Enter your keyword

This Month In The Garden

JANUARY
  • Continue to keep the leaves off your lawn, especially on cool-season lawns, because they continue to photosynthesize during the winter. We have the tendency to let the seemingly ever-falling oak leaves build up during the cold days of winter. On a dry, warmish day you can mow both cool- and warm-season lawns to help groom the lawn and mulch the leaves. Avoid heavy traffic on coolseason lawns when it is cold enough for the grass to be frozen. Frozen grass is easily broken and the crown can also be severely damaged.
  • In the event of wet snow, brush it off evergreens as it accumulates, or as soon as possible after the storm. Use a broom in an upward, sweeping motion. Serious damage can be caused by heavy wet snow.
  • Avoid using salt to melt snow and ice from your walks and driveway, as it can be harmful to your plants. Several environmentally friendly products are available at home improvement stores.
  • As long as the ground is not frozen, you can continue to plant new trees and shrubs, just tuck them in with a 2- or 3-inch layer of mulch. Remember to keep the mulch away from the trunk.
  • Pansies will benefit if you pinch off their withered and cold-damaged blooms.
FEBRUARY
  • Bluebirds are already looking for a place to nest, so clean out your birdhouse soon.
  • Barrenwort (Epimedium) and Lungwort (Pulmonaria) will be in flower soon. Cut back last year’s foliage before new growth appears.
  • For indoor forcing of blooms, cut branches of pussy willow, forsythia, flowering quince, redbud, and star and saucer magnolia. Choose stems with flower buds that have begun to swell. Cut them at an angle and place in water in a cool location in your home with indirect light.
  • Late February and March are good times to trim trees and shrubs. If the limb is larger than 2 inches in diameter, or heavily weighted, use the three-step method for removing the branches. Make the first cut on the underside of the limb about 6 inches away from the trunk, cutting about one-third of the way through the limb. On the top side, cut through the limb 3 to 6 inches beyond the first cut. Remember when pruning to remove dead or diseased branches first and thentake out any rubbing or crossed branches. Prune to maintain a natural form unless formality is appropriate for the design.
  • Postpone pruning of spring-flowering and early summer-flowering shrubs like azaleas, forsythia, spirea, and mophead hydrangea until just after they flower.
  • Cut back monkey grass (Liriope) before new growth appears. Use a string trimmer for larger areas.
  • Spot-control weeds in a dormant warm-season lawn by pulling them or by applying a broadleaf weed control.
  • Apply dormant horticulture oil, such as Ultra-Fine, to fruit and nut trees to eliminate scale and other pests. It must be applied before spring growth appears. These oils also can control scale insects on hollies, euonymus and camellias. For best results, be sure to completely spray the entire plant including the underside of the leaves.
  • Soil in Tennessee tends to be acidic. Have your soil tested to see if and how much lime is needed. Your local UT Extension office can provide you with instructions on how to proceed. It takes months for lime to react with the soil, so the sooner the better. Pelletized lime is the easiest form to apply.
  • Green/English and sugar snap peas can be direct sown in the garden in February. In colder parts of the state wait until the end of the month. If sown too late, they will not have time to flower and fruit before it gets too hot.
  • If your ornamental grasses such as Miscanthus, Pennisetum, Mexican feather, switchgrass and muhly grass are looking tattered and blowing about the garden, cut them back 3 to 6 inches above the ground. You can wait until March.
MARCH
  • Evaluate your vegetable garden plans. Often a smaller garden with fewer weeds and insects will give you more produce.
  • Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, chard, onions and potatoes should be planted this month.
  • When night temps get above 40 degrees, feed your pansies with a water-soluble fertilizer such as 20-20-20.
  • Pull or carefully spot spray winter weeds in your landscape with Roundup. Doing so now will make the plant beds look better and prevent them from going to seed, therefore making fewer weeds next year.
  • Apply a pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn if you had crabgrass and other summer weeds in the past. The timing of application is important, and a good indicator is to do it just as forsythia begins to show some color.
  • Sow nasturtiums this month. Soak seed overnight in water. Cover with threequarter inches soil.
  • Sow nasturtiums this month. Soak seed overnight in water. Cover with threequarter inches soil.
