» Gardening Calendar
This calendar list gardening tasks and suggestions that may be appropriate for particular months. It was planned for the central Shenandoah Valley area (USDA Hardiness Zone 6A & 6B). If you garden elsewhere in the state, you may need to adjust these tasks to a little earlier or later.
- Browse seed catalogs and start planning this years garden; order from catalogs or pickup seeds from local garden stores.
- Be careful with salting walkways and driveways because of the damage it may do to plants.
- Because of the swing of temperatures throughout the winter, heaving may occur and eventually expose plant roots to freezing temperatures. If this occurs press the soil back in place and cover with leaves or other mulching material.
- Mulch any bulbs that are showing leaves.
- Anti-desiccant sprays can be applied on a mild day (be sure to read the label for application information).
- The best way to remove heavy snow from trees and shrubs is usually to let the snow or ice melt from the plant. If, however, you are concerned about branch breakage, newly fallen snow may be gently swept with a soft broom from drooping branches.
- During winter thaws, water evergreens, especially those on the south and west side of the house.
- Provide food and water for the birds.
- To increase humidity set plants on trays of pebbles and water.
- When watering houseplants, fill a container with tap water and allow the water to warm to room temperature before pouring on cold sensitive plants.
- Water only as needed, using a water meter.
- Remove faded flowers from amaryllis; keep it growing until mid-summer, and then let it go dormant.
- Browse seed catalogs, start planning this years garden, and order seeds or pick up from local supplier.
- Start these seeds during Feb/Mar: onion, leek, parsley, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, begonia, browalia, geranium, lobelia, impatiens, ageratum, verbena, petunia, snapdragons, vinca, and sweet alyssum.
- Schedule lawn mower for maintenance and/or repair.
- Clean used PLASTIC flowerpots in a 1:9 solution of household chlorine bleach and water; rinse well.
- Check stored bulbs, tubers and corms. Discard any that are soft or diseased.
- Obtain soil test box and instructions from VCE Office. Plan to test soil as soon as samples can be collected.
- Inventory garden supplies for dormant season disease and insect control.
- Watch for spring bulbs emerging, Spring flowering shrubs and trees can be cut and forced for indoor bloom.
- Check trees and shrubs for bagworms. Remove them by handpicking.
- Pot up a few clumps of crocuses from the garden as they emerge. In a sunny spot indoors they will develop blooms sooner than they will outside.
- Check overwintered plants and if shriveled, water slightly.
- Avoid walking on frozen lawns to prevent winter damage.
- Provide food and water for the birds.
- Sharpen pruning tools
- Bush or shrub type roses should be pruned just as buds break dormancy usually around late Feb or March (good rule of thumb is “prune your roses when the forsythia is in bloom”)
- Remove dead, dying, unsightly parts of trees, sprouts growing at the base of the tree trunk, crossed branches.
- Follow-up care for holiday plants:
- Poinsettias – continue normal care (sunny location, regular watering) until April. Then let the soil dry somewhat and prune the plant back to 6-8”.
- Amaryllis – when finished blooming, cut back flower stalks, continue watering and begin regular fertilizing to encourage vigorous foliage if you plan to save bulbs.
- Paperwhites – discard forced bulbs.
- Collect soil samples for testing for nutrient and pH level on current and future planting beds.
- Remove mulch that you may have added to beds in late fall or early January so the soil can warm up. Don’t completely discard the mulch in case you need it if extremely cold weather comes again during the month.
- Press back into the soil any perennials that have heaved up during the winter months.
- Plan your garden and visit local garden centers to check out new plants.
- Fertilize perennial beds, trees and shrubs, spring flowering bulbs, and roses.
Pruning and Planting:
- Cut back ornamental grasses and liriope, taking care no to damage the plant crowns.
- Overcrowded clumps of ornamental grasses and liriope can be divided and replanted.
- Cut back plants that were left for winter interest.
- Plant peas, onion sets and other cool season crops by the end of March.
- Plant blueberries, strawberries, and grapes.
- Start warm season vegetable seeds for later transplanting (i.e. tomatoes, peppers, etc.)
- Start summer flower seeds in flats.
- Dig and divide perennial flowers.
- Mulch strawberries with pine straw as soon as they start blooming.
- Prune brambles to shoulder height and mulch.
- Turn houseplants a quarter turn each week so all sides receive adequate light.
- Houseplants will enjoy a spring cleaning. Wash off their leaves, trim off brown edges, remove yellowing leaves, and make sure the soil surface is clear of debris.
- Report houseplants as needed.
- If you did not spread lime on your lawn in late fall, you can still do it if it is needed.
- Have your lawn mower ready to go in the spring by having it serviced; sharp blades will not tear the grass blades, but rather cut cleanly.
