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TIP OF THE MONTH

January

Trees / Shrubs – Utilize Christmas tree branches to provide a light, airy shelter over perennials and broad leaved evergreens.

Flowers – Forcing bulbs this time of year makes great projects for kids and adults.  Paperwhite narcissus are a favorite.  Start seeds of slow growing annuals such as Ageratum, coleus, petunia and verbena for planting outdoors in May.

Pesky Bugs – Creepy crawly ants, seed beetles and ladybird beetles emerge from cracks and crevices this time of year in the home.  This does not mean that these insects have taken up residence there, just camping out for a while.  For occasional pesky visitors, utilize the vacuum instead of the spray can.  All others should be correctly identified before you control them!  Remember– Ladybugs are our friends!

Source: Rebecca Finneran – MSU Extension

February

Trees / Shrubs – Heavy snow and ice may crack limbs of trees and shrubs.  Prune off cracked limbs to avoid further ripping of bark.  Allow ice to melt naturally and finish corrective pruning when temps warm up.
Flowers – Late this month jump start your tender perennials by potting them up and placing in a 50-60 degree sunlit room.  Plants such as calla lily, cannas and elephant ears will benefit from getting a head start on the growing season.  These maybe planted outdoors after threats of freezing have past.
Pesky Bugs – Stored food pests are common in the house in winter.  Indian Meal Moths may be controlled by: destroying infested products, cleaning crevices of pantry with vacuum and damp cloth and packaging all fresh grain products in tightly sealed containers or the freezer.

Source: Rebecca Finneran – MSU Extension

March

Trees / Shrubs – Late winter is a great time to prune most deciduous trees and shrubs.  Don’t prune spring flowering shrubs such as azalea, forsythia and rhododendron.  Be careful to use sharp equipment.  Never leave stubs on branches and read pruning guidelines before you start! 

Flowers – Many annuals can be started indoors this month.  Check the seed packet for days to bloom and count backwards from the “frost free” date.  Check with your local MSU Extension office for the appropriate “frost-free” date for your area. Geraniums saved from the previous season will be sprouting now and can be potted up to grow into usable plants.

Lawns – clean-up lawn and leaf debris but don’t do any heavy raking. Over-zealous raking can damage the turf and make spring green up even later. 

Vegetables and Fruit – Start seedlings of cool season vegetables such as broccoli, since they can be set out in the garden before the frost free date.  Seedlings will need a bright sunny window or a grow light.  Use sterile, soiless media especially formulated for seedlings to avoid disease.  Don’t let your seedlings get too wet or too dry at this stage. 

Planning & Garden Design – Get serious about plant orders and landscape improvements.  Nothing can be more frustrating to a gardener than to know what you want and not be able to get it!

Pesky Bugs – Carpenter ants become active during sunny days in late winter.  When discovered in great numbers, they usually indicate a structural problem in the home. Since Carpenter ants only infest decaying wood, check first near refrigerators, chimneys or toilets to see where your structural problem is.  Bait stations can offer excellent control for a few ants.

Source: Rebecca Finneran – MSU Extension

April

Trees / Shrubs – Apply wood chips or shredded bark mulch one inch deep over existing beds or three to four inches in new areas for weed control and moisture retention.
Flowers – Warm spring temperatures allow for clean up in perennial and annual gardens. Withered foliage and debris should be composted away from the garden.  Leaf litter can harbor diseases and insect eggs that can re-infect your plants.  If cultivating annual beds, avoid days when the soil is soaking wet to avoid compaction.

Lawns – Get a lawn soil test before you make fertilizer or lime applications this spring.  Some Garden centers offer this service as well as your local MSU Extension Office.  A crabgrass preventative can be applied to problem areas about the time the forsythia blooms.
Vegetables and Fruit – Winter vegetables can be planted outdoors now.  Kale, cabbage, broccoli, radish and spinach.  Salad veggies can be sown in patches every two weeks to ensure a steady harvest.  Indoors tomatoes, peppers and eggplant can be started. 

Pesky Bugs – Gypsy Moth may be a problem in your area.  Young larvae can hatch anytime during mid April to May.  Bacillus thuriengensis (BT) is used as a biological insecticide to reduce levels of this pest.  Check with your Township or County to see if there is a control program in the area. 

Planting – Plant bare root, balled and burlapped, balled and potted, and container-grown ornamental landscape plants. Bare root plants should be dormant. Spring has become a traditional time for planting because environmental conditions favor planting. Soil and air temperatures should be above freezing. Plants adapt readily to the intensity of spring sunlight and are less likely to be stressed by dry weather.

Transplanting – Dig plants that were root pruned in the fall. Deciduous plants may be moved bare root before bud break, but broadleaf & narrowleaf evergreens should be moved balled & burlapped or balled & potted. Moving may be done whenever soil and air temperatures are above freezing. Root prune plants that you intend to move in September or October.

