Weekend Gardener Mini-Garden Guide
Mike Raley, host of WPTF's Weekend Gardener, shares his monthly garden guide filled with tips on how to keep your lawn, plants, and vegetables looking good all year long.
Weekend Gardener, Gardening, Mike Raley, Garden, Planting
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Mike’s Mini-Garden Calendar

WARNING: This calendar is intended only for the brave and confident. Yes I have co-hosted a gardening show for over 21 years but I am an amateur with too many kids and pets and not enough time.


Seriously, these are the chores I do in my landscape along with the tidbits my co-hosts and guests on the “Weekend Gardener” through the year have left with me. These fine people have forced me to learn about the wonder world of gardening.


I have had to leave out volumes of information so good luck! Gardening is fun! You better watch out, gardening can be addictive.


Mike Raley
WPTF’s Weekend Gardner

Garden Calendar


Everybody seems to be interested in pruning so prune away when it comes to evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs. Some exceptions might include the spring-flower varieties because you will cut off the blooms for the coming year. Prune them immediately after they bloom. Wait on pruning summer flowering varieties until February or March. You can still cut dead wood off of any tree or shrub. This is a great month to prune fruit trees although they require special attention in they way they are pruned. Grape vines may also be pruned this month. Apply dormant oil to kill over wintering insects.


January is a great time to plant and move most trees and shrubs. Just make sure they have at least an inch of water a week. The cold winter months can dry out plants too. Dig a hole that’s at least twice the diameter of the root ball and almost at deep. Break up the soil and add some organic matter. Play close attention when planting varieties like azaleas and rhododendron, which like good drainage. Change the mulch around your favorite plants each year to lend plenty of protection.


It’s a good time to apply lime sulfur to roses to help prevent diseases from sprouting up in the spring.


The cool season lawn can be left alone this month unless you want to lightly fertilize at the end of January. Use a formulation like a 16-4-8 at about half the rate you used in the fall. This is also a good time to kill those winter weeds like chickweed and wild garlic. Don’t use the broadleaf weed killer unless the temperature is warm enough. Read the label of the product you choose.


January is a good time to make plans for the vegetable garden. Get a soil test as soon as possible.


Fertilize spring flowering bulbs when they break through the soil. Plant them if you haven’t already.


Houseplants need a little fertilizer; insecticidal soaps for things like mealy bugs and spider mites and don’t over or under water them. It’s also a good time to clean up the landscape.


If you didn’t lightly fertilize your cool season lawn in late January you may do that this month. A slow release 16-4-8 will do the trick. Apply at half the rate you did in the fall. Over fertilizing will produce disease later. The Cooperative Extension Service office in your county has more specific information on this. Plant a cool season late this month with good quality grass seed but this is not as good a time as fall. You may also want to get the mower tuned this month.


Get control of your broadleaf weeds, like chickweed, henbit and wild garlic, with an herbicide containing 2-4-D, MCPP and Dicamba. The weeds need to be actively growing.


Put out a pre-emergent herbicide for crabgrass after the forsythia blooms and before dogwoods bloom. You normally can’t try and establish a new lawn when you do this because the chemicals won’t allow the grass seeds to germinate either. Check the bag for directions.


Go ahead and prune trees and shrubs, but not spring flowering ones. Its ok with the summer flowering varieties. This is also a good time to cut liriope and mondo grass with a string trimmer or lawnmower before the new growth appears. You can also divide these plants now. Check for insect pests and disease on your plants while you’re deciding what to prune. Use a dormant oil to get rid of over wintering insects. Its another great month to do a little clean up in the landscape.


Plant bare root roses this month. You also can prune roses late in February depending on the weather. Cut out dead wood and leave the healthiest three to six canes. Spray roses with lime sulfur.


Plant trees and shrubs this month especially the winter bloom varieties like flowering apricot, winter sweet and winter honeysuckle. You can pick out the cultivars at your local nursery that smell the best. Move them when they are dormant and get as much of the root ball as possible. Plant vines and ground covers now too. Plant things like English peas, onions, asparagus, or cabbage. Get the garden area in shape if you are hoping to plant a summer garden. Get a soil test if you haven’t had one in a while.


If you have to plant a cool season lawn, prepare the soil well and use grass varieties suited for North Carolina lawns. The bag should contain several varieties of fescue and blue grass in case disease hits one variety the others won’t be affected. Don’t fertilize any type of grass this month. Sod can also be planted, but give the lawn at least an inch of water a week.


