Carol Ann Harlos

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


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.



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.



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.



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.



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