Pruning – Thin and rejuvenate overgrown or unhealthy deciduous plants to direct and control new growth.

Fertilizing – Fertilizer may be broadcast around ornamental landscape plants as the ground begins to thaw.

Watering – Irrigate newly planted, actively growing ornamentals any time there is less than 1 inch of weekly rainfall. Apply water at the rate of 1 quart per square foot of planting area on poorly drained soils. On well drained soils, use a half-gallon of water per square foot. Newly planted ornamentals not yet actively growing can be injured by overwatering.

Plant protection – For newly planted ornamentals, you may apply a pre-emergence herbicide before spreading a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the soil in the bed or around trees. Level winter mulch and use the excess to thicken thin spots in beds and around trees for a summer mulch to conserve moisture and prevent weed seed germination. Rodent tree trunk guards, rose cones and fabric wind screens around evergreens should be removed when freezing temperatures are no longer a threat.

Source: Rebecca Finneran – MSU Extension & Bulletin E-1947

May

Trees / Shrubs  –Prune overgrown shrubs at this time.  Careful removal of  one third of the thick woody stems will rejuvenate multi-stemmed shrubs like spirea, forsythia and honeysuckle for more bountiful blooms next year.

Flowers – May is planting time for bedding plants.  Watch weather carefully and follow your average “frost  free” date for your area to know when is the best time to plant.  Annual flowers give the most impact if they are planted in masses or groups.  Buy plants that have good colored foliage and are stocky plants. When you have a choice, fewer plants per pack result in less transplant shock & quicker cover.

Lawns – For people wanting a care free-way to determine timing for fertilizer application, try the “holiday” method.  Fertilize four times; (not more than 1 lb. of nitrogen each time) Memorial day, Fourth of July, Labor day and Thanksgiving.

Vegetables and Fruit – Begin preparing for fruit pest control before bloom and after.  Follow recommendations of insect and disease control products carefully to avoid killing beneficial organisms.   

Pesky Bugs – Mosquito reproduction skyrockets in the spring especially in areas where there is standing water. To eliminate breeding sites be sure to replenish water sources daily such as birdbaths, and dog dishes. Avoid puddles in your landscape as much as possible.   

Planting – Plant bare root, balled and burlapped, balled and potted, and container-grown ornamental landscape plants. Bare root plants should be dormant. Spring has become a traditional time for planting because environmental conditions favor planting. Soil and air temperatures should be above freezing. Plants adapt readily to the intensity of spring sunlight and are less likely to be stressed by dry weather.

Transplanting – Dig plants that were root pruned in the fall. Deciduous plants may be moved bare root before bud break, but broadleaf and narrowleaf evergreens should be moved balled and burlapped or balled and potted. Moving may be done whenever soil and air temperatures are above freezing.

Pruning – Thin broadleaf and narrowleaf evergreens when damaging low temperatures (below freezing) and drying winds are no longer a threat. Overgrown or unhealthy broadleaf evergreens may be rejuvenated to direct and control new growth. Shear formal hedges to maintain the desired shape, size and thick appearance.

Fertilizing – Fertilizer may be broadcast around ornamental landscape plants as the ground begins to thaw.

Watering – Irrigate newly planted, actively growing ornamentals any time there is less than 1 inch of weekly rainfall. Apply water at the rate of 1 quart per square foot of planting area on poorly drained soils. On well drained soils, use a half-gallon of water per square foot. Newly planted ornamentals not yet actively growing can be injured by overwatering.

Plant protection – For newly planted ornamentals, spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the soil in the bed or around trees. Level winter mulch and use the excess to thicken thin spots in beds and around trees for a summer mulch to conserve moisture.

Source: Rebecca Finneran – MSU Extension & Bulletin E-1947

June

Trees / Shrubs – Prune early summer flowering shrubs such as Rhododendron after they flower.  For Hydrangea, be sure to check the variety to see if it sets blooms on last year’s growth or not.

Flowers – Care for tulips and other spring flowering bulbs just like a perennial.  Regular fertilizer applications until foliage naturally withers away will help all bulbs re-bloom in subsequent seasons.  Some tulips have better re-bloom than others. Trim spent perennial blooms to encourage formation of additional flowers on some varieties.

Lawns – New research shows that lawns kept at a mowing height of 3-4 inches can better tolerate drought stress in summer as well more quickly recover from pest invasion.
Vegetables and Fruit – Thin apples & peaches to about 6 inches apart for adequate development of large fruits.  Early summer heat can stress young vegetable transplants.  Be sure they are receiving adequate moisture & fertilizer for good production of leaves & potential fruits. 

Planning / Garden Design – Visit gardens to get new ideas!  The MSU Demonstration Gardens are open free to the public and have well labeled plant material.   Call your local MSU Extension office for a brochure and map.