  • March is a good time to shop for and add lungwort (Pulmonaria) and Lenten rose (Helleborus) to your garden. Lungwort is an early flowering shade perennial that often struggles in the heat and humidity of our Tennessee climate, so be aware that Pulmonaria longifolia cultivars and hybrids are much more durable. Good selections are ‘Roy Davidson,’ ‘E. B. Anderson,’ ‘Trevi Fountain’ and-my favorite for its vigor and heat tolerance-‘Diana Claire.’
  • Climbing roses should not be pruned until after their first flush of growth. Now is a good time to tie the canes to a support before they flush out with spring growth.
APRIL
  • Prune spring-flowering shrubs (azaleas, flowering quince, Forsythia and Loropetalum) soon after they finish flowering, but only if they need it. Selectively cut old or unruly branches by reaching deeply into the shrub leaving no visible stub, making the cut just above a joint. This pruning method will keep them from looking like meatballs.
  • A good option for Loropetalums that have outgrown their space is to tree-form them. They can easily be limbed up by removing lower branches.
  • Kerria japonica, also known as Japanese kerria or yellow rose of Texas, often has dead branches. Follow them to the base to cut them. Remove older branches the same way to keep the plant looking good. Older, overgrown or neglected plants can be cut to the ground for rejuvenation.
  • Azaleas often show symptoms of lace bug and spider mite infestations during the hot months of summer. This damage can be prevented by a onetime early application of the systemic insecticide imidacloprid. This insecticide should be poured in liquid form around the root system as the flowers fade, spreading the active ingredients throughout the plant tissue where it remains effective through the growing season.
  • You can direct seed easy-to-grow flowering annuals and vegetables. Some easy flowers to grow from seed include marigold, zinnia, sunflowers and cosmos. Beans, peas, corn and okra are some easy direct sow vegetables, while dill, basil and cilantro are some easy direct sow herbs.
  • Try the annual moon vine, Ipomoea alba, this year to attract sphinx moths to your garden. Nick the hard seed coat carefully with nail clippers and soak in water overnight to hasten germination.
  • Spring is a good time to freshen up the mulch in your landscape. Remember not to pile it around the trunks of your trees and shrubs. If using a pre-emergent herbicide, be sure to apply it before spreading your mulch to prevent the sunlight from breaking it down. It also forms a more effective barrier when allowed to bond with soil particles. Remember it is not necessary to fertilize well-established trees or shrubs. If you are trying to encourage faster growth on new plantings, a balanced granular fertilizer scattered on the soil surface is effective. Be careful not to overdo it. Tree spikes or drilling fertilizer into the root zone is unnecessary and expensive.
  • Cut back any woody perennials that may need it, like rosemary, rue, lavender, Santolina and Artemisia. If done before the danger of frost has passed, new growth may appear, and a freeze can kill that new growth and sometimes the entire plant.
MAY
  • Plant butterfly weed (Asclepias), parsley, dill, rue and pipevine to encourage butterflies in your garden. The foliage of these plants provides food for the caterpillars. Aristolochia fimbriata is a lovely ground-cover-type of pipevine that is covered each year by the pipevine swallowtail caterpillar at the UT Gardens in Jackson. It may be a little hard to find for sale, but it is worth seeking out.
  • Early May is a good time to cut back any woody perennials that need it, like rosemary, rue, lavender, Santolina and Artemisia. If done before the danger of frost has passed, new growth may appear, and a freeze can kill that new growth and sometimes the entire plant.
  • Prune spring-flowering shrubs (azaleas, flowering quince, Forsythia and Loropetalum) soon after they finish flowering, but only if they need it. To keep them from looking like a meatball, follow the taller branches down into the shrub and cut just above a joint.
  • A good option for Loropetalums that have outgrown their space is to prune them into a tree-form. They easily can be limbed up by removing lower branches.
  • Kerria japonica, known as Japanese kerria or yellow rose of Texas, often develop dead branches. Follow them to the base to cut them. Older branches should be removed the same way to keep the plant looking good. Older, overgrown or neglected plants can be cut to the ground for rejuvenation.
  • Remove the flowering stalks on yucca as they begin to form if you dislike the look of the bloom. Cut them off down in the foliage at the source, and you won’t even know they were there.
  • Old flower stems can be removed from lungwort so not to distract from the lovely foliage.
  • Caladiums and vinca need warm soil. Caladium tubers will rot in cool soil, and vinca will be disease-prone, or exhibit stunted growth. Night temperatures should regularly be above 60 degrees F before planning them.