Monthly Advice

Nature never rests... There's always something happening in our yards, if we know where to look. Here are some ideas for year-round maintenance that I hope you'll find useful when you're working in your yard. Don't hesitate to contact me or visit our Facebook page for more information.

It's a good time to prune most of your deciduous trees and shrubs.Take cuttings in January and force for vibrant indoor color

Forsythia, Pussy Willow and Quince sprays can be cut and brought into the house now for forcing. The warmth in the home will bring some early bloom to your room.

Fireplace ashes should be saved to use a fertilizer for your Iris and other alkaline soil plants.

Sharpen and oil tools such as shovels, shears, mowers and the like. Power tools such as weed eaters and power mowers may benefit from a good tune-up... Change the oil, new spark plug, new air filter.

January is a good time to start planning for your veggie garden and get inspired by the seed catalogs. If you are thinking about a landscape project, now is a good time to start putting ideas together. If you need the help of a professional landscaper and/or landscape designer now is a good time to start getting their input.

Pruning should be done to improve the shape of the plant, as well as to open up the center of the plant to good air circulation and sun exposure.Proper pruning improves the health of trees and shrubs.

Always start your pruning by removing all dead, decayed or broken branches.

The methods of pruning Roses vary, depending on the type of Rose. Climbing roses should be thinned out to get rid of last years tangled growth.

March can be a tough month where anything can happen weather-wise… Winter not quite gone and Spring not quite here.

Finish pruning fruit trees this month - before the buds swell!One third removed first year of pruning this old tree.

In most areas it is still possible to do dormant spraying of fruit trees until the 15th. After that date dilute the spray by 1/2. Spraying should only be done on a still day with the temperature above 40 degrees F.

Take a little time to prepare the vegetable garden soil for planting if there is no snow and the soil is dry enough and workable.

The addition of well-rotted manure, processed manure, peat moss or compost are good additives for building humus in the soil.

Peas, radishes, lettuce and broccoli, spinach, chard, cabbage, cauliflower and other hardy vegetables can be started in doors or possibly seeded or set out late in the month.

Before you work in your garden, make sure the soil is dry enough to crumble in your hand. If it's too wet, wait for it to dry out. Proper lawn maintenance yields great results and a beautiful lawn.

Edge garden beds.

Check hoses and sprinklers for leaks; a small leak can result in great quantities of wasted water and higher utility bills.

Trees and shrubs in containers need to be repotted or root pruned every three to five years in the spring.

Mulch garden beds two inches deep with organic mulch.

Repair damaged areas of the lawn... Dethatch, rake or aerate. Apply Dolomite Lime to sweeten the soil if needed. Most lawns will need a spring feeding but if thatching or liming needs to be done, do those jobs first. Over-seeding can be done as the last step, after the lawn has been fertilized. Thatch buildup can smother your lawn and provide an environment for diseases. Remove thatch with a brisk raking, or with a de thatching machine. Over seeding will help fill-in the lawn and deter the re-growth of moss and weeds. Use about one pound of quality grass seed for every 300 square feet of lawn area. Apply a light compost or soil over the seed to keep it moist and in place. Aerating the lawn will allow water to penetrate deeper into the lawn soil and reduce the need to water during the dryer months ahead. Use a garden fork and punch holes over the surface of your lawn.

Test your soil for pH to see if any amendments are necessary. A general rule of thumb is to add 4 lbs. of lime per 100 sq. ft. of garden for every pH point below 6.5, or 1 lb. of sulfur per 100 sq. ft. for every pH point above 7.5. Sawdust, composted oak leaves, wood chips, peat moss, cottonseed meal, and leaf mold lower the pH while ashes of hardwoods, bone meal, crushed marble, and crushed oyster shells raise the pH. The best way to adjust pH is gradually, over several seasons.

Repair damaged areas of the lawn.... Dethatch, rake or aerate.

Apply Dolomite Lime to sweeten the soil if needed.

The months of March, April and May are ideal for pruning evergreens.

Make sure to cover tender plants when frosts are forecast. Lettuce, spinach, beans, broccoli, peppers.

Instead of dragging a hose around the garden, use a water bottle with a strong stream setting to spray aphids and other pests off of plants. If the weather is sunny and dry, don't neglect your watering! Most flowers and shrubs need about an inch of water each week to perform well, and newly planted seedlings especially, will perish if their roots are allowed to dry out.

It's still not too late to fertilize your trees and shrubs. Use an organic Rhododendron or Evergreen type of plant food to feed evergreens and other acid loving plants like Azaleas and Rhododendrons, Camellias and Junipers, etc. Use an all-purpose organic garden fertilizer (10-10-10) to feed roses, deciduous shrubs and trees. Be sure to water the fertilizer in thoroughly after it is applied.

Early flowering deciduous shrubs such as Forsythias, Weigela, and Spirea should be pruned back when they have finished blooming. Cut back a third of the oldest canes to ground level, then cut back one third of the remaining branches by one third of their height.

Remove the wilting seed heads from Rhododendrons and Azaleas so that the plant’s energy can go to foliage growth and next year’s flowers, rather than seeds.

Work lime in the soil around your Hydrangeas to produce pink flowers or Aluminum Sulphate for blue blooms.

