Seasonal Advice

Click a month below for helpful garden and landscape planting advice and tips.

January

Garden & Landscaping Advice for January in Zone 5

Ok, so you can’t actually do a lot IN the garden, but there are gardening related activities you can do.

  1. Plan for the next season by relaxing with a stack of garden catalogs. Plot your garden or property on graph paper.
  2. Read that gardening book you have been meaning to get to.
  3. Order seeds early, some sell out quickly.
  4. Order gardening and nursery catalogues that are available.
  5. Make mulch by cutting the branches off your Christmas tree and use evergreen boughs from holiday decor and lay them around the base of roses or over perennials.
  6. Plant flowers. Force bulbs, paperwhites have a heavenly fragrance.
  7. Save mesh bags from oranges to air dry bulbs gourds and herbs.
  8. Spread the wood ashes from your wood burning stove or fireplace in the garden beds. Remove chunks first, and then spread at the rate of 15-20 pounds (about a 5 gallon pail) per 1000 square feet. Just remember that this raises the pH of your soil, so test the pH if you do this regularly so you do not exceed 7.0.
  9. Start seeds by the middle of January you can start the slow to germinate plants such as parsley, thyme, tarragon, geraniums and sage. Also start the early cool season vegetables such as chives, onion and leeks. Light from your windowsill may not be enough in January. You may need to supplement with a grow light.
  10. Check for heaving. If there is not a lot of snow, check plants in case anything has heaved up from freeze thaw cycles. Make sure mulch has stayed secure. Heavy snow cover is perfect “mulch” so if the snow is deep, don’t worry about them. Gently step down any plants that have heaved and replace the mulch.
  11. Water evergreens. If it gets warm enough, water the evergreens and rhododendrons to prevent desiccation.
  12. Sort through stored tubers, roots and bulbs for dahlias, cannas, glads and begonias. Dispose of anything that has shriveled or decayed.
  13. Work on, or start, your garden journal. Keep track of plants you want to try, record garden results, keep track of what you plant where and how many for a shopping list next spring.
  14. Attend seminars, clinics and meetings hosted by master gardeners and university extension services.
  15. Leave snow on the evergreens alone. Do not try to remove wet heavy snow from evergreens, you could do more harm than good. Evergreen limbs remain supple through winter and will bend under the weight, but hopefully will not crack.
  16. Feed the birds.

February

Garden & Landscaping Advice for February in Zone 5

  1. Re-apply anti-desiccant. If you get a nice day above freezing, reapply anti-desiccant spray to evergreens.
  2. Start vegetable seeds. By mid February you can start broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and lettuce. By the end of February or in March you can start seeds for tomatoes, peppers, annuals and perennials.
  3. Start annual seeds By mid February you can start seeds for cool season annuals such as pansies and alyssum.
  4. Prepare tools. Clean and sharpen your garden tools.
  5. Tune up the mower. Beat the rush and take it in now.
  6. Check sales. Garden centers may have some great prices on garden accessories and tools left from last year.
  7. Check hoses. Check hoses for leaks and sprinklers for cracks or damage.
  8. Check stock. Check stock of all gardening necessities such as hand tools, fertilizers, rose and fruit tree sprays, and make a list of what you need.
  9. Build a cold frame. With a cold frame you can plant cool season crops such as radishes, spinach, and lettuce in March or April.
  10. Prepare the cold frame. By the end of February it is time to set up the cold frame.
  11. Build garden structures. It may be warm enough out in the garage to start building window boxes, arbors and garden benches.
  12. Plant tubers. Buy tubers for begonias and plant them in pots indoors now, they will be ready for your window box or planters by spring. You will save a lot of money versus buying potted plants at the garden center.
  13. Prune. By end of the month you may get days nice enough to get out and prune trees and shrubs. Don’t prune any spring flowering shrubs and trees, as the buds have already formed. Do not prune oaks, elm or walnut until fall.
  14. Remove debris. By end of the month if the snow is gone you may be able to start clearing leaves and debris from the yard and around the shrubs.
  15. Prep the gardens. As soon as the soil is thawed and dried, work in compost or manure. The soil may not be ready until next month.
  16. Feed the birds.

