Monthly Gardening Tips

Here are a couple of helpful tips and tricks on what to be doing in our garden throughout the year from our local Master Gardeners. Click on the month you are interested in to read the best advise during that gardening season. These tips are for the growing season and beyond!

Looking for an Expert to Advise on your Garden Questions? ASK A GARDENING QUESTION on the Wisconsin Horticulture page can answer any question you may have about gardening.

Happy Gardening!


Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle… a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl.  And the anticipation nurtures our dream.”           Barbara Winkler

Garden Guide

  • Inspect gladiolus corms, dahlia tubers, begonia tubers and other fleshy rooted plants for rot and desiccation.
  • Before ordering vegetable seeds, check last year’s seed for viability by placing seeds between moist paper towels for several days.
  • To keep your houseplants growing evenly, give the containers a half turn every two days.
  • Start seed for impatiens, vinca, pansies, geranium and begonias in mid month.
  • Continue to inspect stored vegetables.
  • Check for over wintering fire blight cankers on susceptible varieties of apples and pears; remove by pruning.
  • Spray dormant oil to control scale and other over wintering pests.  Spray on any day above 40 degrees F when forecast temperatures are to remain above freezing for 24 hours.  This may be done until buds swell.
  • Prune dormant trees and summer flowering shrubs.  Don’t prune spring flowering shrubs until after they have flowered.
  • When forced bulbs have bloomed and tops have dried, store and then plant in garden in fall.
  • Prune roses, fruit trees and bramble fruits.
  • Order catalogs from seed companies you’ve been meaning to try.
  • Check your garden tools and make a list of new tools you will need or want.
  • Sharpen garden tools.
  • Give houseplants a monthly shower with tepid water.
  • Check young trees and shrubs for rodent injury on lower trunks.  Prevent rodent injury with hardware cloth or protective collars.
  • Try growing some perennials from seed.
  • Don’t use seeds with poor germination rates; seedlings may be more prone to insect and disease problems.
  • Use a sterile soil-less medium for starting seeds to avoid dampening off.

– Taken from the Portage County Master Gardeners Newsletter-


 “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

 -Abraham Lincoln

Garden Guide

  • Plant tuberous rooted begonias indoors early month
  • Begin regular fertilization of houseplants
  • March is a good month to make cuttings of many houseplants.
  • Order perennial plants and specify that they are to be delivered when the ground is workable.
  • Start seeds of slow-growing annuals.  Transfer them as appropriate in April to cold frame.
  • Start bulbs of calla.  they will bloom from June to August.
  • Start seedlings of cabbage, celery, culiflower, head lettuce, and parsley.
  • Keep amaryllis foliage growing by watering and feeding.
  • Continue to inspect stored vegetables.  Anything showing signs of spoilage should be removed immediately and either used or discarded.
  • Don’t worry if spring-flowering bulbs are sending up green leaves.  The foliage can withstand winter weather.
  • March is the leanest month for wildlife, so protect shrubs and plants with wire cages or sprinkle ground with cat hair or blood meal.
  • Do not remove mulch from perennials too early.  Keep light covering of mulch over spring bulbs.
  • Rake off last season’s mulches on garden soil so it can dry and be warmed by the sun.  remove any plant residue from last year.
  • If the compost pile froze during winter, turn it now, and add fresh manure to help restart the composting process.
  • Finish pruning dormant trees.
  • Sharpen lawn mower blades and have mower serviced before spring rush.
  • If you fertilize, apply to shade trees, fruit trees and shrubs when buds swell, as well as to evergreens and raspberries.
  • Prune summer flowering (after end of June) shrubs.
  • Finish pruning grapes.  Non-dormant pruning will cause excessive bleeding
  • Finish dormant pruning of fruit trees and berry bushes. Remove diseased or infected branches.

Article taken from the Portage County Master Gardeners newsletter.


“Gardening is learning, learning, learning. That’s the fun of them. You’re always learning.” –Helen Mirren

Garden Guide

Start tomato seeds indoors.  Research shows seven-week old transplants produce the earliest fruit and best overall results.

– Cut back over-wintered geraniums to six to eight inches.

– Start fast-growing annual flowers indoors.

– Start seedlings of eggplant, okra, peppers and broccoli/

-Set out Lily of the Valley clumps with pips just even with the ground

– When annual beds can be worked, turn over green manure crop such as annual rye in beds for annuals and vegetables.  If none was planted, top dress with compost or rotted manure.

– Remove mulch from spring flowering bulb beds.

– Container grown or balled and bur lapped trees and shrubs can be planted at any time during the growing season.

