Monthly Tasks

Please note:  What I write in this space are lessons learned through trial and error, research, and from other gardeners and professionals. I garden in Northern California in zone 9, but share garden experiences that I believe are relevant to most zones within a reasonable time frame and planting conditions.

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JANUARYIf your soil isn’t too wet, remove weeds with roots in tact.

Control slugs and snails. Clearing away leaf piles, and unused pots and saucers will help eliminate breeding zones.

Listen to the weather reports for frost, and protect sensitive plants when the temperature drops below 32 degrees.

Clean rain gutters.

If you’re a seed catalog shopper, start making your selections for February planting.

In the vegetable gardenPlant bare-root strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, asparagus, artichokes, rhubarb, and horseradish. Plant seedlings of Bok coy, lettuce, spinach, parsley, onion, white potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, chard, cauliflower. Sow seeds of fava beans, lettuce, parsley, mustard, peas, carrots, beets, and radishes. Indoors, sow tomato, pepper, and cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli seeds.

For spring production, fertilize asparagus and rhubarb with cured manure.

Spray fruit trees with dormant spray after the leaves have fallen off, before new buds form. Spray peach trees for Peach-leaf Curl. Also, spray around the ground of tree trunks to kill any hidden spores.

In the landscapeThere’s still time to plant bare-root roses. January is a good time to shop for evergreen shrubs like camellias, rhododendrons, and azaleas. Plant color spots of violas, pansies, and gladiolus corms every three weeks for continuous spring blooms.

Prune roses, deciduous fruit trees and most other deciduous shrubs. Wait on spring-blooming trees and shrubs after they are done flowering.

Divide overgrown plants such as Cannas, Gerberas, mums, ornamental grasses, Shasta daisies, daylilies, yarrows, and more.

FEBRUARY:  February is a month of rhythmic movements. Fragrant roses and Saint Valentine’s Day cards stir the hearts of new and established relationships. Winter is fading and the earth itself senses change and celebration. Anticipated possibilities are just around the corner. To help you love your way back into the garden, below are a few tasks.

 In the vegetable garden:  plant artichokes, onion sets and green onions, peas, spinach, Swiss chard. Indoors, sow beets, broccoli, blueberries, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, grapes, green onions, peppers, parsley, lettuce, spinach, strawberries, Swiss chard, tomatoes.

 Sow lettuce every two weeks for a continuous crop. Once transplanted and the weather heats up, protect lettuce from the sun and you should have salad greens throughout the season. Use scrap wood to build a frame consisting of two sides and a top, large enough to sit over lettuce crop. Attach sunscreen fabric (available at local nurseries) to the frame’s top and sides. Leave the ends open for air. (I’ve seen this done with satisfying results . . . fresh lettuce all summer!)

 In the landscape:  plant bare root roses and fruit trees, deciduous shrubs, and vines.

For spring annuals, add dianthus, Lobelia, pansy, snapdragon, poppy, and Virginian stock. Consider summer flowering bulbs such as amaryllis, calla, canna, dahlia, gladiolus, lily, and tuberous begonia. Perennials include candytuft, coral bells, poppy, and Shasta daisy. Indoors, start summer annualscoleus, cosmos, impatiens, marigold, petunia, snapdragon, sunflower, sweet William, and Viola.

For existing trees and plants: feed deciduous fruit and citrus trees, established rhubarb when new sprouts appear, perennials, except azaleas, camellias, and rhododendrons. (Feed these when flower cycle is complete.), spring-flowering shrubs, and don’t forget potted plants. Prune apple, pear, plum, peach, and nectarine trees, roses, winter jasmine as soon as it has finished blooming, early spring-blooming flowering shrubs like butterfly bushes and crape myrtles.

MARCH:   March the bridge between late winter and early spring. This is the time frame when gardeners itch to get his or her hands dirty, and can’t wait to spend spare hours in the garden. For many of us, though, it’s still too early to plant summer annuals and veggies outdoors, but there are plenty of garden tasks and spring plantings to keep us satisfied. Here are a few.