March

Garden & Landscaping Advice for March in Zone 5

  1. Start seeds. If you haven’t started any of your seeds yet, it is time to get them all going. Start you cool season plants right away. Start tomatoes, peppers, annuals and perennials next.
  2. Stop feeding the birds.  As soon as the snow is gone, clean out the bird feeders and store them until next year.
  3. Flush street side plantings. Flush the planting beds near the street with plenty of water to dilute the road salt that has accumulated in the soil. Even salt tolerant plants will appreciate it.
  4. Divide perennials. As soon as the ground has thawed and dried, you can divide and move perennials. Do not divide the very early spring bloomers such as bleeding heart until after blooming or in fall. You may need to wait until April
  5. Plant bare root trees. Bare root trees, shrubs and roses should be planted as soon as the soil is thawed and dried, usually in March to early April.
  6. Prune. Prune fruit trees, shade trees, and summer blooming shrubs. Do not prune spring bloomers such as lilacs until after they are done blooming. Prune off any limbs damaged over winter. Do not prune oaks, elm or walnut until fall.
  7. Clean up perennial grass. When it gets warm and the lawn is dry enough to walk on, cut back the dead top growth of perennials and perennial grasses. Leave about 3 or 4 inches of stems that will help keep hungry rabbits out of the new growth and keep you from stepping on them.
  8. Clean up. As soon as the ground has thawed and dried, you can check perennials for new growth. Peak under the mulch and if growth is well underway you can remove the mulch. Don’t rush this! If nights are still freezing, leave the mulch in place until nights are consistently above freezing.
  9. Sort tubers. Sort through stored tubers, roots and bulbs for dahlias, cannas, glads and begonias. Dispose of anything that has shriveled or decayed.
  10. Fertilize evergreens. As soon as the ground has thawed, pound in evergreen fertilizer stakes or apply a slow release granular fertilizer.
  11. Fertilize trees and shrubs. Before new growth begins, fertilize trees and shrubs.
  12. Preen. Apply Preen to garden beds to prevent weeds.
  13. Clean tools. Clean and sharpen shovels, hoes and pruners if you haven’t done it yet. Clean and grease the garden sprayer.
  14. Tune up the mower. Beat the rush and take it in early in the month.
  15. Put out a rain gauge. Take the guesswork out of how much water your plants are getting.
  16. Fertilize bulbs. Spring blooming bulbs should be fertilized in March or early April.
  17. Plant tubers. Buy tubers for begonias and plant them in pots indoors now, they will be ready for your window box or planters by spring. You will save a lot of money versus buying potted plants at the garden center.
  18. Prune roses. Usually in March, before growth begins, prune dead, broken and wayward branches from hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda roses. Cut back to about 6 inches tall When the forsythia blooms, just ahead of dandelions blooming and lilac leaves appearing, it is time to prune roses. Apply a slow release granular fertilizer.
  19. Fertilize the lawn. Depending on weather patterns, this should usually be done by end of March. After the first mowing, apply fertilizer. Pre-emergent for crabgrass should be included if necessary. Crabgrass seed generally germinates after the soil temperature has reached 50 degrees, and requires about 5 consecutive days of 50 degree soil temperature. When you see the first dandelion bloom, it is time to apply crabgrass control. If you plan to do spring seeding, crabgrass control may prevent germination of the grass seed unless you “stir up the soil” first to break the barrier.
  20. Aerate the lawn. Every few years the lawn should be aerated in March or April. De-thatching should wait until late summer or early fall.
  21. Plant the cold frame. Start lettuce and spinach outside in the cold frame early to middle of the month.
  22. Prep the beds. When the soil has thawed and dried and begins to warm up, usually by the middle to end of the month, you can remove winter mulch. Work compost of leaf mold into the top layer of soil.
  23. Soil test. Test the soil in your lawn and gardens so you know if lime or other additives and nutrients will be necessary before the growing season starts.
  24. Make new beds. Add new garden beds now while you have the time.
  25. Plant the cool season crops. As soon as the soil has warmed and dried, peas can be sown directly in the ground. Usually this will be the end of March or first week of April. Next is lettuce and radishes.
  26. Plant bulbs. Plant summer and fall flowering bulbs as soon as the soil has thawed and dried.
  27. Plant cool season annuals. As soon as the soil is dry and warming up, plant cool season annuals such as pansies.
  28. Spray fruit trees. Apply dormant spray to fruit trees before the buds swell.

April

Garden & Landscaping Advice for April in Zone 5

Average last frost date is April 15 in zone 5. The prior frost free date for our region as a zone 4 was May 15th so be cautious until after May 1st.