- Before working in your garden, make sure the soil is dry enough. It should crumble in your hand; if it is not, wait until it dries out before working the soil.
- Edge garden beds.
- Mulch garden beds 2 to 3 inches deep with an organic material.
- Do not work in the garden when the leaves are wet since this may enhance the spread of plant diseases.
- If you didn’t complete your garden fertilization in March, continue that in April.
- Newly planted perennials, trees and shrubs will generally need 1 inch of water each week – either from rain or irrigation.
- This is the big month for planting vegetables, however if planted too early, frost will kill your plants unless you are prepared to protect them on those cold nights.
- Set out plants for cool season vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
- Sow seeds for cool season crops: peas, radishes, lettuce, onions, beets, parsley, Swiss chard, spinach, kale, etc.
- Fertilize perennials and spring bulbs as soon as possible if not already done.
- Spring is the ideal time to divide most perennials, both summer and fall bloomers. Replant the divisions or share with friends.
- Add compost when transplanting into an existing garden bed.
- Remember that some perennials are late getting started in the spring; mark the spot in some way so you do not inadvertently plant over them.
- Trim nutrients to fruit trees at the fruit setting time.
- Delay organic mulching to allow soil to warm up, but act before weeds become established.
Trees and Shrubs:
- If you are planting new trees and shrubs, remember to consider hardiness, light requirements, soil drainage, wind tolerance, mature size, insect or disease problems, maintenance levels, etc. when choosing your plant. Remember the “plant right place” rule.
- Fertilize spring flowering shrubs in late spring or early summer after they flower.
- Provide nutrients to fruit trees at the fruit setting time.
- Finish seeding early in the month.
- Pre-emergent weed controls, especially crabgrass preventer, go on in the middle of the month for established lawns. This should be done no later than when the forsythia blooms.
- Do not mow the lawn until it has grown at least 2 inches. The roots are being renewed in the spring and grass needs vigorous top growth initially.
- The first grass clippings of the season are rich in nutrients and contain fewer weed seeds than those collected later. Mow frequently and leave the clippings on the lawn.
- Prune spring flowering shrubs after flowering is completed.
- Put wire support cages in place before plants grow too large.
- The average last killing frost date in the spring is 5/10 – 5/15. Vegetables and annual seedlings should be planted outdoors accordingly. Set out tender plants once all danger of frost is past.
- Stay out of the garden when foliage is wet. Walking through a wet garden spreads disease from one plant to another.
- If the results of soil tests are not available, prepare annual flowerbeds with 1-2 lbs of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 sq. ft. Soil pH should be around 6.5. Additions of organic matter are important. If it was not done before the spring planting, have soil tested in fall.
- Plant annuals among waning spring bulbs.
- Mulch planting to control weeds and conserve moisture.
- When shopping for annuals, look for plants with unopened buds. Plants in bloom are often root bound and can be set back for several weeks after being transplanted.
Trees and Shrubs:
- New plantings (first 2 years) need weekly watering when rainfall is not adequate. Water slowly so the entire root zone is moistened.
- Mow at 2 ½ inches. There is no need to collect clippings unless they lie on top of the turf. Be sure mower blade is sharp. Vary your mowing pattern to prevent compaction marking of wheels.
- Broad leaf weeds may be treated with herbicides, but use extreme caution in application. Follow label instructions precisely.
- Mowing the grass too low will help keep most weeds at a minimum.
- Bagworms hatch in late May to early June and begin feeding on many ornamentals including arborvitae, juniper, pines and spruce. Insecticides are effective applied in mid to late June. Hand pick after that.
- Continue fruit tree spraying. Apple maggots (also a problem on pear) can be very destructive. Egg laying begins in late June or early July.
- Watch for early disease problems and take care of them before they get worse.
- Check lower leaves of tomato plants carefully for brown spots that may indicate fungus disease. Begin fungicide application as soon as spots appear. Wet and humid weather aggravates many diseases. Staking plants helps reduce disease.
- Watch and control black spot and powdery mildew on rose foliage.
- Mow grass 2.5 – 3” – don’t cut more than 1/3 of leaf length at one cutting. Leave short clipping on the lawn. They will add nitrogen to the soil as they decompose.
- Fruit tree spraying continues.
- Japanese beetle adults are active. Hand picking and dropping into a jar of soapy water may be the best control if infestations are light.
- Plan and start planting the fall vegetable garden.
- Water early in the day so that the leaves will be dry by evening.
- Keep your eyes open for insects, and disease problems. Early detection is important.
Trees and Shrubs:
- Fertilize roses and shrubs in early July for the last time this year.
- Get a second bloom from faded annuals by cutting them back to approximately half their height.