In the vegetable gardenIndoors sow seeds of eggplant, lettuce, peppers, Swiss chard, tomatoes. Outdoors direct-seed beets, carrots, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach. Transplant your seedlings of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, parsley, and onions. Feed fruit trees, berries, and grapes; check with your local nursery professional for organic fertilizers.

In the landscape:  Use a slow-release fertilizer around shrubs and perennials. Feed rhododendrons when buds emerge and for fuchsias when signs of new leaves appear. Remember to use fertilizer designed especially for these and for azaleas and camellias. Gardenias should receive one feeding starting mid-March, and again in April and May. Apply preventive spray to roses for mildew, rust, and blockspot. Before leafing-out begins transplant shrubs and roses.

Outdoors, sow seeds of columbine, foxglove, poppy, stock, delphinium, violet. Plant gladiolus bulbs every two weeks. Other bulbs are dahlias, cannas, lycoris eucomis, kniphofia, and tuberous begonias. Feed bulbs that have bloomed recently. If your region is free of frost danger, direct-plant pansies, snapdragons, Lobella, and violas. Indoors, sow annuals such as morning glories, Zinnias, asters, marigolds, coleus, vinca, petunia, and impatiens.

If you didn’t cover the soil last fall with mulch, to prevent weeds, you can do this now in areas where you’re not going to plant. Place a thick layer (3-6 inches) so the weeds don’t receive light, which is required for seeds to germinate. Keep mulch 3-6 inches away from base of plants. If too close (or placed against trunks), rot and disease can occur. It’s also an invitation for insects to attack your plants. Organic mulches to consider are non-chemically treated grass clippings, straw, wood chips, shredded leaves.

APRIL: If possible before you plant, have the soil tested, then fertilize and amend accordingly. Fertilizer will feed the plants nutrients. Compost will help retain moisture and provide oxygen to roots. The soil needs to be damp, and not soggy when feeding, amending, or planting.

Whether you direct sow seeds or seedlings, take care to protect them from unexpected harsh forecasts.

In the vegetable garden:  There’s still time to transplant cool-season vegetable seedlings outdoors. These include lettuce, carrots, chives, mint, oregano, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, beets, parsley, cilantro, cabbage, onions, radishes, kale, peas, spinach, celery (which can grow all year), mustard.

Plant seed potatoes purchased from a nursery, not supermarket potatoes treated to prevent sprouting. Turnips should go in ground in late April.

Sow as seeds indoors or in beds, or transplant summer-vegetable seedlings (tomatoes, melons, peppers, eggplant, beans, chard, and cucumbers, zucchini, squash).

If you planted garlic last fall, pinch off the flowers. Harvest them when foliage falls over or turns brown.

Cut off strawberry runners.

Feed citrus trees . . . everything (shrubs, vines, flowers, etc.) so they receive the nutrients needed to support spring growth.

In the landscape:  Apply pre-emergent weed-and-feed to lawns. This simple step is what will make turf green and weed-less instead of brownish-yellow and weedy. Even if you don’t live in town under regulated water mandates, do your part by watering deeply and less often. To save water, aerate your lawn for good drainage and deep saturation.

Pinch back mums, geraniums, and fuchsias for a bushier plant and more flowers. Also, pinch back faded sweet pea blooms.

After your azalea and camellia flowers fad, pinch back the branch tips. This will keep them dense, and promote more flowers next year. Feed through October with an azalea-camellia food, once monthly after the last blossom drops.

April is a great month to plant just about anything . . . shade trees, shrubs, vines, annuals, perennials, groundcover, and lawn.

Watch for aphids, as they love new growth. There are organic products on the market.

Prune lavender plants by cutting off 1/3 of the new growth. This will keep the plant from getting too woody.

Spray or hand-pull weeds while the soil is moist, before they get too large and out of control.