  1. Apply dormant oil An application of dormant oil to shrubs and trees early in the month will kill most insect eggs. But this MUST be done while plants are dormant and air temperature will be above freezing for at least 24 hours.
  2. Plant bare root trees Bare root trees, shrubs and roses should be planted as soon as the soil is thawed and dried, usually in early April but sometimes even in March.
  3. Fertilize evergreens If you haven’t done it yet, pound in evergreen fertilizer stakes or apply a slow release granular fertilizer.
  4. Fertilize trees and shrubs If you haven’t done it yet, fertilize shrubs and trees.
  5. Fertilize bulbs Spring blooming bulbs should be fertilized in March or early April.
  6. Plant perennial seeds Seed can be sown for frost tolerant perennials as soon as the soil has thawed, dried, and begun to warm up. Some seeds however will not germinate until the soil is quite warm, so check directions on your seed pack.
  7. Plant bulbs Plant summer and fall flowering bulbs as soon as the soil has warmed.
  8. Prep the beds When the soil has thawed and dried and begins to warm up, usually in March, you can remove winter mulch. Work compost or leaf mold into the top layer of the soil.
  9. Make new beds Add new garden beds now while you have time.
  10. Sort tubers Sort through stored tubers, roots and bulbs for dahlias, cannas, glads and begonias if you haven’t done it yet. Dispose of anything that has shriveled or decayed.
  11. Prune trees and shrubs If you didn’t get it done in March, prune trees, fruit trees and shrubs. Don’t prune any spring flowering shrubs and trees, as the buds have already formed. Prune trees but not oaks, elm or walnut. Prune off any limbs damaged over winter.
  12. Prune roses Early in April (usually in late March) before growth begins, prune dead, broken and wayward branches from hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda roses. Cut back to about 6 inches tall When the forsythia blooms, just ahead of dandelions blooming and lilac leaves appearing, it is time to prune roses. Apply a slow release granular fertilizer.
  13. Tune up the mower Beat the rush and take it in early in the month if you didn’t get it in in March.
  14. Clean tools Clean and sharpen shovels, hoes and pruners.
  15. Check hoses Check hoses for leaks and sprinklers for cracks or damage.
  16. Check stock Check stock of all gardening necessities such as hand tools, fertilizers, rose and fruit tree sprays, and make a list of what you need.
  17. Clean up Finish any perennial cleanup and removal of winter mulch.
  18. Plant cool season annuals Plant cool season annuals like pansies as soon as the ground has thawed and dried, usually by the end of March or first of April.
  19. Harden off seedlings Seedlings started earlier in the year can be set out early in the month on warm sunny days to harden them off. The process is long, setting them out each day for longer periods of time until they are strong enough to be out all day and over night. You may be able to start this process in March.
  20. Plant hardy annuals Usually by the first of April you can plant the hardy annuals such as geraniums and even petunias. A light frost usually does them no harm but a freeze will. Don’t rush to plant, if it is not warm enough not much will happen anyway. But window box soil warms up quickly and stays warm next to the house, so your hardy annuals will get an early start establishing roots. And containers or hanging baskets are easily moved into the garage if a freeze or hard frost is expected.
  21. Transplant seedlings Transplant any annual, perennial or vegetable seedlings into the garden beds after the last frost date.
  22. Divide perennials As soon as the ground has thawed and dried, you can divide and move perennials. Do not divide the very early spring bloomers such as bleeding heart until after blooming or in fall.
  23. Clean up perennial grass Cut back the dead top growth of perennials and perennial grasses. Leave about 3 or 4 inches of stems that will help keep hungry rabbits out of the new growth and keep you from stepping on them.
  24. Clean up Check perennials for new growth. Peak under the mulch and if growth is well underway you can remove the mulch. Don’t rush this! If nights are still freezing, leave the mulch in place until nights are consistently above freezing. Many years you will have done this already in March, but sometimes not until April.
  25. Stake plants Stake tall plants that need support and protection from wind before they get to big to confine.
  26. Transplant Move shrubs and trees after the soil thaws out and dries up, before new growth begins, and the weather is cool. Transplant shock will be minimized.
  27. Soil test Test the soil in your lawn and gardens so you know if lime or other additives and nutrients will be necessary before the growing season starts.
  28. Visit garden centers See what’s new this year before you start buying and planting.
  29. Apply Aluminum Sulphate The blue Hydrangeas should be treated with Aluminum Sulphate the first of April to keep them blue.
  30. Fertilize the lawn Depending on weather patterns, this could be March or April. After the first mowing, apply fertilizer. Pre-emergent for crabgrass should be included if necessary. Crabgrass seed generally germinates after the soil temperature has reached 50 degrees, and requires about 5 consecutive days of 50 degree soil temperature. When you see the first dandelion bloom, it is time to apply crabgrass control. If you plan to do spring seeding, crabgrass control may prevent germination of the grass seed unless you “stir up the soil” first to break the barrier.
  31. Preen Apply Preen to garden beds to prevent weeds if you haven’t already.
  32. Aerate the lawn Every few years the lawn should be aerated. De-thatching should wait until late summer or early fall.
  33. Heat up the compost If the compost isn’t ready yet but is not heating up, add green plant material such as grass clippings or fruit and vegetable waste, or add a shovel full of manure.
  34. Deadhead Snip or shear off only the dead flower heads of spring blooming bulbs. Do not cut back the foliage until it has withered and yellowed.
  35. Plant annuals By the last frost date you can plant all your annuals or annual seeds. Depending on the year, a cold April can bring late light frosts, which can harm the most tender annuals such as impatiens.
  36. Mulch Apply a 2-4” layer of mulch on your planting beds to inhibit weeds and retain soil moisture.
  37. Plant container grown shrubs and trees By end of March or early April, container grown trees, evergreens and shrubs can be planted.
  38. Prepare potted shrubs and trees Every few years, potted trees and shrubs should be repotted and root pruned. Top dress each year before growth begins.
  39. Put out a raingauge Take the guesswork out of how much water your plants are getting.
  40. Spray roses for insects Tea roses, foribunda and grandiflora roses should be treated for insects. Try organic products such as insecticidal soaps, Neem Oil and Remedy fungicide.
  41. Check for insects Keep an eye on your plants for insects that may be causing damage. Do not indiscriminately spray insects, as many are beneficial. Even those that cause visual damage may not necessarily be harming the plant. Check with your local garden center or extension service to properly identify and treat for insects. Routinely spraying them off with a garden hose or applying insecticidal soap is often the best course of action. Or use a water bottle with a small holed tip on it that will produce a strong stream. Aphids is a common problem. Although they generally do not do permanent damage, they can inhibit growth and weaken the plant.
  42. Fertilize flowering shrubs Apply a liquid or slow release granular fertilizer to spring blooming shrubs after the flowering is complete.
  43. Drink water and wear sunscreen!

