Lyn Chimera

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


Almanac: May-June 2107

by janem on May 10, 2017

What To Do in the Garden in May & June



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.

— 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.

— 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.

— 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