What to do in the garden in July & August

by cathym on July 15, 2021

Brugmansia in August

July and August are great for sitting, relaxing, and enjoying your garden. Do you have seats and benches in your garden? If not, find a comfortable spot to add one or two. It’s also a great time to take notes and yes, even start planning for next year. August, in particular, is a good time to observe and make notes. This could be on design/layout or expansion, reminders to relocate plants from one area to another (some of which could be done in the fall), new plants to try, problem areas to tackle, things that worked well that you want to repeat next year or things that didn’t and tools or supplies that you need.

Check out local garden tours! We love to see what other gardeners are doing. It’s a great way to spend a day and get new ideas for your own garden. Buffalo Garden Walk is July 24 and 25, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Check out Buffalo’s Open Gardens on Thursdays and Fridays in July or look for other weekend community garden tours. Listings can be found at and in this issue’s calendar.

Now is a good time to be on the lookout for the dreaded jumping worms (Amynthas spp. & Metaphire spp.). These invasive worms are showing up in more gardens and landscapes across our region. Since they tend to stay in the top few inches of the soil or just below mulch, they are relatively easy to find. They especially love leaf litter and compost. They can also be in bulk mulch, bulk topsoil, and even nursery plants. Jumping worms alter the soil structure, making it look like coffee grounds, which deters plant growth. Unfortunately, there are currently no control methods to eliminate them from your garden other than collecting them, killing them, and putting them in the garbage. If you do have them, do your part to limit their spread. Don’t share plants. The cocoons are very small and can be transferred in soil. These worms  are annual, dying in the winter, but the cocoons overwinter ,hatching in the spring. By the end of June, they have matured and show the telltale white band near their head. If you do find jumping worms, you can and should report them to NY iMapInvasives at

Be tick vigilant, even in your own garden. Ticks are becoming more prevalent across New York and since they can carry a variety of diseases it is imperative that we take precautions to avoid being bitten. Since finding a tick on myself last summer (after working in the garden) We wear our tick outfit whenever I’m in the garden. It’s not pretty, but it works. Wear light-colored clothes so it’s easier to see ticks. Tuck pants into tall socks and tuck your shirt into your pants. Wear shoes or boots, not sandals. This can help keep ticks away from your skin. Top it off with repellent head to toe. As a reminder, we keep a can of repellent by the door. Do a tick check when you come in. Ticks can be  very small, think poppy seeds to sesame seeds. That’s what you are looking for. Read and follow the label when using repellents as they are pesticides. For more information on ticks check out the “Don’t Get Ticked NY” website at

It seems that every year now it’s not uncommon for an extended dry period. Maybe not a full-blown drought, but several weeks of little or no rain is the “new normal.” What can you do to make your yard and garden more drought tolerant? If you’re starting out, group plants together based on water needs. Keep plants that will need regular watering closer to the house. Use drought-tolerant perennials, shrubs, and trees farther out. Lawns need regular water to stay green. Reduce lawn areas that are not used frequently. Mulch around trees and shrubs and in gardens to help conserve soil moisture. You can even mulch your pots of annuals. Consider setting up a rain barrel or two. Water efficiently. Water plants deeply when you do, not shallowly every day.  Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation for efficient, deep watering  Eliminate weeds, as they also suck up water. You may have to pick your battles in a drough—water trees and shrubs as they would cost more to replace than annuals or even perennials.

Tomato growers—make sure your plants have consistent water as they set fruit. Blossom end rot is common during hot weather and infrequent rain. It can also affect peppers and eggplant. This is not a disease but rather a lack of calcium. Usually, the problem isn’t that you don’t have enough calcium in the soil, but that the soil is too dry for the plant to take it up. Consistent moisture is the key.

Plants in containers need regular fertilizing to maintain blooms as well as regular watering. Some containers may need water twice a day depending on size and location. Deadhead annuals to keep them blooming until frost.

Looking for a good summer read? We highly recommend Nature’s Best Hope by Douglas Tallamy. Tallamy is a professor at the University of Delaware in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology. He researches how plants that evolved elsewhere (nonnative) impact food webs and biodiversity. He is also a leading voice as to why we should plant more native plants in our gardens to support local biodiversity. No, you don’t have to give up your hostas and daylilies, but be more mindful of what you do add to your landscape. Nature’s Best Hope gives homeowners practical advice as to how their yard, no matter the size, can have a positive impact on pollinators, beneficial insects, butterflies, and birds. Get inspired!

