While gardening may not be the first thing on your mind, but there are some things you can do in January to keep your green thumb sharp. Use snow to your advantage and shovel extra snow over perennials to help protect them from changing temperatures (make sure it doesn’t contain de-icing salts.) If there isn’t any snow you can spread a little extra much over plants. January is also a great time to give your indoor plants a little extra attention. Your houseplants need clean leaves so they can absorb sunlight and carbon dioxide. Your best tools for cleaning houseplants are soft natural sponges or soft rags (like an old t-shirt.) Simply moisten the sponge or t-shirt with plain, tepid water then support the leaf with your hand and gently wipe the leaf. For hairy plants like African Violets use a soft cosmetic brush or a feather duster instead of the damp technique.
February is a great planning month. Take time to draw a plan for your vegetable and flower gardens. You’ll want to check hardiness zone maps to ensure the plants you choose will survive and thrive in your climate. Keep in mind vegetable gardens like to be rotated in order to reduce disease and pest problems. If you’ve brought begonia, coleus, geranium or other tender plants in for the winter, now is the perfect time to take cuttings to root for Sprint transplanting.
March is a month for preparing. If you have any trellises or other garden structures that need repair, now is an ideal time to get them in shape for your garden. You can also remove any nests out of birdhouses and clean them with a mixture of 90% water and 10% chlorine bleach so they’ll be ready for nesting season. Be sure you don’t have unexpected guests before you open up the house and it’s a good idea to wear rubber gloves to protect against disease.
Spring Clean Up
Now is the time to cut the tops of ornamental grasses back to the ground, rake the lawn if there are any dead spots, and top off mulch with a fresh layer to stop fungus from spreading. When the ground thaws you can begin preparing the soil for your gardens.
If you have a little spring fever and can’t wait to see summer blooms, start a container garden of pansies. These pretty little flowers are able to tolerate the possible frost and freezing of Wisconsin’s spring weather. If you purchase the plants from an indoor greenhouse (rather than an outdoor selection) you will want to harden the plants to the cold by giving them a little exposure at a time.
You can dig and divide chrysanthemums this month, weather permitting.
If you are planting seeds, mid-April is a good time to start your vegetable garden with asparagus, beet, carrot, endive, leaf lettuce, parsnip, peas, potato and spinach. If you’ve already started your seeds indoors you can start hardening-off* the seedlings that you will transplant.
If planting seeds is a little more ambitious or time-consuming than your lifestyle allows, you may want to wait a few weeks and buy vegetable plants from the wide selection at Bayside Garden Center. You can use the extra time now to plan your vegetable garden and prepare the soil.
If you have an existing fruit garden you can fertilize blueberry, raspberry and grape plants.
The latter part of April is also a good time to plant new blueberry, raspberry and grape crops. If the ground can be worked, you can start planting these perennial crops. Check out our Knowledge Center for information on proper soil preparation.
Bushes and Trees
This is the time to nourish trees, shrubs and rose bushes with slow-release or organic fertilizer or Miracle-Gro® Fertilizer Spikes.
Remember to remove winter wrap from tree trunks, loosen any ties on tree stakes and remove stakes as quickly as possible.
If you have birch trees check the leaves for pale circulars spots – they’re a sign of the Birch leafminer. These pests feed on the tissue between the upper and lower surfaces of birch leaves and in time cause leaf loss and can be fatal to the tree. The key is early detection and control. Systemic chemical control is the easiest and most effective, but if you are maintaining an organic environment they can be plucked off the leaves by hand.
It’s time to get that lawn in shape! Start by grabbing a rake and sweeping up old leaves, clippings and twigs.
Apply pre-emergent crabgrass preventer and weed control in April – before new seeds germinate.
If you have some patches spread new seeds on top on the existing lawn, unless you have determined that your bigger problem is crabgrass. New grass seeds and any type of herbicide application will not mix, so keep them about a month apart.
*Hardening off means gradually exposing seedlings to the elements of the outdoors rather than just leaving them out all the time. This process toughens the cuticle on the leaves and helps prevent transplant shock. Start the process 7 – 10 days prior to transplanting and just put the plants in a sheltered location outside for a few hours a day. Each day increase the time by an hour or two. Don’t leave your plants out overnight until at least the 7th day.
If you didn’t get to the lawn in April, May is your month. Clean up, dethatch, aerate and tend to those bare patches.
Time to Plant!
Late May is the time to start your vegetable garden with plants like beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, onions and pumpkin. You can still plant raspberries, strawberries and grapes also.
You can start planting perennials in mid-to-late-May, but be aware Wisconsin can still get frost in May.
You might think of planting bulbs in autumn, but there are many bulbs or tuberous flowers that bloom in summer and May is a great time to plant. Some of the most popular summer bulb flowers are daylilies, dahlias, gladioli, irises and cannas. Here is a summary guide to some popular summer bulbs*:
Calla Lilies – plant container-grown calla lilies after the danger of frost is over.