MAYFor drip lines or soaker hoses used last season, test the lines and heads for leaks and clogs. Replace and unclog necessary parts. Check water equipment (sprinklers, drip heads, values, etc.) now, and periodically through fall. One day of water loss can kill.  For unidentifiable bugs or disease, take a small branch sample in a “sealed” plastic bag to your local nursery. If herbicide or pesticide is recommended, ask for an organic product that is safe for humans, pets, and the environment.

In the vegetable garden:  If you haven’t planted your veggies yet, there’s still time. Before doing anything, though, draw out a vegetable plan. If you’re not sure how much space each vegetable requires, take your plot or raised bed measurements and a list of vegetables to a nursery or Master Gardeners’ office for assistance. Lay out your drip line and run a test. When the water system is working to your satisfaction, put bean trellises and tomato cages in place, and then plant.

Thin seedlings. Toss out the weak ones so the strong seedlings have room to develop good roots and strong stocks. Sow lettuce, carrots, spinach, radishes, beans, peppers corn, melons, eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini, squashes, and gourds. Start crops of potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, pumpkins, and asparagus.

Cut off strawberry runners for more fruit and less plant.

Protect tomato seedlings from cutworms by covering the stems with aluminum foil. Remove the foil once the stock has matured and the threat of cutworms has passed. For earwig problems, tightly roll up a damp newspaper. They’ll crawl inside during the night. In the morning, toss the newspaper into the incinerator, or secure it in a plastic bag and then put into the garbage can, or feed them to the chickens. For snails and slugs, place a cheap pie pan on the soil and fill with beer. The smell lures them into a tub where they drown.

In the landscape:  There’s still time, before the temperature rises, to fertilize shrubs, vines, and lawns. Spray or hand-pull weeds while the soil is moist, before they get too large and out of control. Cut out any diseased areas, dead wood, and crossing branches on shrubs and trees.

Prune Lilac, forsythia, and honeysuckle shrubs as soon as they finish blooming.

Stake large buds that tend to flop over at maturity and tall flowers, now, before they become too difficult to handle. This will also help prevent damaging roots with stakes which is hard to avoid when the flowers are mature. Plants that require staking include peony buds, hollyhocks, delphiniums, larkspurs, foxgloves, and gladioluses.

Deadhead1) rhododendron (also known as azaleas) blooms so the plant’s energy will go toward producing next year’s flower buds; 2) faded roses. This will encourage a second bloom period for early summer. Be sure to fertilize your rose bushes. Watch out for aphids. Avoid mildew and blackspot on roses (and snapdragons) by treating them before an outbreak occurs.

Ants, Syrphid fillies (resemble bees or wasps), or sticky leaves are most likely a symptom of aphids. Ants farm aphids in the cold seasons, and then relocate them on host plants for the sweet substance aphids produce. Controlling ants will help eliminate aphids. Syrphid flies are the good guys—their larva devours aphids. If you must treat your plants with pesticides do it in the evening after the bees have left the scene.

At the nursery:  Rhododendron buds are in bloom, so now is the time to choose a variety you’ll love. Before choosing any plant or tree, read the label. Things to consider are sun/shade requirements, climate (is it suitable for your zone?), water and soil preferences. Look for maturity size. Choose a plant that won’t overpower the space and create more pruning at maturity than you care to do in the future. Determine if it’s an evergreen. Do you mind raking fall leaves or looking at naked plants during winter months? Make a wise choice and you’ll save money, time, and work.

For color spots in the beds, pots, and window boxes consider petunias, impatiens, zinnias, vincas, begonias, cosmos, marigolds, aster, lobella. Also in bloom are flowering perennials and vines. Consider Santa Barbara daisies for an abundance of continuous bloom spring through fall. This perennial doesn’t require deadheading. Santa Barbara daisies look best if planted in part shade. Before you make a final decision, read the label. After planting, pinch off flowers. This allows nutrients to go to the roots and not the flowers, establishing a strong system and a healthier plant.

Take houseplants outdoors for a dusting off with a gentle spray with the water hose.