– Divide perennials and pot for the PCMG plant sale by the end of the month.  This will provide roots time to get established.

– Prune and fertilize all bush fruits and grapes.  Fertilize fruit trees as soon as possible after ground thaws but before blossoming.

– Plant rhubarb and asparagus as soon as ground can be worked.

– Remove rose cones when soil thaws.  Gradually remove soil mound from around rose plants.


“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.” –Georgia O’Keefe

Garden Guide

Garden Guide

  • Set Easter lilies in garden
  • Plant cool-weather crops: lettuce, spinach, chard, parsnip, onion sets, beets, carrots, kohlrabi, mustard, turnips, radishes, peas, parsley, and potatoes in early May. Soil temperatures should be at least 45 degrees.
  • Plant snap beans, pole beans, sweet corn, and onion plants in mid-May. Sweet corn planted earlier in the season has fewer pest problems.
  • Inspect for Iris borer larva on iris leaves. Crush larva.
  • For bigger Peony flowers, de-bud several branches. Stake before buds open.
  • Set out pansy plants when ground is workable.
  • Dig and divide mid summer and fall blooming perennials before tip growth gets too tall.
  • Plant tuberous begonias.
  • Watch birch leaves for birch leaf miner infestation. Use sticky traps to monitor emergence of adults to help time spraying with summer oil, Neem extract, or totenone. Sprays are only effective on adults or larvae before they tunnel into leaves. Some soil applied systemic chemicals may be effective in controlling larvae after they have tunneled into leaves.
  • Plant tomato seedlings by pinching off lower leaves and placing on its side in a shallow furrow 2.5 inches below the soil surface. Soil closer to the surface is warmer and will speed tomato growth.
  • Plant strawberries, bush fruits and grapes in mid month. Pinch blossoms from newly planted strawberries to develop strong plants for next year.
  • Remove faded flowers from spring-flowering bulbs. Cut off stalks but allow leaves to die down naturally. Fertilize after blooming with 5 10-20.
  • Plant stored geraniums in well-drained soil after last frost and keep moist. Growth should begin in one week.
  • Prune spring-flowering shrubs after flowers have faded. Apply fertilizer.
  • Toward end of month, harden off seedlings of vegetable transplants and annuals grown indoors. Bring in at night or place in cold frames before planting in garden.



“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace. ” May Sarton

 Garden Guide

  • Flowers
    • Water Gladiolus and dahlias weekly to a depth of 6-8″
    • Water flower beds at least once a week during dry spells. Remove old lily blooms
    • Peony bushes chould be mulched and seedpods removed.
    • Take cuttings from roses and spring flowering shrubs or new plant propagation when stems no longer succulent but not yet hardened
    • Cut old canes of climbing roses so new shoots can grow.
    • Control rust on hollyhock by removing infected leaves.
    • Divide iris and day lily when done blooming. Cut leaves back to about 8″.
    • Thin and transplant perennials sown in June.
    • Complete outdoor sowing of perennial seed.
  • Vegetables
    • Inspect vegetables and herbs for pests daily and treat.
    • Harvest onions and early potatoes when tops begin to shrivel.
    • In early July, plant lettuce and spinach for fall crop. Pre-germinate on moist towel or plant deeper than in spring.
    • Plant kale, bunching onions, cucumbers, beets, rutabagas, and turnips, cabbage family seedlings and peas for fall harvest.
    • Keep tomatoes mulched and watered to prevent blossom end rot.
    • Keep ripe vegetables picked to maintain productivity.
    • General Garden Maintenance
    • Control garden weeds to prevent them from going to seed.
    • Water plants well for maximum growth.
    • Clear garden beds immediately after harvest. Destroy any diseased plants by burning, composting in a hot pile, or sealing in container for disposal.
  • Lawn, Shrubs, and Trees
    • Watch for spider mites during hot, dry weather. Juniper and spruce needles turn rusty colored if infested.
    • Water newly planted trees weekly if needed throughout the summer and apply a mulch (3″ or less) to maintain even soil moisture.
    • During dry spells, water all trees deeply every 2-3 weeks.
    • Prune yews, junipers, and arborvitae by mid-july.
  • Fruits
    • Remove suckers from grafted plants. Water fruit trees during dry spells or they may abort fruit. Trees need 1″ of water weekly during fruit growth.
    • Remove old canes of summer bearing red raspberries after harvest. Thin new canes to 3-4 canes per foot of row or 9-10 canes per hill. For black rapsberries, thin new canes to 10 per hill. Cut tips of new canes back around July 1. Cut raspberry tips back to 2′, blackberry tips back to 4″ and purple and yellow raspberry tips to 30-36″ above the soil.
    • Keep orchard grass mowed and raked to discourage fungal pathogens harbored in tall grass and plant debris. Hang baited red sticky ball traps in apple trees for apple maggot control.