It’s still not too late to apply a crabgrass pre-emergent to the lawn, but it will also prevent your grass seed from germinating. Kill broadleaf weeds with a formulation of 2-4-D, MCPP and Dicamba.


Prune and shape summer flowering shrubs. Don’t prune the spring flowering varieties until after they bloom. Plant shrubs and trees this month. Water newly planted shrubs but don’t fertilize them. Be careful when fertilizing shrubs randomly. Over fertilizing can kill shrubs or suppress blooming. Apply dormant oil to shrubs to kill over wintering insects.


Plant container grown roses and change the mulch. This is also a good time to prune most roses. Cut out the dead wood and leave the strongest three to six canes at about a foot high or more. Start fertilizing them in late March.


Get a soil test by selecting several areas of the landscape including those where you have problems. Take the soil from at least six inches of depth. Place the soil in a box and take it to the cooperative extension service office in your county.


Divide spring flowering bulbs and other perennials and replant the healthiest immediately. Don’t cut off the foliage from daffodils and similar bulbs.


This is also a good month to start planting perennials.


Plant cool season vegetables like cabbage, lettuce, and spinach.


Your cool season grass will look better this month than any other if it is healthy. Raise mower blade to 3 1/2 inches until fall. Plant warm season grasses like bermuda, zoysia and centipede this month. Prepare the soil properly by tilling and adding organic matter. Water newly planted sod and seeds. Make sure established lawns and other plants have at least an inch of water a week. Wait a few weeks to fertilize a warm season lawn. Don’t fertilize a cool season lawn again until September. Take care of broadleaf weeds with 2-4-D, and grassy weeds with a grass killer. Roundup will take care of everything actively growing including things like ivy.


Feed and prune azaleas after they bloom but don’t over feed. It’s a good time to plant azaleas and other spring flower shrubs and trees since you can make sure you’re getting the right color while they are blooming this month.


Other shrubs and trees can get a dose of slow release fertilizer this month but make sure they need it. Prune other spring flowering shrubs after the flowers fade. Watch out for insects on shrubs and trees. Leaf spot disease may also start to be a problem this month on some shrubs. Your trees and shrubs need at least an inch of water a week to stay healthy. This is especially true of newly planted trees and shrubs. But please follow watering guidelines from your local municipalities. We usually have fairly dry summers in our area and water restrictions are not unusual.


Many of your houseplants can be moved outside late in the month.


Begin your disease- insect spraying schedule this month for roses. Prune climbing roses when they finish blooming. Continue fertilizing established roses. Water your roses, but only at the base which hopefully has a couple of inches of good mulch.


You can plant vegetables like tomatoes cucumbers, squash and corn and some of your favorite herbs late this month. The last average frost for the area is around April 15th. Pull weeds and hand pick insects when possible in the vegetable garden. The cooperative extension service in your county will have great literature on vegetable garden and every other aspect of home gardening online or through the local centers.


Some of your summer flowering bulbs like caladiums and dahlias can be planted late in the month of April.


There’s nothing to do for the cool season lawn this month except cutting it as high as possible. Set the mower to cut at 3 ½ inches high. Water your lawn properly. Place an empty tuna can in the middle of the stream of your lawn sprinkler and run the water until it fills. This should be an inch of water, the amount your lawn needs each week either from rain or watering.


A warm season lawn may be planted in May. Centipede, St. Augustine, Zoysia, and Bermuda varieties are popular in this area. Centipede is easiest to care for. It only requires one feeding in July. A special Centipede fertilizer is recommended since this type of grass doesn’t like a lot of nitrogen or lime. Zoysia seems to produce the prettiest lawn; it takes a while to establish, but will last for a long time. It does require more feedings. Bermuda is probably the cheapest to establish, but can be very invasive when it comes to the flower bed. St. Augustine produces a thicker blade but the “Raleigh” variety seems to do fairly well as far west as the Triangle. All warm season grasses are cut shorter than fescue and blue grass. They also seem to be more adapted to Zone 7 and 8 growing regions than fescue and more drought tolerant. May is probably as good a time as any to aerate a warm season lawn. Milky spore can be applied this month to rid the lawn of grubs. This product should last up to twenty years if applied properly.


Continue spraying roses for black spot and other fungus type diseases. And watch out for insect pests like aphids. When the flowers fade you need to cut of f the spent blooms. Cut back blooming climbers after they bloom.


