A plan for your garden through the seasons

A plan for your garden through the seasons

by C.L. Fornari

Before you know it, it will be May, and everywhere you look you'll see yard work that needs to be done.

You've intended to prune the shrubs along the foundation, divide some perennials, weed the flowerbeds, mulch and fertilize, but once it's time to plant annuals, you won't know what to do first.

Many people only think about their landscape in the spring, but if it's all left until then you'll be overwhelmed into inaction.

Landscapers know that they need to space the work over the seasons, so take a tip from the professionals, and get on a schedule. In the Northeast, you can follow this plan:

January, February and March

Winter months are great for pruning evergreens and summer-flowering shrubs. (Wait to prune spring bloomers until just after they've flowered.) Cut down ornamental grasses and any perennials that were left in the garden last fall.

If you haven't gotten around to amending existing beds (see October), do it before the end of March. Spread organic fertilizers.

April and May

Pull weeds and spread 2 inches of bark mulch to prevent more. Prune spring-flowering plants after they bloom.

Plant shrubs, perennials and trees at any time, and annuals and vegetables after the last frost date: April 10 for Washington D.C., April 20 for Philadelphia, and May 3 for Boston.


Pull weeds and take out unwanted, self-sown seedlings. Deadhead plants by clipping off spent flowers.


Pull weeds, replace any dead annuals, and if you irrigate, water deeply, but less often. In all but the hottest weather, the landscape only needs an inch a week.


Late in August is the best time to start a new lawn from seed. Deadhead and pull weeds.


Divide perennials or transplant. Plant perennials, shrubs and trees. Clean out, thin, divide or otherwise renew plants in overgrown perennial beds. Pull weeds. Have soil tested and add lime if needed.

October and November

Amend soil in existing beds by applying an inch of compost or composted manure on the surface of the soil. Cut any perennials that have turned brown to just above the ground. Pull weeds.


Prune evergreens and yes, pull any weeds you see.

Professional gardeners know that if weeds are pulled whenever they're spotted, there will never be a huge infestation.

They also understand that if you didn't get those perennials, shrubs and trees planted in March, April or May, it's perfectly alright to plant in June, July or August - just remember to keep these new plants watered.

There are old gardener sayings that go something like this: "Prune when the shears are sharp," or "Dig when the shovel's handy."

Translation: although it's helpful to follow a schedule, plants can be pretty forgiving about when garden tasks are done. However, if the thought of regular garden maintenance makes you cringe, you can always hire a professional off Angie's List.

C.L. Fornari is a writer, gardening expert, professional speaker and radio host who is dedicated to getting you into the garden. The Osterville, Mass., resident is a member of the Perennial Plant Association, American Plant Propagators Society, National Speakers Association and Garden Writers of America.

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