~ Published in Portage County Master Gardeners Newsletter ~


“A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them. ” Liberty Hyde Bailey

Garden Guide

  • Mulch dahilias to conserve moisture and eliminate weeds.
  • Stake plants with heavy blooms.
  • Order spring-flowering bulbs for fall planting
  • Keep phlox plants deadheaded. Never let phlox go to seed if you want to keep colors true.
  • Start seeds of daisy, coreopsis, sweet william and pansy in peat pots or nursery beds.
    Transfer to permanent beds in late September or early October.
  • Cut Gladiolus blooms leaving maximum amount of foliage on plants.
  • Transplant and divide iris and day lily.
  • Watch for red spider mites on phlox.
  • Plant chrysanthimums for fall color. Fall planted chrysanthimums
    need extra winter protection.
  • In mid-month, take cuttings of coleus, geraniums and
    other plants for winter houseplants.
  • Plant Madonna lily and Japanese and Siberian Iris.
  • Continue watering flowerbeds at least once a week during dry periods.
  • Plant or transplant oriental poppies.
    Do not mulch, as they prefer hot, sun-baked ground.
  • Bring poinsettias indoors.
  • By the end of the month, start withholding water from amaryllis.
    Amaryllis requires an eight-week period of drought to bloom.
    Place in cool basement for 3-month rest.
  • Sow cover crops in vegetable garden areas not in use.
  • Cut and dry or freeze herbs. Pick herbs just before
    blossoms open for best flavor.
  • Inspect corn regularly. Corn pests become abundant in mid-August.
  • Keep eggplant and peppers picked so younger fruit develops.
  • Plant late crops of radishes, lettuce, spinach and beets.
  • Mid-August to mid-September is the best time to establish grass seed.
    Keep soil moist at all times or seed will dry and die.
  • Plant evergreens now through mid-September so they are
    well established before winter.
  • Remove thatch from lawn if more than 1/2 inch thick.
  • Tip layer black and purple raspberries for replacement.
  • Fertilize strawberries with 10-10-10 fertilizer applied at
    2-3 pounds per 100 square feet. Thin plants if needed.
  • Maintain lime-sulfur spray program on tree fruit to control apple
    and pear scab and certain other diseases.
  • Collect and bury diseased, mummified plums for future brown-rot control. Reference: Portage County Master Gardener Newsletter.
    UW Extension Portage County, Pg.6.


“The lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives.”

Gertrude Jekyll

Garden Guide

  • Allowing September rose blooms to stay on plants aids in winter protection.
    Watch for black spot on roses and remove infected leaves
  • Lift gladiolus corms when leaves begin to brown. Dry in sun a few days.
  • Divide most perennials except asters and mums, which haven’t bloomed.
  • Divide and replant peony roots. Avoid planting too deeply.
  • Bring coleus, geranium, caldium and begonias indoors.
  • Place amaryllis in cool basement for a 3-month rest.
  • To set buds, Christmas cacti require a rest period and cool nights (55 degrees).
  • Sow snap dragons, cornflowers and other hardy annuals a few weeks before the first frost date.
    Mark where planted to avoid damaging seedlings in spring.
  • Carefully inspect spring flowering bulbs before planting. Discard soft bulbs.
  • Remove newly set tomatoes, blossoms and new growth five weeks before expected frost
    because they won’t have time to mature.
  • Sow annual ryegrass or oats for winter cover and green manure in beds that won’t be
    planted until late in spring. Keep watered.
  • Remove all weeds from garden before they go to seed.
  • Pinch out the growing points at the top of Brussel sprout stems so bottom sprouts will reach maturity.
  • Watch for early frosts, Cover the garden when frost is predicted to obtain another month
    of growth. Water plants well for greater frost protection and maximum growth.
  • Cut back perennials after frost
  • Dig and pot parsley, chives, and tender herbs for transfer indoors to sunny window
  • For better keeping, harvest carrots, beets, and turnips before first frost kills foliage.
  • Gather squash, pumpkins, and gourds when ripe and before frost damage.
    Leave 2-inch stem on vegetable for better storage
  • Clear garden beds immediately after harvest. Destroy any diseased plants by burning,
    composting in a hot pile or sealing in container for disposal.
  • Early September is the latest time to plant spring-flowering shrubs.
  • Aerate lawn when temperature is 60-70 degrees
  • Stop planting evergreens by mid-September.
  • Harvest pears when light green. Separate from branch with slight twisting motion.
  • Harvest grapes & ferilize with 1-cup bone meal per/plant.
  • Harvest apples. Rake leaves and fallen fruit from apple trees to control disease and inspect
    problems next year. Be careful not to injure long-lived fruiting spurs when harvesting.
  • Cut out spent raspberry-blackberry canes after fruiting.