Carrots, Lettuce, Potatoes, Corn, Beans, Peas and most popular vegetables, with the exception of the warmer-weather crops, can be seeded or planted into the vegetable garden at any time now. Wait until mid to late May before planting the warmer weather crops like Tomatoes, Squash, cucumber, pumpkins and peppers.

Your vegetable garden should be beautiful as well as functional. Incorporate annuals and perennials into your garden to add color and attract beneficial insects and pollinators. Many watering recommendations mention plants receiving one inch of water a week. Put a rain gauge in your garden to help measure this. My favorite annual - Cleome. Bees and Butterflies love it.

Make a home for insect-eating toads in your garden.

Tightly shaped hedges should be pruned after the second flush of growth in the summer, if needed. Protect your fruit from the birds with netting.

After natural fruit drop in late June, thin fruits on apple, pear, peach, and apricot trees carefully to produce larger, better fruit. Peach trees need 50 to 75 leaves per fruit to manufacture food for both fruit production and tree maintenance. Apple trees need 30 to 40 leaves per fruit.

Raise the cutting height of your lawnmower to 1 to 1 1/2 inches in mid-summer to help your lawn survive the heat and dry periods. The amount of water that your garden will need is going to depend on the weather conditions in your area. Drought-resistant lavender, thyme, coreopsis, rudbeckia and echinacea.

The primary rule of summer watering is to water thoroughly and deeply each time and to allow the soil dry out between waterings. Deep watering will allow the plant's roots to grow deeper, where they are less likely to dry out, as well as the added benefit of anchoring the plant into the ground better. Light, surface watering actually wastes water, because the water never actually reaches the root zone of the plant, and the moisture rapidly evaporates from the top inch of soil.

The best way to tell if your plants are receiving enough water is to take a trowel or shovel and dig down a few inches. The soil should be moist at least 3 or 4 inches deep to insure that the water is reaching the root zone of the plants.

Of course, if you planted drought-resistant plants in your garden, you won't have to water as often, but the principal of deep watering still applies. As the weather dries out, your container plants may need daily watering, especially if the pots are exposed to the drying sunlight. Push your finger into the soil in your container plantings at least once a day (more often on hot, dry days) to feel for moisture and be certain that plants are getting enough water. Apply water until it runs out the drainage holes.

Try to do your watering during the morning hours so that the leaves can dry off a bit before the hot sun hits them. Evening watering is sometimes acceptable if the temperatures are warm enough to ensure that foliage dries before the temperature drops at night. Remember, wet foliage makes plants more susceptible to fungus and disease.

Summer blooming shrubs should be pruned for shape after they have finished flowering. Remove any dead or diseased branches.

Now is the time to start your fall and winter vegetables. Plant starters or seeds of green onions, carrots, beets, Lettuce, spinach, radishes, and winter cauliflower directly into the garden early this month. Basket of tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, and zucchini.

Contrary to popular belief, a brown lawn isn't necessarily a dead lawn. Grasses go dormant in times of drought, but will quickly return to life with the fall rains. If a lush green lawn is important to you, and you don't mind mowing, water it regularly, and deeply. If a water shortage is expected, or you hate tending to grass, you may choose to just let your lawn go dormant, and water it as seldom as once a month. Raise the cutting height of the mower. Taller grass cools the roots and helps to keep the moisture in the soil longer.

Make sure to cover tender plants when frosts are forecast.

As fall clean-up time approaches, start a compost bin. Once composted, debris can become a rich soil additive for your garden. Fall color display of a Viburnum.

Fall is an excellent time to shop for plants, trees and shrubs.

Fall planting encourages good root development, allowing the plants to get established before spring. If weather is dry, provide water up until the ground freezes.

Stop fertilizing your trees and flowering shrubs to allow this years growth to harden off before winter. When the fall rains arrive, fertilize your lawn with a slow-release 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer.

September is one of the best months of the entire year for seeding or sodding new lawns. If the lawn needs thatching, it can be done during the early fall. Over-seed old lawns with fresh seed to help fill in the bare spots and crowd out weeds and mosses.

Fall is a glorious time in New England ! Weather is still great and the color is amazing.

Clean up and compost debris from beds. Sugar Maples and Oaks in Fall.However, any material from diseased plants should be destroyed so that the disease doesn't winter over in the garden to reinfect plants next year.

Drain and store hoses for the winter.

Remove dead, diseased and damaged wood as soon as it is observed.

Give your garden year round interest. Visit local gardens and observe the winter habits of trees, shrubs and perennials take notes of your favorites for future planting projects. Four seasons of interest in this new planting.

Plan new landscape designs and this year's garden.

Winter is a perfect time to sit down with a good garden book and sharpen your gardening skills.

Clean and disinfect pots and containers used when starting seeds.

Snow can act as a good insulator for plants and perennials so when shoveling or snowblowing don’t hesitate to carefully cover them-as long as there is no salt. Snow helps insulate plants. Colorful berries add interest to winter garden.

Salt can damage plants and trees, especially evergreens, as well as eat away at clay brick walkways. So try using a good ice melt, such as calcium chloride or some other ice melt product on the market instead of salt.

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