Treat yourself to a home garden tour for inspiration. Take your camera and notepad.

JUNEDuring hot spells keep potted plants, hanging baskets, seedlings, and newly planted shrubs and trees moist—not soggy. Early morning watering will help reduce powdery mildew and black spot. A timer is a great assistant for busy homeowners. A gardener’s best tool, timers can save replacing dead plants, money, and labor.

Keep up with the weeding so plants don’t have to compete for nutrients.

Compost where needed. For weed control and water retention, mulch veggie and landscape beds. Use pine needles, crushed gravel, or volcanic rock where slugs and snails are a problem. They don’t like to crawl on these.

In the vegetable garden:  Last chance to plant warm season vegetables. Seedlings of eggplant, squash, tomato, pepper, sweet potatoes, corn, melon, pumpkin, beet, carrot, herbs, and bean should go into the soil the first part of June.

To insure good root development, thin previously planted seedlings. Overcrowded stocks can become weak and disease-prone.

Seedlings need protection from the harsh summer sun. Check tender seedlings several times per day for wilting. Providing shade during peak hours will help prevent heat stress. Shade cloth or cardboard are an inexpensive, temporary source of protection. (Don’t cover plants completely.) Simply prop cloth or cardboard at an angle with stakes so the plants are shaded. An umbrella is another quick and easy method. Remove each day when the temperature lowers.

Handpick tomato hornworms (Manduca species). Feed to the chickens or drive a spade through them.

In the landscape

Continue to cut back spring-blooming perennials through mid-July.

After lavender blooms have halted, do a light pruning to maintain shape.

Divide three-year-old irises. They don’t like to be crowded.

Feed camellias with a fertilizer designed for camellias.

Fertilize deciduous trees and shrubs, and lawns. After applying fertilizer according to package instructions, water well.

Keep surveying roses and snapdragons for mildew. (A preventive product is better.)

Look for caterpillars on potato vines. Keep your eyes open for aphids and other pests.

To promote repeat blooms and to keep plants looking their best, deadhead regularly.

Replace spring annuals with summer annuals.

For a fuller plant with more fall blooms, pinch half the height off chrysanthemums before July.

Keep birdbaths and feeders clean.

JULYCheck your drip lines, overhead sprinklers, and timers to ensure proper operation during hot spells. Adjust water release to meet your plants’ thirsty needs.

 For good air circulation and to prevent surface stains under potted plants, keep pots elevated. Two 2×2’s trimmed to fit the length across the bottom of the pot is all you need.

Replenish birdbath water daily to keep your birds happy and eliminate mosquito breeding.

Shade your greenhouse if needed, and keep well ventilated.

Check trellises, arbors, stacks, and ties. Secure as needed.

Around the garden:  Water deep so plant, tree, and lawn roots will grow deeper where moisture is less likely to evaporate quickly. (Shallow watering evaporates rapidly from the top inch of soil.) Deep roots anchor the plant better. If watering with overhead sprinklers, water in the morning so the wet foliage doesn’t burn. Morning watering also helps to eliminate chances of fungus and disease.

If you live where the weather has turned hot and dry, don’t fertilize your plants. Doing so will cause them to produce new growth and in turn create additional stress during drought periods.

In the vegetable garden:  July is the month to start enjoying your harvest. Be ready to preserve or share the overflow. Check old canning jars for chips. Replenish needed supplies. Dig out your favorite preserving recipes, and then make out a shopping list. Prior to preserving, organize your canning items so that everything is in one area. Use an overhead kitchen cupboard. If you don’t have the room, use large storage tubs that can be stored in the garage or a laundry room. Essential items should include: 

Water-bath canner and manual

Pressure canner and manual

Preserving recipes and preserving books

Freezer bags, paper, and labels

Mason jars, lids and bands; jar labels and gift tags

Lid lifter; jar lifter; jar wrench; kitchen tongs; canning funnel; and ladle

 Keep handpicking tomato hornworms. Control earwigs, snails, and slugs.