May

Garden & Landscaping Advice for May in Zone 5

  1. Fertilize trees, shrubs, perennials Apply a balanced fertilizer to all your trees, shrubs and perennials if you have not done it yet. Use liquid or a slow release granular. Note: Certain perennials, and shrubs for that matter, do not require fertilizer. For all your plants, follow recommendations for the specific plant.
  2. Feed annuals Annuals need regular fertilizing for good bloom production, about every 4 weeks.
  3. Apply broadleaf weed control Apply broadleaf weed control in May. Although you can purchase fertilizer with broad leaf weed control, conditions should be ideal when you apply (read the package) for best results. Mixing up some weed-b-gone in a tank sprayer is more effective. It also allows you to spot spray individual weeds are target small areas. Clover and creeping charlie require several applications. With a pump sprayer you can target those every few to several days.
  4. Plant warm season vegetables As soon as the soil warms up to about 60 degrees, tomatoes, peppers, etc. can be planted in the garden. Beans can be direct sown.
  5. Transplant Move shrubs and trees after the soil thaws out and dries up if it hasn’t been done already, before new growth begins, and the weather is cool. Transplant shock will be minimized.
  6. Plant container grown shrubs, roses and trees Container grown trees, evergreens and shrubs can be planted.
  7. Plant perennial seeds Seed can be sown for just about anything now. The seeds that need warm soil should germinate easily now.
  8. Stake plants Stake tall plants that need support and protection from wind before they get to tall to confine.
  9. Mulch Apply 2-4 inches of mulch to perennial beds and trees if you haven’t done it yet. Thick mulch will inhibit weeds and help keep the soil moist.
  10. Transplant seedlings Transplant any annual, perennial or vegetable seedlings into the garden beds if you haven’t done it yet. Complete the hardening off process first and protect from late frosts.
  11. Mow Get on a regular mowing schedule. You should not be removing more than 1/3 the length when you mow.
  12. Deadhead Remove spent blooms from early flowering shrubs and shrub roses. Deadheading will improve the appearance of the shrub and encourage faster re-bloom. Rhododendrons should be pruned as soon as flowering is complete. Deadhead the spring flowering bulbs if you haven’t yet, but don’t cut back the foliage until it is yellowed and withered.
  13. Spray or dig weeds Weed season is well underway in May, and it is best to control them before they get well established. Dig weeds when the soil is moist to help remove the entire root system. Many weeds will re-grow from the tiniest bits of root left behind, especially dandelions. If not opposed to chemicals, apply liquid selective weed control, such as Weed-B-gone, to lawn weeds. A pint size spray bottle allows you to minimize the chemicals used by applying only to individual weeds. Be especially cautious of drift to perennials, shrubs and trees. The slightest wind can carry the spray a long way, damaging foliage. Non-selective weed control sprays, such as Round-up, will kill every plant it comes in contact with. Never use weed chemicals in garden beds, the risk of killing plants is too great. Pull or dig them when the soil is moist, or regularly hoe the soil to pull up weed seedlings that are not well established. Weeds in the gardens will use up moisture and nutrients that your plants need.
  14. Fertilize early bloomers Early blooming shrubs may need feeding after the first flush of blooms. Rhododendrons and Azaleas will need an acid fertilizer now to keep the foliage from yellowing, or work cottonseed meal into the surrounding soil. Each shrub and perennial has unique feeding requirements, be sure to follow maintenance recommendations for each plant.
  15. Shape hedges After a flush of summer growth, shaped and pruned hedges should be trimmed, usually in May.
  16. Pinch Pinch back annuals to promote fuller growth. Petunias and zinnias in particular will benefit from pinching back when the have reached about 4-6 inches.
  17. Water Water all newly planted shrubs and trees deeply every 7-10 days while the roots are establishing. Established trees should get a deep soaking as summer heat sets in.
  18. Fill the birdbath Fill shallow birdbaths frequently. Deep birdbaths can harbor mosquito larvae so empty stale water and refill.
  19. Take down the coldframe By the middle of May you can put away the coldframe.
  20. Apply organic fertilizers Now that the soil is warm enough to activate microbes, compost, manure, fish emulsions and blood and bone meal may be applied in the gardens.
  21. Check containers and baskets Container gardens, hanging baskets and window boxes dry out quickly and need frequent watering. They will also need to be fertilized regularly.
  22. Heat up the compost If the compost isn’t ready yet but is not heating up, add green plant material such as grass clippings or fruit and vegetable waste, or add a shovel full of manure.
  23. Check for insects Keep an eye on your plants for insects that may be causing damage. Do not indiscriminately spray insects, as many are beneficial. Even those that cause visual damage may not necessarily be harming the plant. Check with your local garden center or extension service to properly identify and treat for insects. Routinely spraying them off with a garden hose or applying insecticidal soap is often the best course of action. Or use a water bottle with a small holed tip on it that will produce a strong stream. Aphids is a common problem. Although they generally do not do permanent damage, they can inhibit growth and weaken the plant.
  24. Check for disease Keep an eye on your plants for signs of disease such as wilting, leaf drop, and discolored foliage. Check with your local garden center or extension service to properly identify plant disease and treatment. It is tempting to water and fertilize if a plant appears weak or diseased, but until the problem is identified it is best to withhold both water and fertilizer. Many diseases are caused by or accelerated by over watering and poor drainage. Keep watering to a bare minimum until the problem is identified.
  25. Check for slugs June is sometimes a rainy month and will encourage slugs. If slugs have eaten holes in the foliage of your shade plants such as hosta, pick out the slugs and dispose of them or apply non-toxic Sluggo.
  26. Evaluate Make notes in your garden journal frequently. Record how each plant is doing and the time of year and weather conditions. Note whether soil seems to dry out too quickly or hold water too long so you can amend the soil next season. Note areas that are being shaded more by growing trees so you can move perennials as necessary next season.
  27. Drink water and wear sunscreen!

