garden tips

10 Tips for the March Gardener

clemson lettuce1. Make plans to attend the UConn Garden Conference on March 21, 2014. Go to for more information.

2. Carefully remove winter mulches from planting beds as snow melts and temperatures warm.

3. Add limestone, fertilizer or organic materials as recommended and incorporate into planting beds.

4. As ground becomes workable, de-thatch the lawn if you find an inch or more of thatch; seed any bare spots.

5. Seeds of annual flowers and vegetables that require 10-12 weeks of growth before transplanting can be sown indoors now.

6. Plant seeds of cold weather vegetables like spinach, peas, lettuce and broccoli as soon as soil is workable.

7. Soak mail order bare-root plants for about an hour before planting.

8. Start saving plastic milk jugs or 2 liter containers to use for individual hot caps or cloches. They will fit nicely over small garden plants, creating a free miniature greenhouse.

9. Clean-up and sharpen garden tools and take an inventory of supplies you will need for the upcoming growing season.

10. Get your soil tested through the UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory before any major planting or fertilizing venture. Soils sent in before April 1 will avoid the spring rush.

10 Tips for the February Gardener

house plant-Oregon1. Visit our booth at the 2014 CT Flower and Garden Show, Feb 20-23 in Hartford. Bring ½ cup of soil for a free pH test and your garden questions for free advice.

2. When buying houseplants in winter, be sure to wrap them well for the trip home and, if possible warm up the car. This prevents the foliage from freezing and protects tropicals from drafts.

3. Provide houseplants with increased humidity; mist often or place plants over a tray of moist pebbles.

4. Continue to clean leaves of large and smooth leaved houseplants like dracaena, philodendron, ficus etc.

5. Clean clay pots by soaking overnight in a solution of 1-gallon water and 1 cup of vinegar. Scrub to remove deposits. Repeat if necessary.

6. Avoid the use of sodium salts to melt snow, as it is toxic to most plants. Use sawdust, sand or cat litter instead.

7. Keep bird feeders filled throughout winter.

8. Check on winter plant protection; add mulch and adjust plant stakes as necessary.

9. Check your stored plants such as fuchsias and geraniums. Usually they need a light watering once a week depending on their storage temperature.

10. If you grow currants, remove all trunks that are over 3 years old on a mild day.

Ten Tips for the January Gardener

Photo: Iowa Extension

1. Protect your young fruit trees from hungry mice, who can chew the bark off at the soil line, weakening and possibly killing the trees Keep mulch several inches from trunks to keep the mice from hiding under it. Also, consider putting wire-screen mouse guards around the trunks of the trees.

2. Bring pruning tools inside and clean them for the upcoming season. Disassemble hand pruners, and loppers. Sharpen the blades, oil the levers, and remove any rust.

3. If your houseplants are growing tall and leggy, they probably need supplemental light. Move to a brighter location or consider investing in fluorescent lights.

4. Clean bird feeders regularly to avoid the spread of avian diseases. Disinfect the feeder monthly with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Clean droppings off and make sure the bird food isn’t moldy.

5. Spider mites may be a problem for your houseplants because of the dry indoor air. Look for the symptoms they cause- stippling on leaves and fine webbing on new growth. Spray them with insecticidal soap 2 to 3 times a week to kill the mites or small plants can be put over the sink and blasted with water.

6. Send for plant catalogs. Order early because some plants may be in limited supply.

7. Plan this year’s vegetable garden.

8. Prune limbs cracked by heavy snow or ice to prevent further ripping of bark.

9. Keep houseplant leaves away from cold windowpanes.

10. Start thinking of new landscape projects.

10 Tips for the December Gardener

poinsettia - clemson
Photo: Clemson Extension

This morning’s winter weather reminds us to check in on our gardens and house plants as well. Here are some helpful tips for your winter gardening needs:

  1. Tap the evergreen branches gently to remove snow and prevent the branches from breaking.
  2. Check fruits, vegetables, corms and tubers that you have in storage. Sort out any that show signs of disease and dispose of them.
  3. Houseplants may need to be watered more often when the heating system is on.
  4. Amaryllis bulbs may be started now. If they are established bulbs in old pots, two inches of soil should 
be removed from the surface and replaced with a good, rich mixture.
  5. Deck the Beds – For those who have a real Christmas tree, recycle it after the holidays are through. Cut off branches and use them as insulation over perennials. In the spring, chip or shred the branches to create mulch or add to the compost pile.
  6. Although many see it as a safer alternative to salt, resist using fertilizer to melt ice. This creates nitrogen runoff issues that could damage local bodies of water. Try using calcium chloride, sand or kitty litter instead.
  7. Continue to harvest Brussels sprouts. They’ll typically keep even when buried in snow drifts.
  8. Display poinsettias away from heat sources and cold drafts. Keep soil consistently moist, but not soggy. Poinsettias that dry out droop dramatically and drop their flowers.
  9. Don’t walk on frozen grass, especially if there is no snow cover. Without the protection of snow, grass blades are easily broken causing die-back in your lawn.
  10. If you have friends or family that like to garden, think of gardening gifts for the holidays. Books, gloves, hand tools, weather instruments, and fancy pots are some fun ideas to consider!

10 Tips for the November Gardener

1. Be sure not to store apples or pears with vegetables. The fruits give off ethylene gas which speeds up the breakdown of vegetables and will cause them to develop a strange taste.