 Where veggies have finished, plant a cover crop or fall vegetables. Some fall vegetables to direct sow are salad crops, basil, radish, bush beans, and turnips.  For a late corn crop, plant early July. Harvest onions when the leaves turn yellow and flop over. Cut back blackberry canes that have finished fruiting. Tie new canes to a support system.

In the landscape:  Spray or hand-pull weeds. Ants and aphids go hand-in-hand, especially during warm months. As explained last month, controlling ants will help eliminate aphids. If you must treat your plants with pesticides do it in the evening after the bees have left the scene.

Potted plants usually need water once, if not twice, daily. Water until it runs out of the drainage holes. 

Divide bearded iris. Separate the new sections and cut off old tubers that aren’t producing. Trim leaves then replant, placing leaf in the direction you want them to grow. Discard all diseased parts.

Prune summer-blooming shrubs as soon as they finish flowering. Deadhead annuals. Spent annuals should be cut back half of their height, and fertilized for a second bloom period. Pinch mums back one more time. For large flowers remove side buds as they appear. Apply this method to Dahlias.

Feed rhododendrons, camellias, and azaleas after they finished flowering. Deadhead, and use a rhododendron fertilizer.

For next year’s bloom, direct sow seeds of Hollyhocks, English daisies, Foxgloves, Violas, Canterbury bells, and Sweet William.

AUGUSTStart fall clean up. Get cold frames cleaned up and ready. For building instructions on cold frames, go to http://www.groovygreen.com/groove/?p=905. Clean out greenhouses, potting sheds, and garden houses. Replenish supplies. Dispose of chemicals according to your county regulations. If you don’t have them secured in a locked cabinet, now is a good time to do this. Repair and replace garden tools as late-summer early-fall sales begin.

Continue to deep water all plants and trees. Replenish mulch where needed. Keep mulch three inches from trunks and plant bases.

In the vegetable garden:  If you haven’t begun fall planting now is the time to make your selections. Check with a local nurseryperson for a planting guide suitable to your zone. He or she should be able to tell you which vegetables you can start NOW indoors and outdoors by seed or seedlings. Below is a list of cool season crops. 

Chard, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, spinach, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, beets, fennel, leeks, kale, peas, carrots, radishes, celery, turnips, mustard, chives, parsley, cilantro, dill. 

While your seeds are germinating, prepare the garden soil with manure or compost. Let sit at least two weeks before sowing or planting. 

Continue harvesting summer vegetables and preserving the overflow. To save space, train or tie vegetable vines such as tomatoes, melons, gourds, cucumbers, and pumpkins. Dry herbs for later use. Scout for pests regularly. 

In the landscape:  Stop pinching back mums. For larger blooms, remove side shoots leaving one or two buds per stem. 

For free, self-sowing flowers next spring and summer, let some annuals go to seed. If you prefer to direct-sow, gather seeds and package them (be sure to label/date) to sow indoors next spring. 

Late August look for cool season annuals to plant. For color all winter, try annual stock. 

If ants are a problem in potted plants, look for aphids. Until you can get rid of the aphids, temporarily place a saucer of water underneath the pot to keep the ants out. 

Order spring bulbs and peonies for fall planting. 

Deadhead roses and perennials for a second color burst. Trim Victoria Blue Salvia (Salvia farinacea) to two-foot tall. Cut Shasta daisies, coreopsis, and delphiniums to six inches. 

Divide spring flowering bulbs and perennials. 

Prune hydrangeas as soon as the flowers fade. For fewer, larger flowers next year, cut stems to the base of the plant. For more flowers, cut back 12 inches on stems that have bloomed.  

Remove dead branches from trees and perennials. Don’t place diseased foliage in compost pile.

Feed ground and potted annuals regularly for continuous blooms through the end of summer and into the beginning of fall. Regularly fertilize mums until they bloom using a low nitrogen fertilizer (5-20-02). Don’t feed mums that started blooming in July. Feed fruit trees.