- Partial to full shade
- Blooms late spring to early summer
- White flowers
Cannas – purchase potted cannas and plant in well-drained soil after the threat of frost has past.
- Full sun
- Blooms mid-summer through first frost
- Red, orange, yellow, white or pink flowers
Dahlias – plant tuberous roots or dahlia plants after the last frost in well-drained soil.
- Full sun
- Blooms mid-summer to frost
- Red, orange, yellow, white or pink flowers
Lilies – While lily bulbs are planted in the fall, you can purchase lily plants for your garden now, so you don’t have to wait for these lovely blossoms.
- Full Sun
- Blooms early to mid-summer
- Red, orange, yellow, white or pink flowers
* Generally speaking, bulbs are defined as plants with food storing roots, and in this section, include tubers, corms and rhizomes.
Bushes and Trees
Bushes and shrubs provide beauty and privacy, as well as a great place for birds to nest and seek refuge. Trees do all this and provide shade, which can result in tremendous energy savings, not to mention added comfort.
May is a great time to purchase and plant trees and bushes. The staff at Bayside Garden Center can help you choose the right trees and shrubs for your yard. Delivery and installation are available also.
It’s finally time to plant in earnest – perennials, annuals, vegetables and herbs are all hardy enough for June weather.
Tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and cucumbers are ready to plant in June.
This is still a great time to start that herb garden. Tender basil can now be added to your heartier plants. Bayside Garden Center has a wide selection of herb plants including tarragon, cilantro, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, not to mention many types of basil and mint.
Tender annuals can be safely planted in June as the danger of frost should be behind us. Be sure to match the plants you buy with appropriate conditions. (If you plant a sunflower in a wooded area you’re sure to be disappointed) Simply check the plant container information or ask your Bayside Garden Center specialist to tell you about the plant’s preference for soil, sun and moisture.
Iris rhizomes can be planted from June through early fall (not much past early September). They prefer full sun and will bloom the following year from late spring to early summer.
Mid-June is mulch time. A layer of mulch on flower beds and around trees and bushes will not only help prevent weeds, but holds moisture in the soil and moderates soil temperature. Shredded bark and woodchips are popular mulch choices.
Lawn – the first week of June is the traditional time to apply your first round of lawn fertilization.
Garden – Fertilize perennials and bulbs in early June.
Houseplants – pleasant weather turns our minds outdoors, but remember to fertilize your houseplants on a regular basis too.
Pruning and Deadheading
While you can continue to prune deadwood, most other pruning should be completed by now. Preferably pruning is done in early spring or late fall when the bush is dormant. However, spring blooming bushes like lilac and dogwood can be pruned immediately after they bloom in spring. (Waiting for fall may cause latent buds to be trimmed unintentionally.)
Deadheading (removing spent flowers) annuals will promote additional blooms. Some perennials will benefit from this care as well. Those include: lilies and daylilies, bellflowers, daisies, salvia and garden phlox.
De-Bugging the Garden
As summer starts to settle in so can those damaging pests. You may notice small, or not so small, holes in the foliage of your hostas, herbs, hydrangeas and other leafy varieties. Other common plant diseases include fungus, leaf spots, patches of dead tissue and white powdery growth.
Holes in plant foliage are often the work of slugs or aphids.
- Slug damage is more common in wet weather, and they can be controlled with methods ranging from night picking, salt showers, beer traps, and by a variety of chemical and organic commercial pest control products available at Bayside Garden Center. If you want to try a beer trap, in honor of Milwaukee’s history, fill a shallow container, such as a jar lid, with beer, place it near the troubled plant and wait for the slugs to climb in and meet their demise.
- Aphids can be seen in clusters of sticky green bugs on leaves and buds. You can control them with nontoxic pesticides, by removing them by hand (be sure to wear gloves), or removing and disposing of infested areas.
Spotted leaves create havoc on tomatoes, roses, and many other plants. The cause is often a bacterial disease, but can also be caused by insects such as aphids.
- Black spots are usually caused by a fungus and can be controlled with fungicides containing copper oxychloride.
- Orange spots are a sign of rust fungi, which starts with blotches and then progresses to brown curled leaves that eventually fall off. You can diagnose rust by looking at the underside of the leaves to see if there are rust colored bumps. Remove the infected leaves and dispose of them (not in the compost). Treat with fungicide and continue to monitor the plant and remove any diseased leaves.
- Tan spots found on trees and bushes are often a sign of a fungal disease called Anthracnose. Trim affected areas and spray with commercial fungicide.
Powdery mildew is another common disease for many plants including roses, lilacs, phlox and certain fruits and vegetables. The white powdery mildew can be caused by damp weather, crowding and over watering. Organic fungicides and home remedies such as soap or baking soda sprays are effective in controlling this fungal infestation.