Pesky Bugs – Know the good guys. Take great care not to disturb the natural predator insects with an aggressive insecticide program.  A little research can go a long way in this department!

Planting – Plant balled and burlapped, balled and potted, and container-grown ornamental landscape plants.

Pruning – Thinning of broadleaf and narrowleaf evergreens may be done when damaging low temperatures (below freezing) and drying winds are no longer a threat. Head back and lightly shape evergreens to remove dead and broken branches and brown, winter-injured foliage. The new growth on the plant will help you identify healthy plant parts.

Watering – Irrigate newly planted or established ornamentals any time there is less than 1 inch of weekly rainfall and plants are actively growing. Apply water at the rate of 1 quart per square foot of planting area on poorly drained soils. On well drained soils, use a half-gallon of water per square foot.

Plant protection – For newly planted ornamentals, spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the soil in the bed or around trees.

Source: Rebecca Finneran – MSU Extension & Bulletin E-1947

July

Trees / Shrubs – Hand pick Japanese beetles and drop them into a soapy pail of water–or pay your kids to do it!  Adult beetles are difficult to control and using pheromone traps may just make the problem worse.  The bottom line is–if you have the menu, they will come to the restaurant!

Flowers – Annuals  and container plantings need regular fertilizer applications to continue bloom.  Liquid feed provides the most immediate results but is not long lasting.  Cut spent blooms from perennials to encourage mid-summer re-bloom.  Harvest blooms of attractive perennials and shrubs at peak bloom for dried floral arrangements later. 

Lawns – Fourth of July means fertilizer application!  Reduce levels of fertilizer applied in shady areas to avoid burning.  Hot summers can take their toll on cool-season turf grasses such as bluegrass.  Light, daily irrigation can reduce heat stress on lawns.  To avoid disease problems it’s best not to irrigate at night when the grass blade will stay wet for long periods of time.  Also, after heavy rainfall, back off the automatic sprinklers for a brief period. 

Vegetables and Fruit – Renovate and fertilize your strawberry patch right after harvest to increase production next year.

Planning / Garden Design – If you’re tired of hauling the hose around, plan for  next year to incorporate drip irrigation or “leaky” hose in flower and shrub beds. 

Pesky Bugs – If the bugs don’t bug you–the animals will.  Summertime vegetable gardens mean good eating for woodchucks and other rodents.  Chicken wire fences can help keep them out of garden areas, however browsing deer will not be deterred by such devises unless the device is tall.  Ten foot electric fences are the only sure way to discourage deer from feeding, however a variety of repellents work for short periods of time.  Remember to change your strategy continually, because they can get used to anything!

Planting – Plant balled and burlapped, balled and potted, and container-grown ornamental landscape plants.

Pruning – Head back the new growth and lightly shape broadleaf evergreen, deciduous and narrowleaf evergreen shrubs. Shear formal hedges to maintain the desired shape, size and thick appearance.

Watering – Irrigate newly planted or established ornamentals any time there is less than 1 inch of weekly rainfall and plants are actively growing. Apply water at the rate or 1 quart per square foot of planting area on poorly drained soils. On well-drained soils, use a half-gallon of water per square foot.

Plant protection – For newly planted ornamentals, spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the soil in the bed or around trees.

Source: Rebecca Finneran – MSU Extension & Bulletin E-1947

August

Trees / Shrubs – Early fall through mid October is a good time to be thinking about establishing new trees and shrubs.  Consider plants that have four season interest and loads of winter character!   Pruning now is NOT recommended!

Flowers – Early fall is a good time to dig and divide perennials.  Select clusters that are not blooming as prolifically.  Many perennials benefit from being divided every three years while some prefer never to be touched.  Consult a comprehensive perennial maintenance book for recommendations. 

Lawns – Labor Day is lawn fertilization day.  Remember, only one pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet! This application will help turf regain some thickness it may have lost over the summer months. Early fall is also a good time to incorporate broadleaf weed control.  Do not use “weed-n-feed” products on flowers and veggies!

Vegetables & Fruit – Harvest time for veggies and some fruits means looking for adequate preservation information.  The MSU Extension food preservation Hotline is 336-3265 (Kent County) or call your local MSU Extension Office.

Planting—Plant balled and burlapped, balled and potted, and container-grown ornamental landscape plants.

Watering – Irrigate newly planted or established ornamentals any time there is less than 1 inch of weekly rainfall and plants are actively growing. Apply water at the rate or 1 quart per square foot of planting area on poorly drained soils. On well-drained soils, use a half-gallon of water per square foot.

Plant protection – For newly planted ornamentals, spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the soil in the bed or around trees.

Source: Rebecca Finneran – MSU Extension & Bulletin E-1947

September

Trees / Shrubs – Keep planting

Flowers – Dig tender perennials such as canna, dahlia, and elephant ears before a hard frost.  Store in garage or root cellar where temperatures are cool but not freezing.