June

Garden & Landscaping Advice for June in Zone 5

  1. Mulch trees  With summer heat setting in, mulch around trees should be refreshed to help the soil retain moisture.  Apply a 2-4” deep layer in a wide circle around the tree, the wider the better.  Do not allow the mulch to contact the trunk.
  2. Plant summer blooming bulbs  Later blooming bulbs and annuals can be planted in June.
  3. Remove trunk protection  Remove any winter protection wraps from your tree trunks to avoid harboring insects.
  4. Fertilize trees and shrubs  If you have not fertilized the trees and shrubs yet, be sure to get it done this month.
  5. Feed annuals  Annuals need regular fertilizing for good bloom production, about every 4 weeks.
  6. Start warm season vegetables  You can still plant tomatoes and peppers, etc if you get them going right away.
  7. Fertilize vegetables  Fertilize the vegetable gardens every few weeks with a liquid fertilizer, less often with slow release and organic fertilizer.  Most herbs need little or no fertilizer if the soil is well enriched.
  8. Plant fall bloomers  Get gladiolas, mums and dahlias in the ground for fall blooming.  Established mum plants should be cut back to encourage fuller plants, which will produce more blooms.  Divide mums now also.
  9. Clean up spring bulbs  Foliage from your spring blooming bulbs should be ready now to cut back to the ground.  Leaves should be yellow white and withered.
  10. Trim flowering shrubs  Flowering shrubs that have completed their summer bloom can be trimmed back to improve shape and appearance.  Additional blooming may be encouraged.
  11. Raise the blade  Raise the blade on the lawn mower.  The growth will be slowing down a bit anyway in the summer heat, and a little longer grass shades the soil better to retain moisture.  Your lawn will look much greener and healthier, and require less sprinkling.
  12. Check for slugs  June is sometimes a rainy month and will encourage slugs.  If slugs have eaten holes in the foliage of your shade plants such as hosta, pick out the slugs and dispose of them or apply non-toxic Sluggo.
  13. Check for insects  Keep an eye on your plants for insects that may be causing damage.  Do not indiscriminately spray insects, as many are beneficial.  Even those that cause visual damage may not necessarily be harming the plant.  Check with your local garden center or extension service to properly identify and treat for insects.  Routinely spraying them off with a garden hose or applying insecticidal soap is often the best course of action.  Aphids is a common problem.  Although they generally do not do permanent damage, they can inhibit growth and weaken the plant.   Also watch for earwigs that can devastate young plants and damage fruits.
  14. Check for disease  Keep an eye on your plants for signs of disease such as wilting, leaf drop, and discolored foliage. Check with your local garden center or extension service to properly identify plant disease and treatment.  It is tempting to water and fertilize if a plant appears weak or diseased, but until the problem is identified it is best to withhold both water and fertilizer.  Many diseases are caused by or accelerated by over watering and poor drainage.  Keep watering to a bare minimum until the problem is identified.
  15. Weed the gardens  The never ending summer chore.  If you haven’t kept up with weeding, by now they are pretty well established.  Be sure to get all the root when you did, sometimes the tiniest root pieces can grow a whole new weed.
  16. Fill the birdbath  Fill shallow birdbaths frequently.  Deep birdbaths can harbor mosquito larvae, empty the stale water and refill.
  17. Fertilize the lawn  Your grass can be fertilized about every 6 weeks.  If you are due, apply now before the heat really sets in.  A healthy lawn will survive heat and drought much better than a weak lawn.
  18. Water  June can start to get hot and dry.  Make sure everything is getting enough water, about an inch per week for most plants and lawn.  Tomatoes must have consistent watering to prevent mis-shapen fruit and blossom end rot.
  19. Check containers and baskets  Container gardens, hanging baskets and window boxes dry out quickly and need frequent watering.  They will also need to be fertilized regularly.
  20. Fertilize roses  Hybrid tea roses, grandiflora and floribunda roses, all need to be fertilized about once a month into July.  Timing of applications should correspond to the completion of bloom cycles.  Make sure they are also getting a deep watering each week, about 1 – 1 1/2 inches.
  21. Deadhead roses  Frequently remove spent blooms to encourage new blooms.
  22. Start seeds  Start perennials from seed now and they will be ready for fall transplant to a permanent home.  Planting them in a “nursery” bed or in pots will prevent trampling them accidently.
  23. Pinch and deadhead  Annuals and perennials are growing fast now, so pinch them back before them become leggy. Deadhead spent blooms on perennials finished blooming.  Certain perennials develop interesting seed pods that you may want to leaf for interest or to produce seeds.
  24. Evaluate  Make notes in your garden journal frequently.  Record how each plant is doing and the time of year and weather conditions.  Note whether soil seems to dry out too quickly or hold water too long so you can amend the soil next season.  Note areas that are being shaded more by growing trees so you can move perennials as necessary next season.
  25. Drink water and wear sunscreen!

July

Garden & Landscaping Advice for July in Zone 5

  1. Water  July can be hot and dry.  Make sure everything is getting enough water, about an inch per week for most plants and lawn, more in extreme heat and drought.  Tomatoes must have consistent watering to prevent mis-shapen fruit and blossom end rot.  Water in the morning to minimize evaporation.
  2. Raise the blade  Raise the blade on the lawn mower, by now you should be at about 3”.  The growth will be slowing down a bit anyway in the summer heat, and a little longer grass shades the soil better to retain moisture.  Your lawn will look much greener and healthier, and require less sprinkling.
  3. Fertilize the lawn  Your grass can be fertilized about every 6 weeks.  If you are due, apply early in July before the heat really sets in.  A healthy lawn will survive heat and drought much better than a weak lawn.
  4. Remove suckers  Remove water sprouts and suckers from trees and shrubs.
  5. Plant zinnias  Zinnia seeds sown the first week of July will give you late bloomers that are frost tolerant.
  6. Prune hedges  Any hedge or shrub pruning that is necessary should be done early in the month to prevent young growth from freeze damage in the fall.  Do not do severe pruning, only light trimming to shape.
  7. Deep water trees  Give your trees a long deep soaking to get through the summer heat.  Make sure the mulch is up to 4 inches deep, wide enough to reach the drip line if possible, and not contacting the trunk.
  8. Feed annuals  Annuals need regular fertilizing for good bloom production, about every 4 weeks.
  9. Deadhead  Remove spent blooms from annuals and perennials, removing seed pods to prevent self seeding.
  10. Prepare for dormancy  Trees and shrubs want to drink heavily for the next couple of months to prepare for winter dormancy.
  11. Harvest  Many of your vegetables will be ready for harvest by now.  Early season crops have been coming all along, but beans should be ready this month and tomatoes and peppers coming up soon.
  12. Stop fertilizing plants  By mid July discontinue fertilizing perennials and shrubs in zone 5A.  Fertilizing now will encourage new growth that may not be ready for fall freezing temperatures.  Annuals and vegetables can be fertilized right up until frost to keep them fresh and blooming.  Zone 5B can probably continue into next month.
  13. Stop fertilizing roses  After mid July, roses should not be fertilized in zone 5A.  New growth that may be encouraged can be easily frost damaged this fall.  Fungicidal sprays may still be applied if necessary.  Zone 5B can probably continue into next month.
  14. Divide iris  Iris can be dividedd and replanted every 3-5 years.
  15. Watch for powdery mildew  Powdery mildew usually appears in late summer.  Fungicidal sprays can be applied to susceptible plants before it attacks.
  16. Fertilize vegetables  Fertilize the vegetable gardens every few weeks with a liquid fertilizer, less often with slow release and organic fertilizer.  Most herbs need little or no fertilizer if the soil is well enriched.
  17. Check containers and baskets  Container gardens, hanging baskets and window boxes dry out quickly and need frequent watering.  They will also need to be fertilized regularly.
  18. Weed  Keep weeding to prevent a big fall weed crop the competes with your garden plants for water and nutrients.
  19. Fill the birdbath  Fill shallow birdbaths frequently.  Deep birdbaths can harbor mosquito larvae, empty the stale water and refill.
  20. Check for grubs  Dead patches of grass may signal grub activity.  If the brown patch will pull up like a loose piece of sod, you probably have grubs.  If the problem is widespread or severe, treat with non toxic milky spore, or grub control chemicals.  Don’t worry about a small or limited problem, your lawn should recover with enough water.
  21. Plant fall bloomers By the end of July or August you should be planting fall blooming annuals or perennials such as asters and fall blooming crocus.
  22. Divide  Daylilies, bearded iris, and peonies can be dividedd by end of July or into August, but do it on a cool morning.  Water well a few days ahead of division and again after replanted.  Mulch well.
  23. Don’t apply pesticides  During the summer heat, avoid applying pesticides, even insecticidal soaps.  If you must, apply on a cool evening.
  24. Drink water and wear sunscreen!