- Mow grass 3 inches to conserve moisture, keep roots cool and keep weeds down.
- Plants more often wilt from lack of oxygen than lack of water. When soil is compacted, the plant’s feeder roots suffocate. Don’t assume this is a sign of water stress and irrigate. This will compound the problem.
- Water the garden early in the day so the foliage dries before night to decrease susceptibility to fungal disease.
- Keep picking or shearing faded flowers off annuals so they won’t go to see and stop blooming.
- Gather and save seeds of other annuals that you might want to use again. Put seeds in envelopes and label them by name, date, and color. Store in a cool, dry place – such as airtight jars in the refrigerator.
- Divide/plant daylilies; choose varieties with different bloom times to extend the season.
- Potatoes continue to grow as long as the tops are green. Dig as many as needed for immediate use. The tubers will keep better in the ground than in a warm, dry home.
- Sow seeds of cool weather crops (lettuces, spinach, radishes, mustard greens, kale) late in month.
- Plant broccoli 10 weeks before first average frost date (10/15)
- Avoid pruning evergreens and shrubs now (except for removal of damaged branches)
- Plant shrubs so that they have time to start getting established before winter. Fall conditions are usually excellent for root growth.
- Plant/divide/move early blooming perennials including peonies, hosta and phlox.
- Prepare for bulb planting late in the month. Planting too early can cause bulbs to sprout top growth before winter. It is good for bulbs to be planted 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes for root formation.
- Dig, dry and store tender bulbs such as Gladiolus, Dahlias and tuberous Begonias.
- Stop pruning trees, shrubs and roses because new growth will not harden off before winter.
- The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug may become a nuisance congregating in the sunny areas around the house and yard. They may enter homes and over winter there.
- To minimize occurrence of black spot on roses, remove debris from area around the rose.
- Powdery mildew is normally a late summer problem. Fungicides applied at the first sign of the fungus will control it.
- Mite populations increase rapidly during hot weather. Examine plants whose leaves fade and dry out for mites.
- Lawns should be fertilized during the months of September, October, and/or November.
- To prepare houseplants for moving inside, check them for any apparent pests and diseases. Bring plants in before night temperature drops below 55F.
- Stop watering amaryllis and allow foliage to die. After an 8 week rest, start them growing again for holiday blooms.
Planning/Preparing for Next Growing Season
- Clean and put away pots so they are ready for next season.
- Discard diseased and insect infested plants. Do not compost them.
- Take cuttings from healthy annual plants such as coleus and begonias; root in water or a well drained potting mix and then grow them in a sunny window all winter.
- Dig and store tender bulbs.
- Beware of the average first fall frost date (Oct 15th). Protect container plantings of trees and shrubs. Move to a sheltered location and insulate the root system by covering soil and container with straw or leaves.
- Place stakes for burlap protection of exposed new broadleaf evergreens before the ground freezes. The burlap doesn’t need to go up until December.
- Rake leaves; compost them and add to the garden next year.
- Continue mowing at a height of 3-4” high.
- Check for scale insects on shrubs. Spray with dormant oil.
- For protection from cold temperatures, cover sensitive plants with protective cloths and be sure to remove them the next morning.
- Prune dead and weak tree limbs to prevent winter damage. Hire a professional to handle large trees.
- It is natural for yews, pines, arborvitae and junipers to begin to shed their interior needles this time of year.
Preparing/Planning for Winter and Next Season:
- Continue clearing garden debris.
- Mulches applied to perennial beds too early can do more harm than good. Mulch is used to keep soil temperature constant and prevent frost heaving, not to keep it warm. Mulch when the soil temperature has reaches 32F.
- Spray broadleaf evergreens with anti-dessicant when the temperature is above 40F.
- Have soil tested (soil boxes and instructions are available at the Virginia Cooperative Extension office). When results are returned follow recommendations.
- Mow until the lawn stops growing. Grass that is too long is more susceptible to damage over the winter.
- Finish planting spring flowering bulbs and mulch them immediately to extend the root growth season.
- Keep watering new shrub plantings if rainfall is sparse. It is important that they begin winter with adequate soil moisture.
- Check tubers in storage. If sprouting, put them in a cooler spot. If shriveling, re-wrap in paper bags with peat moss or sawdust. If roots are moldy or damaged, discard.
- Lime can still be applied to lawns and gardens IF SOIL TEST SHOWS IT IS NEEDED.
- Put away bird baths, planters, and other outdoor ornaments that might collect water and be broken when freezing temperatures arrive. Don’t forget the rain gauge.
- Mulch perennials, roses and new plantings after the ground freezes or by mid-month.
- Provide food and water for the birds.
- Send for seed catalogs.
- Clean and oil garden tools.