Photo Credit: Maine Extension

2. Bring out the bird feeders and stock them with bird seed for the birds. Remember to provide fresh water for them too.

3. Rake and dispose of apple and cherry leaves. Good sanitation practices reduce re-infestation of insects and diseases the following season.

4. Use small stakes or markers where you’ve planted bulbs or late starting spring plants in the perennial garden, to avoid disturbing them when you begin spring soil preparation.

5. After the ground freezes, mulch small fruit plants such as strawberries. One inch of straw or leaves is ideal for strawberries. Small branches may be used to keep mulch in place.

6. Clean and fix all hand tools. Repaint handles or identification marks that have faded over the summer. Sharpen all blades and remove any rust.

7. Drain your hoses and put them away so they don’t freeze and burst.

8. Keep mowing your lawn as long as the grass is growing. Meadow voles and field mice will damage turf and nearby trees and shrubs if they have long grass for food and cover.

9. Rake and compost large leaves from oak and maple trees. Smaller leaves from ash, honey locust, and birch trees may be chopped with a mulching mower when dry and left on your lawn.

10. Winter heating dries the air out in your home considerably. Help your houseplants survive by routine watering or by placing the pots on a pebble filled tray of water to ensure adequate humidity and moisture.

10 Tips for the October Gardener

Photo: Clemson Extension
Photo: Clemson Extension

1. Use dried herbs to make fragrant fall wreaths and dried flower arrangements.

2. Pick bagworms from evergreen shrubs to eliminate the spring hatch from over-wintered eggs.

3. Cut down stems and foliage of herbaceous perennials after two or three hard frosts or when leaves begin to brown.

4. Squash and pumpkins should be harvested when they have bright color and a thick, hard skin. These vegetables will be abundant in farmer’s markets and will make a colorful and healthy addition to fall dinners.

5. Sketch out where you planted various vegetables in your garden back in the spring. This will come in handy next spring so when you plant, you can rotate your crops and help prevent disease.

6. If rain is lacking, continue to thoroughly water trees, shrubs, planting beds, and lawn areas. It is especially important to keep newly planted evergreens watered.

7. Outwit hungry squirrels and chipmunks by planting bulbs in established groundcovers.

8. Use a mulching blade to chop leaves finely and let them decompose on the lawn.

9. Keep collecting ripe seeds! Dry them out and place them in labeled brown paper envelops within an air tight container, and store in a cool place.

10. Limit herbaceous plant material located a few feet away from the house to eliminate hiding places for insects and mice, which could wind up indoors as temperatures plummet.

8 More Tips for the September Gardener

garden grass

1. Now is the time to de-thatch and aerate lawns to promote root growth if necessary.

2. Remove and compost spent annuals and fallen leaves.

3. If frost threatens, bring houseplants indoors. Keep in mind that Sept. 16- 22 is National Indoor Plant Week!

4. Pot up or propagate herbs to bring indoors for winter use.

5. Continue to turn and moisten compost piles to speed decomposition.

6. Plant peonies now, but make sure the crowns are buried only one and a half to two inches below ground level. Planting them deeper than two inches may keep them from blooming.

7. If pesky seedlings of woody plants, such as maple, elm or hackberry are found growing in your yard, remove them as soon as possible so they won’t take over gardens and other landscape plantings.

8. September is a great time to seed or overseed lawns.

Ten Tips for the July Gardener


Ten Tips for the July Gardener:

  1. Inspect garden plants regularly for insect and disease problems.
  2. Sanitation practices, insecticidal soaps, and insect traps are alternatives to pesticides.
  3. Properly placed shade trees will reduce air conditioning costs.
  4. Try shade tolerant ground covers in areas where lack of sunlight limits grass growth.
  5. Yellow leaves of cucurbits and tomatoes may indicate waterlogged conditions or the need for nitrogen because of all the rain we have received last month. Fertilize if necessary.
  6. Raise your mowing height to 3 inches during hot weather.
  7. Cucumbers get bitter if water is lacking during ripening.
  8. Tomato hornworms are large green caterpillars that feed on the leaves of tomatoes and related plants. Hand-pick or control with B.t.
  9. Cut back mums, tall asters, Montauk daisies and helianthus by about one-quarter for bushy, more floriferous plants.
  10. Hummingbirds are attracted to red salvia, coral bells and bee balm.

Ten Tips for the June Gardener


1. Lightly cultivate soil after a heavy rain to avoid compaction. A layer of mulch reduces the soil crusting and compaction caused by raindrops.

2. Check container plants daily during hot weather, they will need water often.

3. Check for small holes that signal flea beetle damage on tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.

4. There is still time to sow seeds of beans, beets, carrots, cucumbers, and summer squash.

5. Overgrown, multi-stemmed shrubs, like spirea, lilac, and forsythia, can be renovated by removing 1/3 of 
stems down to ground level each year for 3 years, allowing some new young growth to replace these 
older stems.

6. When deadheading rhododendrons, avoid breaking off leaf buds which are just below flowers.

7. Keep mower blades sharp and set your mower height at 2-3 inches.

8. Cut back early-flowering perennials to tidy up and encourage more blooms.

9. Mosquitoes breed in standing water. To discourage them, change the water in pet dishes and bird baths 
every few days.

10. For the sweetest pea harvest, pick regularly before pods become over-mature and peas become starchy.

For more information visit the UConn Home and Garden Center.