrubs. Discarded pine boughs and shredded leaves are good mulches.

Erect wooden teepees to protect foundation plants from breakage if snow and ice are expected to slip off the roof.

Use burlap or shrub coats to protect susceptible shrubs from winter wind and deer damage. Or consider using “plant tents” around cold sensitive plants such as some hydrangeas.

To reduce the amount of water that broad-leafed evergreens like rhododendrons lose during the winter, you can spray the foliage with a wax-forming anti-desiccant or erect barriers against the wind to prevent “windburn,” a form of desiccation.

Mound five to six inches of soil around the bases of roses to protect them from freeze-thaw cycles, which are harmful. Use soil from another part of the garden so you don’t damage the roots of your roses.

If you have critter problems, now is the time to erect fencing and other barriers. The trunks of young trees can be wrapped with chicken wire or hardware cloth to protect them from the nibbling of mice and rabbits and rubbing by deer. Be sure the protection goes high enough so critters don’t sit on top of the snow to browse.

Check stored firewood for insect infestations. Remember not to use or move firewood from out of your area to help prevent the spread of invasive insects like the Emerald Ash Borer.

Buy a real tree for Christmas. When selecting a Christmas tree:

– Check the needles. You should be able to bend them. If they snap the tree is too dry.

– Try lifting the tree a few inches and bringing it down on the stump. Some inside needles may fall but outer needles should not drop off.

– Make a fresh cut across the base of the trunk so the tree will be ready to take up plenty of water.

– Immediately place in water.

– If you plan to have a live tree for the holidays dig the hole for the tree now before the ground is frozen. It’s best to only keep a live tree inside for just one week then plant it outside.

Give gardening hints to family and friends so they buy you gardening gifts (or buy them for both friends and yourself).

Ideas: books, clippers, butterfly kits, masonbee homes, terrariums, orchids, perhaps apiary equipment to become a beekeeper.

Purchase gifts at local nurseries and botanical gardens.

Give others as well as yourself memberships to outdoor organizations such as botanical gardens, the Nature Conservancy, Xerces, and local nature preserves.

Use your extra time studying garden books, magazines, and seed catalogs—start with your back issues of Upstate Gardeners’ Journal.

Place orders for seeds soon after the catalogs arrive so you won’t be disappointed later. By ordering early, you will be certain of getting the varieties you want.

Buy yourself a plant for the holidays.


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