There are many pests and diseases that can affect your garden and the experts at Bayside are ready to help you diagnose and treat the problems. The more information you can provide to us the more we can help.
For a more in-depth look at yard and garden pest problems, the following sites are helpful:
Keep on Deadheading!
Pinching back, or deadheading, your plants encourages growth.
For herb gardens pinching back the tips will force growth from the lower parts of the stems and prevent long weedy vines while providing fresh herbs for your cooking. Deadheading encourages flowering plants to blossom more frequently. Since a flowering plant wants to propagate, or set seed, removing the spent flowers tricks the plant into producing flowers at an accelerated speed – giving you a more luscious garden. Single stem flowers should be cut at the base of the stem, but for multi-flowering stems simply pinch off the spent flower. Even plants like coleus, which are grown for their foliage, can benefit from pinching back so they become fuller rather than straggly.
The fruits of your labor are now rewarded with flowers for your home and fresh vegetables for your table.
Harvesting Flowers and Veggies
To extend the vase life of your cut flowers, harvest in early mornings or dusk – avoid cutting during the heat of the day. If you want to use hydrangea blooms at this time of the year it’s safest to remove them with very short stems so you don’t disturb any developing bloom buds for next year – cut above the first set of large leaves.
Regular harvesting of your veggies and fruits not only provides you with an ongoing selection of delicious fresh produce, but also helps discourage insects that feed on an overripe yield.
Fertilizing and Maintenance
Now is a great time to seed, sod and repair damaged lawns. Bayside Garden Center has everything you need to make your lawn beautiful and they can guide you in what you need to do it yourself or they can take care of it for you. Late August or early September is the time to apply a fertilizer application, or you can do a “weed ‘n’ feed” treatment in mid-September.
- Deadheading your flowers will give you a longer blooming season. While you’re at it, look for any leaves that show signs of disease and remove and destroy them.
- Rose Bushes – It’s time to toughen up your roses for winter so you should start weaning them off of fertilizer. Fertilizing late in the season can stimulate growth and make it difficult for your plants to harden for winter.
- Iris should be divided and replanted no later than the end of August in order to give them time to root before winter. Be sure to inspect rhizomes and if you detect tunnels (caused by the iris borer) or rot destroy them. Replant the healthy rhizomes in a shallow hole with the roots spread out. Cover lightly with soil and water well. You can cut leaves back by about two-thirds.
- Spring-bulb planting starts in mid-September, so start planning your spring bulb garden now. Popular bulbs for Wisconsin include Alliums, Crocus, Daffodils, Hyacinth, Grape Hyacinth, Lilies and Tulips.
If you haven’t already fertilized, this is the time. If you prefer to use “weed ‘n’ feed” treatments instead they should also be applied in mid-September.
Fall is also the time for dethatching and aerating your lawn. While a little thatch is good for the lawn, an abundance is not. You can check thatch thickness by cutting a small wedge out (make sure you get down to the soil) and examining it. You’re looking for the brown matted grass just above the soil surface. If the thatch is more than a half-inch thick you can either remove it or topdress the lawn with topsoil to hasten natural thatch decomposition. Aeration can also help reduce thatch.
Spring-bulb planting starts in mid-September. You can plant until the soil freezes, but planting earlier gives your plants a chance to establish a healthy root system for a more robust spring showing. Plant your bulbs at a depth about two to three times their diameter with roots down and the pointy end up. You may want to use a little bulb fertilizer also. Bulbs need water to get the roots started so be sure to give them a good soaking after you’ve planted.
Mums are a sure sign of autumn and you can accent your garden with a fresh burst of color by planting them in early September. While there are hardy varieties, it’s not easy to turn these beauties into perennials in this climate. For the best chances plant early (even in spring), water and feed frequently, and cover with a thick mulch after the season.
Frost worries start to crop up in late September and into October. If a light frost is in the forecast you can cover plants with plastic, cloth or even newspaper. Cover by dusk and remove in the morning. Or you can cover with mulches including straw, leaves, pine needles and bark. The mulch helps retain moisture and heat in the soil. You can also water the garden before nightfall (before covering). The soil will release the moisture and warm the air.
- Start raking leaves now to prevent fungal and other leaf diseases from spreading.
- Divide and transplant plants that bloom in spring.
- Cut back perennial plant tops to 4 to 6 inches.
When the beautiful autumn leaves start to fall, you know it’s time to plant bulbs for spring flowers. Tulips are always a favorite, but if deer devour your tulip bulbs, try daffodils, alliums and hyacinth. Some varieties of crocus are critter resistant as well. If you follow a few simple steps you can enjoy a burst of color next spring!
- Match your bulbs to the appropriate location in your garden. Some prefer more sun, some love cool shade.