Brought to you by: Master Gardeners Association, UW Extension, Stevens Point, WI


“I’ve always felt that having a garden is like having a good and loyal friend.”

C. Z. Guest

Garden Guide

  • On October 1, start treatment of poinsettias for bract coloration. Place in total darkness for 15 hours every day for 2 months. Night temperature should be 65-70 degrees F. Keep soil moist.
  • Plant peonies until October 15. Mulch after ground freezes.
  • Seed perennials such as Oriental poppy, Iceland poppy, gas plant, primrose, scabiosa, phlox, pansy, and penstemon. Mark where planted.
  • Plant spring flowering bulbs. Bulbs can be planted up to six weeks after first fall frost. Fertilize existing bulb beds with bone meal, milorganite, or 5-5-5 fertilizer.
  • Harvest gladiolas at least six weeks after bloom and before ground freezes. Cure for 3 days at 80 degrees before storing. Label and store at 40-45 degrees in open trays.
  • Remove Iris leaves to prevent over wintering of iris borer eggs. Cut leaves to four-inch fans.
  • Store tuberose at 45 degrees F, tuberous rooted begonias at 45-50 degrees, and caladium at 60 degrees.
  • After killing frost, rose bush foliage should be stripped and old leaves cleaned from bed. Shortly before ground freezes, roses should be given good deep soaking. Prune branches to prevent wind damage or to fit under rose cones.
  • Sow seeds of hardy annuals: cleome, pinks, candytuft, larkspur, bachelor buttons, and clendula. Mark where planted.
  • Plant Jerusalem artichoke during last two weeks of month.
  • Prepare vegetable garden soil for early spring planting. Remove old stalks to prevent insect and disease problems next year. Spread manure, incorporate into soil.
  • Rejuvenate rhubarb by dividing into quarters and replanting.
  • Cut back asparagus ferns and dispose to prevent insect and disease problems. Mix manure into soil & mulch with straw.
  • Use mulch around brussels sprouts to moderate soil temperature and prolong harvest.
  • Water plants well for more cold tolerance.
  • Plant garlic 2-3 inches deep. Cover with 4-6 inches of straw.
  • Rake, chop and compost any fallen leaves from lawn.
  • Fertilize shade trees when leaf color changes and leaves drop.
  • Plant dormant deciduous trees and shrubs now until ground freezes. A two-inch layer of mulch reduces freezing and thawing, which can damage roots.
  • If fertilizing lawn one time a year, apply it in the third week of October. If fertilizing twice a year, apply in October and early June. If three times a year, include a September application.
  • Water Evergreens and foundation plantings before freeze.
  • Protect woody ornamentals and fruit trees against mice.


“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.”

Thomas Jefferson

Garden Guide

  • 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.
  • Make sure the pots of forcing bulbs are full of roots before moving into sunlight, and make sure they are watered adequately for the best display.
  • Covering materials can be added to the perennial bed once the ground is frozen.
  • If you brought in geraniums for winter color, they must be placed in a window that recieves direct sunlight all day and a daytime temperature of 70 to 75 degrees is maintained. Keep in mind geraniums do not like to be over watered.
  • Be sure that all garden refuse that may contain any insects or disease is disposed of in the garbage and not the compost pile.
  • After each heavy snowfall, one should tramp the snow around the young fruit trees to protect them from mice, which work under the snow.
  • Newly planted evergreens should have the protection of a windbreak or anti-desiccant to protect from moisture loss.
  • If the ground is not frozen, newly planted evergreens should have a thorough soaking of water.
  • Make sure that all bird feeding equipment is out and well stocked for the winter months.
  • Remember to set out your Christmas tree when the season is over for winter protection for the birds.
  • Collect the seeds from pods and seed heads gathered earlier – wrap up some to give as gifts.
  • Check stored veggies – discard any with signs of spoilage.
  • Continue harvesting greens from the hoop house or cold frame.
  • Try growing salad greens and herbs in pots in a south-facing window.
  • Take photos of your property to decide what needs changing before snow cover obscures your view.

Taken from Stevens Point Master Gardener Newsletter; December 2012.


For further questions, please contact Margaret Murphy at, or Diana Alfuth at

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