August

Garden & Landscaping Advice for August in Zone 5

  1. Harvest   August is often the big harvest time for tomatoes, peppers, and hot season vegetables.  Harvest in the morning or evening when it is cool for best quality.
  2. Don’t apply pesticides   During the summer heat, avoid applying pesticides, even insecticidal soaps.  If you must, apply on a cool evening.
  3. Do not feed roses   Fertilizing roses should have stopped by mid July.  Fungicidal sprays may be applied as necessary.
  4. Feed annuals   Annuals need regular fertilizing for good bloom production, about every 4 weeks.  Vegetable crops also still need regular fertilizing until harvest.
  5. Feed fall bloomers   Fall blooming perennials such as Aster and mums should be fertilized regularly.
  6. Deadhead   Keep  deadheading  the annuals for good blooming right up to frost.
  7. Mulch vegetables   As you begin harvest, you are reducing the shade on the garden bed.  Combined with the heat, the beds may be drying out very quickly.  You may want to apply mulch around the vegetables not ready for harvest yet.
  8. Watch for powdery mildew   Powdery mildew usually appears in late summer.  Fungicidal sprays can be applied to susceptible plants before it attacks.
  9. Water gardens   The annuals, perennials and vegetables need regular deep watering during this hot month.
  10. Fill the birdbath   Fill shallow birdbaths frequently.  Deep birdbaths can harbor mosquito larvae, empty the stale water and refill.
  11. Prune summer bloomers   Shrubs that bloom in summer may be pruned in August.  Do not hard prune as too much new growth will be produced.  A light pruning to remove spent blooms and reshape the shrub is best.
  12. Check containers and baskets   Container gardens, hanging baskets and window boxes dry out quickly and need frequent watering.  They will also need to be fertilized regularly.
  13. Lawn repair   When summer starts to cool and the soil is still good and warm, which could be mid August or early September, lawn seed or sod will establish quickly.
  14. Divide perennials   Perennials that are done blooming may be divided  and/or moved.  The roots will have time to reestablish before frost.
  15. Fertilize the lawn   Apply a winterizing fertilizer later in the month, a low nitrogen formula such as 18-0-12 ratio, to strengthen the lawn before winter without encouraging fast growth.
  16. Stop feeding woody plants   Shrubs, trees and woody perennials should not be fertilized any more.  They need to begin the dormancy process.
  17. Dethatch   De-thatch the lawn every few years in late August if it is cooling down.  September is likely better.
  18. Check for grubs   Dead patches of grass may signal grub activity.  If the brown patch will pull up like a loose piece of sod, you probably have grubs.  If the problem is widespread or severe, treat with non toxic milky spore, or grub control chemicals.  Don’t worry about a small or limited problem, your lawn should recover with enough water
  19. Water   Plants, shrubs, trees will need regular watering right up until frost, and diminished rainfall in autumn isn’t enough.  Evergreens especially need lots of water to prepare for winter since they keep their needles green all winter.  To prevent needle drop and burn, make sure they get plenty of water right up until the ground freezes if you can.
  20. Deep water trees   Trees and evergreens should receive a deep soaking in August and September.
  21. Pick up wasp spray   Wasps and yellow jackets become a problem this month.  Be prepared with sprays, but don’t bother those beneficial yellow jackets if they are not bothering you.
  22. Prune climbers   Rambling roses and climbing roses can be pruned when blooming is complete.
  23. Plant peonies   Plant peonies between the end of August and October.
  24. Water the lawn   Growth is minimal in July and August and cool season grasses are usually dormant.  Regular watering should begin again as the cooler weather revives the grass.
  25. Plant perennials   The end of August and September is an excellent time to plant perennials.  Days are warm and nights are cool, perfect for establishing roots.
  26. Prune Oak and Walnut   By end of August through October it is safe to prune Oak and Walnut Trees.  Most trees can be pruned from now until the leaves drop.
  27. Lower the blade   You can begin lowering the blade on the lawn mower as temperatures cool toward the end of August.  Lower slightly next month again too until you wind up mowing quite short the last time or two.
  28. Relax in the shade   Fall nursery catalogs should be arriving.  Sit in the shade and relax with the pile.
  29. Drink water and wear sunscreen!