SEPTEMBERAdjust water timers for cooler weather conditions by reducing frequency or time. Check batteries. As winds arrive, keep up with debris and damaged branches. Fall is the best time to plant so start researching, shopping around for trees, shrubs, and perennials that best fit your climate, zone, space, and maintenance needs. Start a new compost pile or add to the old one.

Check and secure or replace old stakes.

Store seeds you’ve gathered and dried in glass jars in a cool, dry place. Be sure to label them with the date and name.

If you keep a garden journal, now is a good time to update your summer triumphs and disappointments. Include favorite and least-favorite annual flowers and vegetable varieties, and why. If you purchased seeds from a catalog, jot down the information for reordering. Include the seed company’s name and contact information, just in case the catalog is misplaced.

In the vegetable garden:  To avoid temperature damage to your crops choose short-season varieties that mature quicker. Continue planting and sewing cool-season crops: artichoke (sold as bare root), chard, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, onions (right before rains), Brussels sprouts, beets, kale, peas (sweet and snap), carrots, radish, celery (cooking variety will grow year-round), turnip, mustard, parsley, spinach.

Transplant lettuce and strawberries.

In the landscapeRemove summer annuals. Add compost or manure to the soil. Late September, plant spring-blooming bulbs such as daffodils, narcissus, tulips, hyacinths, crocus, and iris. Avoid buying soft, moldy bulbs. They should be firm and plump. Once bulbs are in, plant fall annuals. These can include pansies, calendulas, snapdragons, violas, annual stock, California poppies, African daisies, bachelor’s buttons, forget-me-nots, Lobelia, alyssum, and Iceland poppies.

Divide old irises and perennials such as candytuft, daylily, agapanthus, and coreopsis after blooming. Before replanting, amend the soil.

Sow wildflower seeds. Treat roses for powdery mildew. Test for spider mites by shaking the plant over a white sheet of paper. Spray, if needed, with a recommended product from a reputable nursery.

Lay sod or sow seed for new lawns. Bare patches on old turfs can be seeded or filled in with sod.

Deadhead only summer-blooming shrubs.

Feed perennials and annuals one last time. Apply pre-emergent herbicide to lawns. Apply aluminum sulfate to hydrangeas for blue blossoms next year.

OCTOBERTake a walk around the outside of your house and the grounds. Note what tasks need attention. Some may include removal or replacement of tree stakes, weeds pulled, mulch added, struggling plants relocated or removed, gutters and downspouts cleaned, leaky faucets repaired, timers adjusted to the changing weather, old hoses replaced, portable lawn sprinklers and tools picked up and put away, chemicals properly disposed of or safely locked up, drip lines and drip heads replaced or unclogged.

If you don’t keep bird feeders filled during winter months, clean and store them until spring.

In the vegetable garden:  Keep critters away and eliminate pests and disease by removing debris from under fruit trees. Toss fallen, rotten fruit in the compost pile or feed them to your farm animals.

Sow seeds of  carrots, mustard, turnips, radishes, beets, peas, and parsnips.

Direct seed or transplant fava beans, Swiss chard, spinach, shallots, onions, lettuce, collards, cilantro, bok choy (or pak choi), rutabaga.

Other transplants include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery (cooking variety will grow year-round), beets, kohirabi, and leeks, Brussels sprouts, chives, parsley.

In the landscapeFall is the best time of year to plant most any type of tree, shrub, groundcover, and vine. This is the season to shop for autumn hues, and bargains.

Keep ponds and birdbaths clean of fallen leaves. Rake and remove leaves from lawns and beds.

Lay sod or sow seed for new lawns. Bare patches on old turfs can be seeded or filled in with sod.

Plant bulbs:  daffodils, tulips, narcissus, crocus, freesias, irises.

Keep dead-heading roses and perennials. Divide and replant perennials such as daylilies, lamb’s ears, Shasta daisies, yarrow.

