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Dr. Gouin’s Bay
Gardener Primer

A month-by-month guide to keeping your garden growing strong


• Design your garden and/or landscape and determine the number of each species needed.


• Scratch out garden weeds now before they grow big.

• Clean out and repair bird houses

• Cut branches of flowering quince and camellia japonica for indoor forcing

• At month’s end, cut branches of forsythia, weigela, flowering almond, peach and cherry for indoor forcing

• Sharpen and clean all garden tools.

• Prune summer-flowering shrubs, vines and crape myrtle.


• Sow seeds of cabbage, kale, broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, spinach, celery indoors

• Sow seeds of petunia, impatience, coleus

• Remove from cold storage potted bulbs of narcissus, tulips, crocus and hyacinths for forcing in time for Easter

• Rototill the vegetable garden at least two weeks before planting potatoes, peas and asparagus by the end of the month.

• Remove excess straw from strawberry bed. Leave only a light dusting of straw to protect the strawberries from direct contact with the soil

• Prune butterfly bush.

• Rake away leaves and debris and clear dead plants from beds.

• Plant earliest cool weather crops: peas, potatoes, lettuce, spinach, chard.

• Prune summer-flowering roses (Spring-flowering roses. should only be pruned after flowering). 18 inches is the optimum height.

• Mulch perennials


• Mow old annuals and perennials with the mower set high; leave roots in place

• Plant container-grown or balled and burlapped trees and shrubs.

• Spread an inch of compost over the flower garden.

• Divide perennials, ornamental grasses

• Last chance to prune summer-flowering roses.

• Paint nail polish on all cut rose canes thicker than a pencil.

• Plant onions, peas, potatoes, parsnips, beets, Swiss chard and carrots.

• Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, celery.

• Prune hydrangeas.

• Cut out old, gray stems of forsythia after blooming.

• Plant perennials, herbs and less hardy cool crops.


• Last chance to prune crape myrtle.

• Remove seed heads from tulips, narcissus and hyacinths.

• Set the lawn mower to at least 3.5 inches to crowd out weeds and improve turf.

• Thin seedlings of carrots, beets, Swiss chard and parsnips.

• Plant corn, beans, squash, cucumbers.

• Transplant annuals in the flower and vegetable garden.

• Prune spring bloomers including spring-flowering roses, azaleas, rhododendrons, andromeda, mountain laurel, forsythia, weigela, spirea, viburnum, flowering crab apples, lilacs, cherry laurel — after they have finished flowering.

• Pick (or pick up) asparagus.

• Plant your full garden after May 10.


• Dig and divide daffodil bulbs.

• Pick strawberries, blueberries.

• Hill potatoes with compost to control Colorado potato beetle.

• Install drip irrigation to maximize water use and minimize water need.

• Spray Bt to control cabbage loopers on cabbage, broccoli.

• Start training tomato plants to grow upright on stakes or trellises.

• Prune wigelia as forsythia (See April)

• Fertilize roses and spray for mildew and black spot

• Stake plants before they grow too big to prevent broken branches or fallen over stems later.


• Hill potatoes with enough compost to prevent the leaves from touching the ground.

• Hand-prune yews, hollies, photinia, junipers, viburnums.

• Start harvesting garlic as soon as the leaves begin turning yellow-green.

• Harvest early varieties of corn and tomatoes.

• Dead-head herbaceous plants such as delphiniums and peonies to keep them tidy, and those such as petunias and nasturtium to keep them flowering.

• Prune hedges. Make the bottom slightly wider than the top to avoid bare bottoms.

• Check all plants, especially those newly planted, for water on a regular basis. Water deeply and thoroughly.

• Kill Bermuda grass with Roundup.

• Keep edges well trimmed; cut back with an edging iron those that have spread.

• Cut back mint, thyme and lemon balm to prevent a raggedy appearance.

• Water lawn and flowers in the morning to avoid wilting in the heat of the day and to prevent mildew and root-rot at night.

• Give cool-season crops a cold head start: For near-perfect germination, sow seeds in trays and keep them in your air-conditioned home until they germinate, then move them outdoors in full sun.


• Harvest peppers for now and later.

• Harvest onions when the leaves change from dark blue green to pale green. Cure for at least two weeks in shade before storing

• Top-seed lawn to fill in bare spots


• Sow the seeds for fresh broccoli, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens and kohlrabi.

• Plant garlic cloves for next year’s harvest

• Divide peonies and iris now for more spring blooms

• Plant tulip, narcissus, crocus, hyacinths, grape hyacinths.

• Plant tulip, narcissus, crocus, hyacinths, grape hyacinths in pots for Easter.

• Top-dress lawn with compost at the rate of two cubic yards per 1,000 square feet.

• Start a compost pile using garden waste.

• Plant mums for autumn color.

• Service your chain saw.

• Plant spring-flowering bulbs like daffodils and crocus.


• Mulch azaleas with compost or fertilized them with Holly Tone.

• Rake leaves under shrubs for mulch.

• Use excess leaves in compost. Mix old compost with new leaves and keep sprinkler working to wet compost.

• Build a cold frame to grow lettuce, spinach, radishes and walking onions during winter.

• Kill bamboo and kudzu with Roundup. Make two applications two weeks apart at the recommended concentration.

• Plant pansies and ornamental cabbage for cool-weather color.

• Fertilize azaleas and bluegrass or fescue lawns.

• Terra cotta pots break in cold weather: Bleach them to kill mold and mildew, then dry and stack in shed, garage or basement.


• Plant potted shrubs before they freeze.

• After first frost, start harvesting collards, kale, Brussel sprouts, broccoli

• Clean garden with lawn mower and sow winter rye at eight pounds per 1,000 sq. ft.

• Cut back shrub roses to within 18 inches of the ground to prevent wind whipping of canes

• Wet down compost pile weekly


• Cut greens for the holidays and plunge them into a pail of 100-degree water.

• Your Christmas tree needs the same treatment — but first cut one to two inches off the base.

• Spray evergreen decorations with two percent solution of horticultural oil or Plant Shine for brighter leaves.

• Bring a living Christmas tree indoors on day before Christmas; move back outdoors no later than Jan. 2.

• Move bay laurel plants and trees indoors for winter protection.

• Decorate for Christmas with greens of yews, firs, Colorado spruce, arborvitae, junipers, hollies, cherry laurel, boxwood and more; Avoid hemlock, Norway spruce, Cryptomeria, red cedar and Japanese privet.

• Force narcissus and amaryllis bulbs indoors.

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