- Dig your holes to the suggested depth with a small spade or a bulb planter – a great tool that makes it easy to dig holes quickly and cleanly.
- Mix a little bone meal into the soil at the bottom of the hole to encourage strong root growth.
- Cover with soil and water well.
- You may want to spray deer and rabbit repellent (Bayside Garden Center has safe organic options to choose from) or try sprinkling red pepper.
Remember not all bulbs are winter-hardy. Gladiolus, dahlias and cannas won’t survive bitter winter weather and you should dig them up to store indoors. They will keep best in a container that lets them breath – a cardboard box or paper bag filled with sawdust or shredded paper is ideal.
Dig and Divide Perennials
Early to mid-October is a great time to dig and divide your spring and summer perennials to keep them healthy and ensure they aren’t overcrowded.
- Carefully lift your perennials out of the ground with a sharp garden spade. Dig several inches away from the outermost stems and then lift the entire clump out of the ground.
- Divide the clump into sections by breaking the plant apart or using a sharp knife. Make sure you keep fairly large sections of the plant with lots of good roots in order to give it a good chance to re-establish.
- Add bone meal and fertilizer to the soil in the planting holes and place the divided sections – fill with topsoil and water thoroughly.
Continuing to rake leaves will keep your lawn happy, and autumn leaves make great mulch. You can use a mulching mower or leaf shredder – whole leaves don’t break down enough. If you want to make mulch for spring, try adding them to a compost bin. Here’s how:
- In a 3’ x 3’ bin add a foot or so of shredded leaves.
- On top of this you’ll need to add a layer of urea, bone meal, grass clippings, ammonium nitrate or other nitrogen additive to break down the leaves over winter.
- Mix, but don’t saturate with water.
- Repeat this layering process until you bin is full.
- Keep over winter and in the spring you’ll have mulch ready to add to your garden.
November is probably your last chance to plant daffodils and tulips and the effort now will be enjoyed greatly next spring. If the soil is still soft enough to dig a hole it’s not too late to plant your bulbs, but if you plant by mid-November you’ll give your bulbs time to grow roots and get established. A bonus for planting now – you’ll find clearance prices at this time of the year. Bayside Garden Center has a wide selection to choose from and all the bone meal additive to encourage root growth.
It’s time for fall cleaning. Empty pots with annual flowers and store for winter. If you have potted perennials you can wrap the pots with a layer of burlap and two or three layers of bubble wrap and store them in a dark corner of your garage or another sheltered area. Wash (1-part chlorine bleach 9-parts water) and store your garden stakes and cages for the winter and organize your garden gear.
Give your trees and tender bushes the best chance to survive a severe winter.
Young trees can benefit from a burlap or commercial wrap to protect from wildlife feeding on the bark and from frost damage, “sunscald” (bark splits from the combination of the heat of the sun and the cold temperatures*), and other winter injuries.
For more information on Sunscald see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_scald_(flora)
If you have particular issues with animal damage try wrapping a cylinder of chicken wire around your tree about two feet above the snow line.
Water and Fertilizer
Adequate watering, fertilization and mulching can improve the health of your trees and shrubs and give them added protection for winter survival. Talk to the experts at Bayside Garden Center to determine the appropriate fertilizer for your landscape.
Give your Tweeters a Break
Make sure your bird feeders are clean and filled. If you have problems with squirrels, try Safflower seed. Birds love it – squirrels do not.
Birds need water as much as they do food. Bayside Garden Center has heated birdbaths that keep your favorite birds sipping freely through the cold winter months.
While this isn’t a big gardening month, you can watch for signs that deer are feeding on your shrubs. If you detect any destruction apply deer repellent to keep your shrubs healthy.
If you just can’t stand giving your green thumb a break, bring gardening indoors. Bayside Garden Center has an amazing selection of houseplants in their green house that will keep your home bright and cheery throughout the winter months.
Be sure to care for your houseplants – periodically clean the leaves (of non-hairy leafed plants) with a soft cloth (i.e. old tee shirt) and lukewarm water. Keep an eye on indoor plant for signs of pests. At the first sign of insects spray your plant with an organic pest control.
You can also try to force bloom daffodil and tulip bulbs – just to keep the hope of spring alive. For more information on forcing bulbs check out these handy tips from University of Wisconsin and University of Minnesota.
Herbs grow indoors with some good light and a little attention. Great herbs for indoor containers include: Basil, Chives, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon and Thyme. Choose containers that drain well and test light, water and temperature to determine the best location for your herbs. Why? Environments vary – a plant in a clay pot and in direct sun needs less water than a plant in a plastic pot in moderate light, etc.
Keep holiday plants fresh and blooming longer in a cool, bright room. Check to see if your plant prefers direct or indirect sunlight and how moist you should keep the soil. Cool drafts can have a detrimental effect on tropical holiday plants.