For cool-season annual colors transplant Iceland poppies, primroses, sweet peas, snapdragons, annual stock, pansies, violas, sweet Alyssum, forget-me-nots, bachelor buttons, Johnny-jump-ups, calendulas, dianthus, lobelia, larkspur. From seed, sow California poppies.

NOVEMBER:  As you begin to spend more time indoors, plan a few tool cleaning and repair sessions. First remove soil from your garden tools with a nylon or metal brush. Sharpen, wipe clean, and oil metal with spray or machine shop oil. If wooden handles are getting rough, lightly sand, oil or repaint to protect the wood.

Repair the end of water hoses. Replace broken sprinklers. Soak clogged shower-hose heads in warm water and vinegar. Bring timers indoors and remove the batteries. If battery acid leeks, it can damage the timer.

Protect faucets, pipes, and sprinkler valves from frost by wrapping them with old bath towels or rags.

In the vegetable garden:  Seed fava beans, carrots, Swiss chard, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas, radishes, shallots, spinach, turnips. Transplant Bok choy/Pak choc, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, kale. Plant garlic cloves, horseradish roots, rhubarb roots.

If you’re not a winter vegetable gardener, you can amend the soil for spring planting before the ground turns soggy or frozen. Work in organic matter like shredded leaves, compost, and peat moss or plant cover crops such as fava beans and vetch. Cover crops add nitrogen to the soil and slow down the leaching of nutrients caused by rains.

In the landscapeCover frost-sensitive plants with frost cloth and move potted plants to a sheltered area. Frost cloth can stay on during daylight as it lets the sun in.

After pruning fruit trees and the leaves have fallen, apply dormant spray. Clean up the debris to prevent insects from gathering underneath.

Replace weak or damaged stakes so young trees and shrubs can stand against strong winds.

Mulch beds after the first frost, keeping mulch 3-6 inches away from trunks.

Plant cool-season color spots such as pansies, annual stock, primroses, snapdragons, Iceland poppies, calendulas, African daisies, chrysanthemums. Sow wildflower seeds now for a spring show. There’s still time to plant spring-blooming bulbs like tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, narcissus.

Although this is the time of year to cut back on watering, don’t let the soil dry out. Moisture provides warmth which helps to fight off frost damage. Potted plants don’t necessarily catch raindrops so keep an eye on the soil and water as needed.

DECEMBERKeep faucets, pipes, and sprinkler valves protected from frost by wrapping them with old bath towels or rags. Double check tree stakes and support wire. Slip flexible pipes over the end of downspouts to redirect rainwater away from the house.

In the vegetable garden:  Most winter vegetables can handle frost and snow, however, a harsh wind can cripple or destroy them. Watch the weather report and be ready to protect your winter crops from wind.

In the soil, sow seeds of lettuce, carrots, fava beans, mustard, peas, radishes, bunching onions, onions, bok choy, broccoli, kale, collards, and spinach. 

Plant from cell packs of broccoli and cauliflower.

Plant barefoot berries, grapes, fruit trees, asparagus, artichokes, strawberries, rhubarb.

In the landscapeKeep covering frost-sensitive plants with frost cloth. Watch the soil in potted plants and don’t let it dry out.

In the ground or in pots, plant the following annuals:  Iceland poppies, pansies, violas, calendulas, flowering kale, flowering cabbage, sweet William, snapdragons, cyclamen, primroses.

At the nursery, select camellias while they are budding. This will allow you to see the flower colors first-hand.

If the ground isn’t frozen, you can still plant daffodil bulbs.

Prune rose bushes.

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre



  1. […] sort through seed packets for planting and expiration dates, earmark seed catalogs, and read my January tasks for jobs that I may have forgotten. I’m always forgetting something. If it’s rainy or all my […]


  2. […] February is the month to […]


  3. […] 1)   Lavender plants:  After new foliage has grown in, cut back by 1/3 to stimulate new growth at base of the plant. Never prune out old wood unless it is dead. For more April tasks, click here. […]


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