Monthly To-Do's in the Garden
- Cut branches of flowering woody plants to force indoors. Cut when the temperature is above freezing.
- If perennials heave out of the ground from freeze and thaw cycles, press crowns gently back into place.
- Prune branches damaged by snow and ice.
- Order seed, bulb and nursery catalogs to plan for the upcoming season.
- During winter thaws, water evergreens, broad-leaved evergreens and conifers.
- Sow seeds of annuals and vegetables that need to be started 12 weeks before transplanting.
- Prune woody plants, but not spring-flowering shrubs, like lilac, forsythia and virburnam. If it's warm, avoid pruning “bleeders” like elms, maples & birches.
- Water plants in the path of salt spray from salted roads.
- Remove rose cones during warm spells in winter. Replace when temperatures dip.
- Prune fruit trees.
- Spray emerging tulips with deer repellant if necessary.
- Spray trees with dormant oil for over-wintering insects and scale.
- Six to 8 weeks before the May 15 last frost date, start seeds of warm-season annuals and vegetables, such as marigolds and tomatoes.
- Start summer-blooming bulbs and tubers, such as caladium, begonia, crocosmia and canna, indoors in moist, soil-less mix
- Rake lawn to remove accumulated leaves and twigs.
- Cut back to the ground any perennials and ornamental grasses left standing for winter interest.
- Pruce deciduous trees and shrubs that bloom in the summer, but not shrubs that bloom before June 15.
- Prune raspberry canes and grapevines.
- Sow lettuce, spinach, peas, kale and radishes directly in garden.
- Prune autumn-flowering clematis vines to 12 inches tall
- Add compost to vegetable or annual beds.
- Prune large flowered clematis that bloom in mid-June into July 1 to the highest swelling bud.
- Uncover roses and remove mulch and mounded soil.
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or trim groundcovers to remove winter-browned foliage.
- Buy trees and shrubs.
- Core aerify your lawn to reduce soil compaction and thatch
- Plant cool-season annuals that can tolerate light frost, such as snapdragons, sweet alyssum, forget-me-nots, larkspurs, stocks and pansies.
- Clean browned foliage off around hellebore blooms.
- Cut back red-twigged dogwood shrubs to a couple of inches above-ground if you want to have bright red stems.
- Plant trees and shrubs.
- Start cucumber, cantaloupe, summer squash and watermelon seeds indoors for extra-early yields. Plant outside after last frost date.
- Plant bare-root plants. Soak roots in warm water 2 hours before planting.
- Remove spent flowers from spring bulbs, but allow foliage to wither and turn brown before removing. Do not braid foliage.
- Plant cabbage,
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peas, mustard, broccoli, collard greens, spinach, lettuce, carrots, beets, chard, parsnips and radishes.
- Establish or renovate turf by seed or sod.
- Begin to plant perennials, hardy ornamental grasses and roses.
- Topdress soil around roses with a 6-2-0, organic, slow-release fertilizer.
- Divide summer- and fall-blooming perennials when they are 4 to 5 inches tall (but not daylilies, Oriental poppies or iris.)
- Stake tall perennials before they reach 6 inches high.
- Pinch back tall-bloomers (chrysanthemums, asters, tall sedums) once a week until early July.
- Begin to harden off warm-season vegetable and flower transplants in a cold frame or sunny protected area.
- Continue to deadhead spring bulbs when they are finished flowering to direct energy back into bulbs. Let foliage turn brown, do not braid.
- Prune spring-flowering shrubs and trees after they bloom.
- Fertilize the lawn.
- Fertilize roses with a liquid 20-20-20 solution when flower buds are set.
- May 15 is the average date of the last frost in Chicagoland. Time to plant annuals.
- Spray lily shoots with animal repellant for rabbits and deer.
- Plant warm-season flowering annuals and vines.
- Transplant tomatoes, peppers and eggplant into the garden.
- Plant vine crops (seed or transplant), such as cucumbers, muskmelon, winter squash, pumpkin and watermelon.
- Plant summer- and fall-flowering bulbs, such as Oriental lilies, dahlias, cannas, begonias, caladium, crocosmia, gladioli, and calla lilies, if the ground is warm.
- Mulch garden beds after weeding and watering.
- Plant pumpkin seeds for an October harvest.
- With a rain gauge, check to be sure your garden is getting at least 1 inch of moisture a week.
- Fertilize roses with a second application of liquid 20-20-20- fertilizer after the first flush of flowers.
- Harvest herbs in mid-morning when leaves are dry but before the heat of the day.
- Small evergreens such as boxwood or yew can be lightly pruned after the new growth fills in.
- Fertilize annuals in containers, baskets and window boxes with a quarter-strength balanced fertilizer every 7 to 10 days.
- Start seedlings of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower for fall harvest.
- Keep checking that plants are getting 1 inch of water a week.
- Make the last pinch on asters and mums to allow bud set for fall bloom.
- Deadhead annuals and perennials to encourage more flowering.
- Pinch back flower stalks on basil to promote lateral branching.
- Remove spent flowers or seedheads of daylilies to conserve plant energy.
- Dig and divide Oriental poppies as their foliage yellows and dries.
- Plant late season vegetables.
- Continue to deadhead annuals and perennials to encourage additional flowers and maintain a neat-looking garden.
- Continue to water, weed and monitor for insects on all garden plants.
- Cut back straggly annuals to promote new growth.
- Continue to water and fertilize containers.
- Divide and replant daylilies and iris.
- Sow radishes, lettuce, spinach, beets and turnips.
- Divide spring/summer blooming perennials.
- Peonies can be planted from now into early fall.
- Plant trees and shrubs.
- Plant spinach, leaf lettuce and radishes.
- Buy spring-blooming bulbs and plant in the next few weeks.
- Plant crocus in strong-smelling herbs and perennials (such as oregano or perennial geranium) to keep squirrels from eating them.
- Plant garlic. Bulbs will root and sprout in the fall and grow into maturity by next summer.
- Take cuttings of plants you want to overwinter.
- Plant spring-blooming bulbs.
- Shred fallen leaves and let
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fall into lawn or put on beds as mulch.
- Oct. 15 is the date of the average first frost in Chicagoland.
- Plant or transplant deciduous trees and shrubs when in fall color or if they have dropped their leaves.
- After frost kills annuals, remove and destroy dead plants.
- Winterize aquatic gardens.
- Clean and sterilize containers before storing them for winter.
- Weeks after a killing frost, lift and store tender bulbs, such as cannas, dahlias, turberous begonias and caladiums.
- Bring in garden statues and decorations to reduce weathering.
- Clean, oil and store hand tools in a dry location.
- Disconnect outside water sources, drain hoses and store indoors.
- Pot up amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus for holiday bloom.
- Avoid using salt-based de-icing products around garden areas.
- Protect evergreens from wind and salt spray with burlap screens.
- Light pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs can be done.
- Cut off branches of your old Christmas tree and use them to cover perennials.