September

Garden & Landscaping Advice for September in Zone 5

Average first frost date September 15

  1. Harvest  September is often the big harvest time for tomatoes, peppers, and hot season vegetables.
  2. Pick up wasp spray  Wasps and yellow jackets become a problem this month.  Be prepared with sprays, but don’t bother those beneficial yellow jackets if they are not bothering you.
  3. Feed annuals  Annuals need regular fertilizing for good bloom production, about every 4 weeks.
  4. Check containers and baskets  Container gardens, hanging baskets and window boxes dry out quickly and need frequent watering.  They will also need to be fertilized regularly.
  5. Lower the blade  You can begin lowering the blade on the lawn mower as temperatures cool.  Lower slightly next month again too until you wind up mowing quite short the last time or two.
  6. Lawn repair  When summer starts to cool and the soil is still good and warm, which could be mid August or early September, lawn seed or sod will establish quickly.  If you plant to over seed the whole lawn, de-thatch first.
  7. Divide perennials  Perennials that are done blooming may be divided and/or moved.  The roots will have time to reestablish before frost.
  8. Fertilize the lawn  Apply a winterizing fertilizer later in the month, a low nitrogen formula such as 18-0-12 ratio, to strengthen the lawn before winter without encouraging fast growth..
  9. De-thatch  De-thatch the lawn every few years in September.  Aerate if you didn’t do it in spring.
  10. Water  Plants, shrubs, trees will need regular watering right up until frost, and diminished rainfall in autumn isn’t enough.  Evergreens especially need lots of water to prepare for winter since they keep their needles green all winter.  To prevent needle drop and burn, make sure they get plenty of water right up until the ground freezes if you can.
  11. Apply broadleaf weed control  Fall brings a fresh crop of lawn weeds.  Apply broadleaf weed control early in September.  Although you can purchase fertilizer with broad leaf weed control, conditions should be ideal when you apply (read the package) for best results.  Mixing up some weed-b-gone in a tank sprayer is more effective.  It also allows you to spot spray individual weeds are target small areas.  Clover and creeping charlie require several applications.  With a pump sprayer you can target those every few to several days.  DO NOT spray new grass seedlings.
  12. Remove dead plants  Shrubs, perennials or trees that have died should be removed.
  13. Slugs are active  September brings slugs out in full force.  Apply diatomaceous earth or other slug controls.
  14. Be prepared for frost  Be prepared to cover your tender plants and crops if frost is forecast.
  15. Dig in compost  As you clean out the garden beds, dig in compost so the soil is ready in spring.
  16. Plant peonies  Plant, or divide and transplant peonies between the end of August and October.  Remember that peonies prefer not to be disturbed, so divide only if the clump has gotten way too large.
  17. Plant perennials  September is an excellent time to plant perennials.  Days are warm and nights are cool, perfect for establishing roots.
  18. Plant fall bloomers  You can still pick up mums and asters in bloom for planting right now.
  19. Plant bulbs Plant spring blooming bulbs in September or early October.
  20. Prune Oak and Walnut  By end of August through October it is safe to prune Oak and Walnut Trees.
  21. Clean up fruit  Clean up and remove any fallen fruit.  Decaying fruit will harbor pests and disease.
  22. Needle drop  Don’t be alarmed to see your evergreen drop some needles.  Old inner needles will drop as new needles form on the branch tips.

October

Garden & Landscaping Advice for October in Zone 5

  1. Plant bulbs  Plant spring blooming bulbs in September or early October.
  2. Divide bulbs  Divide summer and fall blooming bulbs after the foliage has yellowed.
  3. Lift tender bulbs  After the first frost, dig up dahlias, gladiola, cannas and begonias.  Wait for the foliage to yellow and store.
  4. Lower the blade  Lowering the blade again on the lawn mower as temperatures cool even more.  You should be mowing quite short the last time or two.  Long grass going into winter provide bedding and cover for rodents, and can lead to snow mold next spring.
  5. Plant trees  If the weather doesn’t turn cool quickly, you can still plant container grown or balled and burlap trees and evergreens in very early October.  Make sure they get plenty of water to establish roots before the soil freezes.
  6. Water evergreens  Keep watering your evergreens right up until the ground freezes.  They will continue to draw and store water until the roots are frozen.
  7. Water shrubs and trees  Keep watering shrubs and trees thoroughly in fall.  They will reduce water intake on their own to prepare for dormancy, so don’t decide for them when to reduce by withholding water.  Plants that keep growing late in autumn, such as rhododendrons, evergreen azalea, boxwood and holly, are susceptible to early freeze damage.  They need to be well watered until the ground freezes to protect them from damage.
  8. Protect trunks  Young tree trunks and shrubs can be protected from damage by mice, rabbits and deer by installing a barrier.  For trees, slit plastic sleeves are available at garden centers.  Or wrap with hardware cloth.  A chicken wire fence installed around shrubs with stakes works well for young shrubs.
  9. Feed the vegetable beds  Dig compost or manure into the vegetable beds.  You can dig shredded falls leaves into the beds too.
  10. Start another compost  Shred your fall leaves to start another compost pile.  Add weed free garden waste.
  11. Clean out containers  After frost has killed your container plants, empty containers into the compost pile.  Clean and store clay and ceramic pots in the garage so they don’t crack.  Remove crusted minerals from clay pots by soaking in water for several hours.  Scrub with steel wool and dish soap if needed.
  12. Cut back perennials  If you prefer neat garden beds going into winter, you may cut back perennials after a hard freeze.  Ideally, perennial foliage should be left to over winter.  They tend to hold leaves and snow which gives your perennials extra protection in the winter.
  13. Dig a new bed  Start a new garden bed in autumn when you are not so busy with spring chores.
  14. Clean up fruit  Clean up and remove any fallen fruit.  Decaying fruit will harbor pests and disease.
  15. Prune damaged wood  Remove any dead or damaged tree and shrub limbs from summer storms.
  16. Rake leaves  Rake up and remove fallen leaves.  Shred them for compost.
  17. Mulch  Apply a thick layer of mulch around plants after the ground freezes.  This will prevent cycles of freeze and thaw between now and spring.  Use bark mulch, shredded leaves, evergreen boughs or straw.  Be cautious about using hay bales widely available this time of year, they are usually full of weed seeds.
  18. Protect tender roses  Prepare your winter rose protection to put in place when the ground freezes.  If you winter tip, bury them before the ground freezes.
  19. Store hoses  Drain garden hoses and sprinklers and store for the winter.  Shut off water to the outside spigots.
  20. Store garden chemicals  Chemicals and sprays should be stored over 40 degrees.
  21. Get the birdfeeders out  Clean out the birdfeeders, stock and hang them.
  22. Prune Oak and Walnut  By end of August through October it is safe to prune Oak and Walnut Trees