—Jan Beglinger, Genesee County Master Gardener coordinator and Brandie Waite, Master Gardener volunteer


What to do in the garden in May & June

by cathym on May 14, 2021

May and June Garden tasks make way for summer beauty and delicious edibles in the garden.

According to the International Society of Arboriculture, mulching, when done correctly, is one of the most beneficial practices a homeowner can do for the health of trees. However, there is a right and a wrong way to mulch.

Go organic. Organic mulches such as wood chips, shredded leaves, pine needles, hardwood and softwood bark, or compost are the best choices. These materials decompose over time, improving soil quality. 

Mulch out, not up. Mulch no deeper than two to four inches. Mulch less if the soil is poorly drained or if you are using a finely textured mulch. Avoid “mulch volcanoes,” which occur when mulch is extended up the trunk, giving the appearance of a volcano cone. Deep mulching like this may suppress the weeds, but it is extremely harmful to the plant.

Back away from the trunk. Keep all mulch away from the trunk of the tree, allowing the root flare to show just above ground level.

Mulch to the drip line if possible. Mulch out as far as possible, preferably to the outermost edge of the tree’s canopy of newly planted trees. It’s especially important to keep grass (and mowers) away from the trunks of young trees. 

Your goal with mulch is to always keep the trunk dry and the roots moist. You will protect your landscape investment, and the trees will love you for it! 

Weed control is a challenge for all home gardeners. Knowing what kinds of weeds, you have in your garden is helpful for their management.  Annuals, like crabgrass, and perennials, like dandelions, do not spread. The whole weed, including roots, can be physically removed. Spreading perennials are the hardest garden weeds to control. They spread by creeping stems or underground roots. Bishop’s weed and quack grass, for example, are notoriously hard to get rid of and can be invasive.

The best weed control practice is to stay ahead of the growth. Weed early in the season when weeds just begin to show and before they flower. Physically remove the whole weed, roots included. It is easiest to weed when the soil is moist. For spreading perennials, remove as much of the plant as possible. Attempts to completely remove their root system is a big challenge. A chemical approach for spreading perennials may be considered. If a gardener chooses to use an herbicide, it is important to follow directions on the label. Herbicides do not know the difference between a weed or prized plant!  Actively growing perennial weeds are easier to kill. Please remember to use herbicides judiciously and follow the product label.

Staying ahead of your weeds, early physical removal of weeds, and mulching are good weed control practices. If you prevent weeds from going to seed, you will need to weed less often. Then you can spend your time enjoying your beautiful, weed-free gardens.

Spring is the best time to consider adding perennials to your garden. Spring’s cooler temperatures, dependable rainfall, and gentle sunlight ensure perennials get a great start. You can purchase perennials as potted plants and/or as bare roots from local garden centers and online sources. Planting for each is slightly different and is highlighted below.

Bare-root forms. Bare root plants are dormant—essentially roots with some top growth. They don’t look like much but are a great option if you are on a budget, since they are less expensive to buy and/or have shipped. They are normally packaged in sawdust or wood shavings, so the roots stay moist. When you receive them, make sure to place the roots in a pail of water for one to two hours to hydrate them. After being hydrated they are ready for planting in a garden. Dig a hole wider than the root mass. Make a mound of soil in the center of the bottom of the hole to support the roots; spread the roots around that mound so the crown is at the same level as the top of the soil. Backfill with soil and water well.

Potted forms. Potted perennials can be found in different size containers. Smaller sizes will be less expensive. To plant in a garden bed, first dig a hole the same depth as the container, but at least twice as wide as it is deep. Next, loosen the soil in the hole to make it easier for the roots to spread. Grab the plant by the crown, not by the foliage tips, and gently take it out of the container. Loosen the roots with your fingers. The plant should be at the same level as the surface of the soil. Backfill and water well.

There are a few exceptions to placing the plant crown at soil level. Peonies should be planted just an inch or two below the surface, hostas can go a few inches below the surface, and bearded iris rhizomes should sit on the soil’s surface. 