Lawns – Lawns can be seeded easily in September due to increased rainfall and decreased temperatures.  Weed seeds are not as likely to compete in fall seedlings also.  Remember to use a starter fertilizer with your seed.  Depending on rainfall, watering may need to continue into late September.

Vegetables and Fruit – Harvest squash and allow them to dry thoroughly before storing.  Frost can occur this month so cover tender vegetables with plastic or cloth to prolong your harvest season of tomatoes and peppers.  Vegetables like cabbage, parsley and spinach can tolerate cold well.

Pesky Bugs – Wasp nests become very visible once the leaves start falling off.  If the wasps are not bothering you, leave them alone, as they will complete their life cycle naturally & move on.  Yellow jackets are more aggressive and will invade your picnic, so be careful of them.

Planting-Plant balled & burlapped, balled & potted, and container-grown ornamental plants.

Transplanting – Dig plants that were root pruned in the spring. Deciduous plants may be moved bare root, but narrow leaf evergreens should be moved balled and burlapped or balled and potted. Plants that are to be transplanted in the spring should be root pruned now.

Fertilizing – One of the first priorities after selecting a fall planting site and before planting is to test the soil. Soils in established landscapes should be tested every three years and corrective action taken as needed.

Watering – Irrigate newly planted or established ornamentals any time there is less than 1 inch of weekly rainfall and plants are actively growing. Apply water at the rate or 1 quart per square foot of planting area on poorly drained soils. On well-drained soils, use a half-gallon of water per square foot. Be sure to maintain adequate moisture levels this month to ensure good root growth prior to winter dormancy.

Plant protection – For newly planted ornamentals, you may apply a pre-emergence herbicide before spreading a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the soil in the bed or around trees.

Source: Rebecca Finneran – MSU Extension & Bulletin E-1947

October

Flowers – Perennial gardens will benefit from general clean up and removal of dead leaf litter where insects or disease were a problem this summer.  Incorporate compost or organic matter into soil as dividing and renovation activities go on.

Lawns – Winterize irrigation system before a hard freeze.

Vegetables and Fruit – Clean up withered leaf tissue to minimize disease pathogens and insect problems next year.

Pesky Bugs – If box elder bugs, beetles and ants have been a problem in the home this summer, plan on caulking cracks around windows, doors and sealing foundations.

Planting – Plant bare root, balled and burlapped, balled and potted, and container-grown deciduous and narrowleaf evergreen ornamental plants. Bare root plants should be dormant.

Transplanting – Dig plants that were root pruned in the spring. Deciduous plants may be moved bare root, but narrowleaf evergreens should be moved balled and burlapped or balled and potted. Plants that are to be transplanted in the spring should be root pruned now.

Pruning – Head back herbaceous perennial stems after the tops die.

Fertilizing – Fall is the best time to broadcast fertilizer around ornamental landscape plants. Roots are actively growing and absorbing nutrients to support spring growth.

Watering – Irrigate newly planted ornamentals any time there is less than 1 inch of weekly rainfall and plants are actively growing. Apply water at the rate or 1 quart per square foot of planting area on poorly drained soils. On well-drained soils, use a half-gallon of water per square foot. Be sure to maintain adequate soil moisture this month to aid good root growth prior to winter dormancy.

Plant protection—For newly planted ornamentals, you may apply a pre-emergence herbicide before spreading a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the soil in the bed or around trees. Rodent tree trunk guards, mulch, rose cones and fabric wind screens should be put in place around evergreens before the average daily temperatures are below freezing.

Source: Rebecca Finneran – MSU Extension & Bulletin E-1947

November-December

Trees / Shrubs – Late fall feeding for trees and shrubs is recommended where a visible deficiency or stunting has occurred.  Trees severely defoliated by Gypsy Moth may also benefit from feeding at this time.

Lawns – The November lawn feeding has been touted as the single most important time to fertilize.   Roots of turf are still active and will utilize nutrients to rebuild themselves for the coming season.  A fall application of fertilizer will also give you a quick green up in the spring.

Pruning – Head back herbaceous perennial stems after the tops die.

Watering – Irrigate newly planted ornamentals any time there is less than 1 inch of weekly rainfall and plants are actively growing. Apply water at the rate of 1 quart per square foot of planting area on poorly drained soils. On well-drained soils, use a half-gallon of water per square foot. Be sure to maintain adequate soil moisture this month to aid good root growth prior to winter dormancy.

Plant protection – For newly planted ornamentals, spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the soil in the bed or around trees. Rodent tree trunk guards, mulch, rose cones and fabric wind screens around evergreens should be put in place before the average daily temperatures are below freezing.

Source: Rebecca Finneran – MSU Extension & Bulletin E-1947