November

Garden & Landscaping Advice for November in Zone 5

  1. Mulch  Cover beds for winter after the ground freezes, hopefully you didn’t do this already if October was warm. This will prevent cycles of freeze and thaw between now and spring.   Apply a thick layer of shredded leaves, bark mulch, evergreen boughs or seed free straw.  Be cautious about using hay bales widely available this time of year, they are usually full of weed seeds.
  2. Mulch trees  If you haven’t done it yet, apply a thick layer of mulch in a large area around trees.  Do not allow the mulch to contact the trunks.
  3. Turn the compost  Early in the month before it gets too cold, turn the compost pile one last time.
  4. Secure climbing roses  Climbing roses that are hardy enough to remain on their supports through winter need to be securely tied to the support to prevent wind damage.
  5. Protect trunks  Young tree trunks and shrubs can be protected from damage by mice, rabbits and deer by installing a barrier.  For trees, slit plastic sleeves are available at garden centers.  Or wrap with hardware cloth.  A chicken wire fence installed around shrubs with stakes works well for young shrubs.
  6. Store garden hoses  If you haven’t done it yet, drain and store garden hoses and sprinklers.  And turn the water to the outside faucets of before it freezes.
  7. Store containers  If you haven’t stored your clay and ceramic containers yet, get them in the garage before it freezes so they don’t crack.  Remove crusted minerals from clay pots by soaking in water for several hours.  Scrub with steel wool and dish soap if needed.
  8. Prune evergreens  You can still prune evergreens if the ground is not frozen and it’s just too cold to be out.
  9. Plant bulbs  When November is unusually warm, you can still plant spring blooming bulbs and divide fall blooming bulbs if you do it right away.  Make sure they get plenty of water before the ground freezes.
  10. Cut back perennials  If you prefer neat garden beds going into winter, you may cut back perennials after a hard freeze.  Ideally, perennial foliage should be left to over winter.  They tend to hold leaves and snow which gives your perennials extra protection in the winter.
  11. Store the mower  Clean up and winterize the lawn mower for storage.  Run the gas tank emply or use an additive.
  12. Rake leaves  Rake up and remove fallen leaves.  Shred them for compost.
  13. Buy yourself a treat  Pick up a big pot of mums for Thanksgiving.
  14. Protect tender roses  Prepare Your winter rose protection to put in place when the ground freezes.  If you winter tip, bury them before the ground freezes.  Hopefully you didn’t do this already either if October was warm.
  15. Protect evergreens  Small to medium evergreens can be protected from desiccating wind and sunscald with anti-desiccants and/or with burlap wrap or wind screens.  They can also be protected from heavy snowfall that may break and damage limbs by tying or wrapping them.
  16. Prune trees and shrubs  If it is not too cold and snowing yet, you can still get out and prune.
  17. Leave snow on the evergreens alone  Do not try to remove wet heavy snow from evergreens, you could do more harm than good.  Evergreen limbs remain supple through winter and will bend under the weight, but hopefully will not crack.

December

Garden & Landscaping Advice for December in Zone 5

No, there really isn’t much you can actually do in the garden in December,  But there are certainly garden related activities that may satisfy your green thumb.

  • Get the tulips and hyacinths chilled for forcing later.
  • “Plant” winter containers with evergreen boughs, shrub branches and berries.
  • Order garden and plant catalogs.
  • Leave snow on the evergreens alone  Do not try to remove wet heavy snow from evergreens, you could do more harm than good.  Evergreen limbs remain supple through winter and will bend under the weight, but hopefully will not crack.
  • Avoid salt  Instead of salt and de-icers for your steps, walks and driveway, use sand instead when possible.  The salt is harmful to plants and turf.
  • Make a wreath  Take a workshop at a local garden center.  Learn to make fresh green arrangements and wreaths.
  • Read online articles  Check out the wealth of information on line from your local extension service.
  • Feed the birds
  • Check on winter protection  Make sure all your winter protection has stayed secure through the winter winds.
  • Buy yourself a treat  Pick up a bright blooming cyclamen for a sunny window.

*Temperatures and soil moisture may affect these recommendation by a few weeks either direction.