February 20 to 26, 2017: unusually warm temperatures have bulbs pushing up and trees budding ahead of schedule. We’re spending this week pruning fruit trees and and starting seeds indoors for the spring garden.
Winter’s days reveal the bones of the garden and lend themselves to garden design.
Spring ushers in a flurry of preparing, planting, and growing.
Summer brings in the first of the harvest as we nurture the garden through weeds, heat, and dry spells.
Autumn days are packed with harvesting, planting, and improving the soil.
Plant the last of the bulbs. You can plant leftover spring-blooming bulbs until the ground freezes.
Apply compost or manure to garden beds. Put these organic materials down now, to let winter rains, worms, and the freeze-thaw cycle work them into the ground.
Apply winter mulch after the ground freezes. If you have newly planted or especially tender plants, cover them with winter mulch once they go dormant.
Order new seed catalogs from some of our favorite companies.
Daydream about this year’s garden. Read books and magazines, sketch out your ideas, and linger over the thought of summer in your garden.
Order your seeds. Seek out smaller nurseries and those specializing in organic and sustainable practices.
Start seeds of cool-season vegetables indoors to give broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower a head start.
Prune fruit trees while plants are still dormant.
Get gardening tools ready. Sharpen and oil pruners; check shovels, spades, and rakes for wear and tear; and tune up lawnmower and sharpen blade.
Clean up beds. Clean up last year’s plant debris and recycle it into compost if possible.
Invasive or diseased plants should go in the trash instead.
Prune damaged limbs on shrubs and trees, but avoid heavy pruning of spring flowering trees and shrubs in order to maintain flowering.
Sow cold-season vegetables such as potatoes, peas, and, carrots directly in the garden, if the soil is workable. (If the soil rolls into a ball in your hands, it is too wet to work.)
Sow warm-weather vegetables inside. Start warm-season vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant inside in late March to transplant to garden in mid-May.
Avoid the lawn. Fertilizing now leads to top growth at the expense of root health.
Fertilize shrubs and perennials when you notice buds swelling on shrubs and ornamental trees. Side dress plants with organic fertilizer, like composted cow manure or homemade compost.
Begin mowing lawn at a height of 3.0” to 3.5” inches.
Plant perennials, shrubs, and trees, once the soil is dry enough. Working in wet soil can damage the soil structure.
Make successive plantings of lettuce, spinach, radishes, beets, and carrots about every two weeks until May.
Transplant out spring crops you started inside, like broccoli and cabbage.
Plant asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, and bramble fruits.
Don’t fertilize the lawn. If weeds were a problem last year, apply corn gluten meal, an organic pre-emergent herbicide. Apply it by the time the dandelions start blooming.
Plant tender annuals, after threat of frost has passed. In central Indiana, the frost-free date is May 12.
Plant warm-season garden vegetables. Direct sow vegetables such as beans, pumpkins, squash, corn, and edamame into the garden. Plant out tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and other transplants late in the month after the soil has warmed.
Prune spring flowering trees and shrubs. Remove damaged limbs and thin out if necessary once blooming is done. Thin fruits on fruit trees.
Harvest asparagus, rhubarb, early strawberries, and early plantings of spring vegetables.
Fertilize lawn. Apply an organic fertilizer, such as W.O.W. Plus, late in the month.
Harvest asparagus and rhubarb early in the month. Keep harvesting strawberries and spring crops.
Continue succession planting of beans, carrots, sweet corn, and muskmelon for fall harvest.
Mulch. As soil temperatures rise, plants welcome the added protection, cooling cover, and water retention that mulch gives. For proper coverage, use 2″ to 4″ of compost, grass clippings, shredded bark, or straw.
Finish pruning spring-flowering trees and shrubs.
Weed. Stay on top of weeds, and don’t let them go to seed.
Mow lawn at a minimum of 3″ and mow in late afternoon or early evening to conserve soil moisture. Leave clippings on lawn.
Water trees, shrubs, and perennials as necessary. Plants need an average of 1” of water a week. Water in early morning and avoid watering over top of plant.
Finish mulching. If you were not able to mulch garden in May or June, it is not too late to do so, especially for young, tender plants.
Continue mowing lawn at a minimum of 3.″ Water only if the lawn has gone more than a month without precipitation. Kentucky Bluegrass will suffer in these conditions, but will revive and be fine later in summer when heat lessens.
Start seeds for fall crops. Plant up your broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
Renovate June-bearing strawberries by cutting the leaves above the crown (leave ever-bearing and day-neutral types alone to ensure continued harvest).
Harvest summer-bearing raspberries and the first of the summer crops.
Shear formal hedges such as boxwood and yew. These plants have finally stopped their lush vegetative growth and will now handle shearing well.
Water if plants wilt or show other signs of thirst.
Prune and deadhead to encourage continued flowering and plant health.
Seed or overseed the lawn between mid-August and mid-September. Late summer into early fall is the best time to start a new lawn from seed, although you can lay sod almost any time of year.
Clean up your raspberry and blackberry canes. Remove spent canes of raspberry and blackberry that bore fruit this year.
Keep harvesting your summer crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, and melons.
Transplant fall crops like broccoli, caulifower, and Brussels sprouts. Direct sow fall collards, endive, turnip, kale, kohlrabi, fall lettuce, spinach, cornsalad, and radish.
Harvest early apples and pears.
Order spring bulbs; local garden centers will have a great selection at this time, as will online sources.
Plant new trees, shrubs, and perennials. Cooler temperatures and fall rains help them get established.
Harvest fall fruits. Pears, apples, everbearing strawberries, and autumn raspberries are all ready now. Keep harvesting melons, tomatoes, peppers, and other warm-season crops too. Harvest potatoes after the tops die back.
Finish up fall vegetable planting. Plant radish, onion sets, leaf lettuce, endive, and spinach in the vegetable garden for fall harvest.
Bring in holiday poinsettias and amaryllis from outside. If you’ve had these plants in your garden all summer, bring them in to prepare for blooming. Both amaryllis and poinsettia (especially) require a darkened and cool storage period.
Take care of the lawn. Continue cutting lawn at a minimum of 3″ and mow in late afternoon or early evening to conserve soil moisture. Apply an organic fertilizer mid-September.
Plant for spring color; October is the ideal time for planting spring-flowering bulbs.
Continue deadheading and weeding. Hold off on pruning until trees and shrubs go dormant, although you can continue to remove dead or damaged wood.
Mow leaves into lawn. Continue mowing the leaves at a minimum of 3″, and use those fallen leaves in the garden.
Harvest vegetables like Brussels sprouts, pumpkins, winter squash, and the last of tomatoes.
Plant a cover crop in the vegetable garden; it protects soil from compaction and add nutrients.
Clean up in the garden, but only as much as you have to. Remove damaged or diseased foliage, and leave the rest standing to provide winter cover and protection for the plants.
Tidy up around the fruit trees. If you have fruit trees, clean up under and around them to dissuade disease carry over into next year.
Water your plants. As in the summer, monitor your garden for water needs. We often overlook them in the late fall and winter.
Take damage off trees and shrubs. Lightly prune as necessary to remove dead or damaged branches.
Mulch your root crops. You can continue to harvest carrots and beets into winter if you lay a thick layer of mulch over them.
Prepare your lawn for winter. Keep mowing at minimum height of 3.0″ as needed and mulching leaves for use as leaf mold, compost, or mulch.