Lyn Chimera

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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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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Fabulous Native Ferns

by cathym on May 21, 2016

fern,-maidenhair

Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum)

One of the joys of spring is watching ferns unfurl. The fronds start with small fuzzy arcs in the early spring, just poking their little heads above the crown of the plant and slowly growing upward and unfurling like the unwinding of a spring. When I see these fiddleheads, I know spring is really here.

Unfortunately ferns get very little attention as a garden perennial. In most books about perennials, they aren’t even mentioned. This is probably because they don’t have flowers or seeds and somehow people don’t think of them as perennials. They are in fact perennials, reliably returning each year to add beauty, texture and even color to our gardens.

Many people have the misconception that ferns are difficult to grow. This stems from the fact that they seem exotic, tropical, and not appropriate for our cooler climate. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The north east has numerous varieties of native ferns in its woods and meadows. If they grow successfully on their own, how hard can it be to grow a few in our gardens?

Like with any plant, you need to match the conditions in your garden to the requirements of the fern. They are perfect for a moist shady location, but that is not the only suitable habitat. Some can tolerate quite a bit of sun and others will handle dryer soil. All the ferns love leaf mold mulch, which is logical considering in nature they grow in the woods. The important thing is doing your homework before you purchase a fern and find out just what conditions they prefer.

One of the advantages of growing ferns is their almost year round interest. From the spring unfurling, through the summer’s lush textured foliage, to the beautiful caramel and amber colors of the fall, ferns add a depth to the garden that cannot be achieved with the more traditional blossoming perennials whose flowers come and go so quickly. The green provides a resting spot for the eyes as well as making the colors of the blooms around them stand out.

Ferns have been growing for more than 300 million years! In most depictions of dinosaurs there are ferns in the background. In fact, in prehistoric times, they were a dominant part of the vegetation. Today there are about 12,000 species of fern worldwide and more than 50 species native to the Northeast.

The following are some native ferns that will grow well in our area.  Adding native ferns is a good way to contribute to the sustainability of your landscape. The ferns mentioned below are generally available at nurseries and will grow well in our area. One of the most important features of ferns is deer don’t like them! That alone is reason to try a few.

Christmas fern (Polystichum  acrostichoides)

Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)

Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides): If you want to try just one fern, the Christmas fern has the most adaptable requirements. It prefers rich, moist soil but will also tolerate dry soil. Christmas fern likes shade but will take partial sun if the soil is moist enough. One of the things setting this fern apart is the fronds are evergreen so you have the deep green color all winter. Christmas fern is not invasive. The clump slowly gets larger, staying 12 to 24 in. tall.

Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris): This is a large fern, 24 to 72 inches tall and brings a stunning verticality to the landscape. Ostrich fern loves moist shade or part sun and will even tolerate occasional standing water. It’s ideal along a stream or near a pond. The fronds emerge from a central crown that looks like a dark brown, dead clump on the ground in the winter. This is the fern that has the tastiest fiddleheads and are as prized as asparagus in the spring. Ostrich fern can become invasive sending out new underground shoots so don’t put it somewhere it doesn’t have a little room to spread. If they do spread too much they are easy to dig up and share with a friend.

lady-fern-06

Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina)

Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina): Lady fern is one of the most common ferns in wooded areas of western New York and also one of the easiest to grow. It prefers moist, loamy soil and shade to partial sun. Lady fern stays 16-36 inches tall and it has an attractive, lacy appearance. It forms a lovely amorphous clump that won’t take over your garden and adds a feathery texture.

cinamon-fern-07

Cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea)

Cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea): This is a spectacular, rounded clump forming fern that gets 30 to 60 inches tall. Its fiddleheads are hairy and very decorative in spring. The spore fronds turn cinnamon colored when mature, hence its name. Unfortunately they don’t persist through the season but die back after releasing their spores, but they’re a show-stopper while they last. Cinnamon fern prefers moist to wet soil.

Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum): The maidenhair fern is one of our most beautiful native ferns, always lovely in a landscape. Its fronds unfold on wiry, delicate black stems. The green fronds form a double-sided swirl of leaves from the top of the stem. Maidenhair ferns grow 12 to 20 inches tall and prefer partial to full shade. They thrive in moist well-drained soil. This is not a fern that will grow in standing water. One of my favorite features of maidenhair fern is the deep burgundy color they turn in fall. Stunning!

Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis): This is one of the ferns that will do well in full sun if the conditions are moist. It will also do very well in shade with normal garden soil. Sensitive fern has a pale green color and a single stemmed triangular frond with segments more coarsely divided. The spore fronds persist and look like little round balls on a stick. For this reason they are often used in fall arrangements. Sensitive fern grows to a height of 12 – 36 inches tall, and spreads readily given the right conditions.

Interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana): The growth habit of this fern is striking. It forms an upright clump similar to an ostrich fern but the spores appear as dark sacks mid-way up the stem, hence the name. People always ask what it is when they see it in my garden. Interrupted fern grows 24 to 48 inches tall and can tolerate relatively dry shade to partial shady conditions.

If you have the appropriate spot, give one of our native ferns a try. They will reward you with beauty throughout the growing season and for years to come.

Lyn Chimera is a master gardener with Erie County Cornell Cooperative Extension.

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IMG_5607

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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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

{ 0 comments }

Garden Maintenance:

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

Water trees and shrubs. This is as important as watering your perennials and extremely important for 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.

Add compost to your beds..

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

Perennials:

Move, divide, and/or share your perennials so you will have one less thing to do next spring.

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

Disinfect your pruner after working on diseased plants before moving to a new plant. A quick wipe with rubbing alcohol or a dip in a 10% bleach 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 plants such as astilbe, black-eyed-Susan, and coneflower intact to provide food for the birds and winter interest.

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

Divide any perennials that have become overgrown, have diminished bloom or 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 the best results if you plant mid-September to mid-October. This allows the bulbs to set strong roots.  But if you miss that planting window don’t be afraid to plant them later, as long as the ground isn’t frozen solid.

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 and natural fertilizer.

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

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 the lawn. 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 as needed though late fall.  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 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.

Pick 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 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.

Wait until the seeds of your sunflowers are firm and done growing.  Cut off the sunflower head leaving about one foot of stem.  Hang in an airy dry place until ripening is complete.

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 the peppers on a string to dry.)

Allow nuts to fully mature on the trees. Remove the outer green hull of butternuts and walnuts.

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

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

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.

Make cuttings of plants treated as annuals such as scented geraniums, strobilanthus, impatiens, and coleus.

Collect seeds from open pollinated plants such as kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate, Big Max Pumpkin, and Brandywine tomatoes. Be sure to keep them dry and chilled at 35-45 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.

Add color to the autumn garden by planting mums, kale, flowering cabbage, and pansies.

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.

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.

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

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