For the most floriferous peonies—and plenty for cutting—make sure not to plant the fleshy roots too deep

May is a good time to prepare your garden soil for planting. It’s good practice to test your soil pH every three years. Soil pH test measures the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. Most vegetables grow best in soils with a pH range of 6.2 -6.8. Check with your local Cooperative Extension about getting a soil pH test. Dairy One Cooperative, in Ithaca, offers nutrient analysis soil testing for garden and lawn, including pH, for a fee. Visit or call your local Extension for guidance.

Before you start planting, feed your soil by adding compost to the garden bed. This will add to the soil nutrients, soil structure and help to retain soil moisture. Make sure you rotate your crops year to year to help reduce disease and insect issues.

Do your homework before you set out to plant seeds and transplants. Consider the last frost date in spring. Make sure to follow directions on the plant labels. Cool-seasoned crops can be sown from several weeks to a couple of months before the last frost date. Vegetable planting guides can aid a gardener in the proper timing to plant cool and warm season vegetables. Check out Cornell’s Garden Based Learning website:

—Polly Angerosa, Rosanne Loparco, and Holly Wise, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County Master Gardener volunteers.


What to do in the garden in March & April

by cathym on March 15, 2021


Eager to garden? Keep in mind the weather conditions. March and April could be spring-like or snowy. Pruning can be done in wintery conditions, but the soil shouldn’t be worked until the soil is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Let’s get to work!

Clean up leaves and winter debris. This helps to increase soil drainage, improve water quality, and reduce algae growth later in the season.

Prune out or cut back 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.

If you’re unsure how to prune a particular tree or shrub contact your local Cooperative Extension for guidance.

Prune summer flowering shrubs if they need restructuring or have been damaged by snow, wind, or ice.

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

Don’t prune ash, oak, elm as they are “bleeders.” Don’t prune azalea, crab apple trees, forsythia, big leaf hydrangeas, lilac, mock orange, rhododendrons, weigela unless you don’t mind missing this year’s flowers which were formed last autumn. 

Prune fruit trees before bud break. Prune out any branches with cankers or black knot. Be sure to clean your pruners in between cuts so you don’t spread disease!

Prune brambles (raspberries, blackberries) during 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 no longer recommended. 

Prune roses when forsythia bloom. (This makes use of phenology, which refers to looking at the seasons by the behavior of plants and animals not just the calendar.) Cut back dead canes to the ground. 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 to have attractive plants this year.

Add cut plant material that has not harbored disease to the compost pile.

Move mulch away from emerging spring bulbs.

Pull emerging weeds so you don’t disturb the roots of emerging perennials and bulbs. Don’t know if it is a weed or not? Let it grow. You can always remove it later. That’s what makes gardening so interesting!

Divide perennials such as liriope, hostas, daylilies, coral bells (heuchera), and Shasta daisies only when the soil is workable. 

Scatter annual poppy seeds, cleome, and wildflower collection seeds for bloom later in the season.

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

Plan your vegetable garden now. Be sure to rotate plant families at least every three years to prevent disease and to give time to replenish soil nutrients). Family examples include Solanaceae (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant); Brassiaceae (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli); and Cucurbitaceae (cucumber, melons, squash).

Direct-seed cool-season vegetables such as carrots, beets, radishes, kale, and onions.

Read seed packages so you know when to start seeds (indoors or out) and the time needed for producing plants to be set outdoors later in the season. Starting seeds indoors too early leads to tall leggy plants that won’t transplant well.

Resume feeding of houseplants following directions for both dilution and applications.

Check houseplants for disease and insects. Check the roots to see if the plants need division or repotting. If you want a plant to grow larger, repot it 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 space, remove from the pot, root prune, and repot in fresh soil.

Prune out weak or leggy growth or toughed plant material which no longer produces leaves to stimulate new growth.

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

If you didn’t clean and sharpen your garden tools, do it now.

Set up your rain barrel again.

Turn the compost pile.

Place new birdhouses at least twenty-five feet apart and at least five feet above the ground. Clean out and scrub older bird houses if you didn’t do it at the end of the breeding season last year.

Make cuttings to force branches of forsythia, weigelia, and pussy willows.

Inspect stored summer tubers and rhizomes such as dahlias, caladiums, tuberous begonias, and gladiolas. Discard ones that have decayed.

If you overwintered zonal geraniums, make cuttings now.

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

Replace fluorescent bulbs in grow lights that have been in use for more than two years.

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