Most of the spring flowering shrubs can be pruned now as their blooms fade. You can plant new container grown varieties. They do need to be watched closely. Young plants don’t have very well developed root systems and can die quickly if they are not watered properly. Make sure to buy the right plant for the right location in your landscape. Buying named varieties will assure that you have the right information for size and other characteristics before you commit yourself to a location in your yard. Watch out for diseases like scale, and fungus and insect pests on shrubs and trees.


This is a good time to plant annuals like petunias, vinca, impatiens and salvia. Fertilize about once a month through the growing season. Annuals and Perennials also need water and fertilizer.


We don’t get as many questions about vegetable gardening on the “WPTF Weekend Gardener” as we used to, but May is a great time to seed things like cucumbers, squash and beans. It’s also a good time to plant your favorite tomato variety.


We’re starting to see hotter days and evaporation rates are high so watch the moisture levels in the landscape. Newly planted shrubs and trees are especially vulnerable to moisture loss. Don’t over water. Add mulch as needed to help preserve moisture in the soil around trees and shrubs. Prune shrubs that produce blooms in the spring but not berry producing varieties.


If you’re a vegetable grower you know it’s a good time to plant some more squash, corn and beans. Watch for diseases on tomatoes like blossom end rot on tomatoes. This can be controlled through the use of calcium chloride products or adding lime to the garden plot during preparation of the soil.


The cool-season grasses like fescue and blue grass should be allowed to go dormant. Warm season grasses need the same amount of water for the most part. They just seem to adapt to the season better than the cool season varieties. These varieties need an inch of water a week to say green. But you may choose to let them brown during a drought. If the grass has a good root system it should survive and green up when it does get some moisture. Continue to cut them high and don’t fertilize! You may plant a warm season lawn this month. Fertilize zoysia and Bermuda in June with a slow release fertilizer. You will probably need another dose of pre-emergent herbicide this month to prevent crabgrass. Check your Cooperative Extension Service brochure for more details.


As soon as the foliage dies out you can divide spring flowering bulbs. Irises can be planted now. Summer flowering bulbs can be fertilized if you didn’t do it in May. Water and deadhead perennials and annuals as needed. Control mites and other insects on flowers, and shrubs. Japanese beetles are going to be a problem in you can control them by spraying them directly with liquid Sevin.


Roses should be looking good now if you are watering properly and keeping up you spray program. You need to be deadheading roses too. Heat and humidity are the enemy of roses, so check and make sure they have enough mulch.


This is obviously one of the hottest months of the year and with it comes insects, disease and sometimes little moisture.


The hot sun, humidity and lack of rain wrecks havoc on the landscape, especially the cool season lawn. Fescue and blue grass require a lot of care during the year and these conditions will separate the lawns, which have had the proper nurturing, and those that have been neglected. Ideally the cool season lawn will go semi-dormant. These lawns can survive two or three weeks before they must have water. But if you replanted in the spring or even last fall, these grass seedlings will need an inch of water a week to make a go of it. There is always the danger of disease like brown patch, which is caused by over fertilization, and cutting it too low. You can use a fungicide to help keep in check, but changing your ways will prevent headaches in the future. Please don’t fertilize the cool season lawn in July. Warm season grasses should be going strong this month. Spray for broad leaf and grassy weeds with the proper herbicides. Follow your schedule of fertilizing and mowing according to the cooperative extension service pamphlets or the information Anne and I have given out on the “Weekend Gardener”.


July is the optimum time to make cuttings of plants. If you have a friend or relative who has a camellia, azalea or other shrub you admire you can take semi-hardwood stems from the plant that breaks when it is bent. Dip the stems in some rooting hormone, and store them away in a container with a moist mix of sand and potting soil. Cover them with some plastic wrap and place them in an area away from direct sun. You should be able to germinate many plants using this method.


Roses in July slow down a bit because of the hot sun unless you give them a lot of fertilizer and water. Otherwise deadhead, continue a spraying program and enjoy them. They do require regular watering even if you aren’t intent on pushing them through the summer.


Do not fertilize trees and shrubs in July unless you’re willing to water them properly. The salts in fertilizer can deplete the water quickly. You can plant Crape Myrtles this month. Since they are blooming now you can go the nursery and make sure they are color you want. Do make sure your plants are given an inch of water each week.


Japanese beetles can still be a problem this month. They attack all kinds of plants. Kill them with a direct hit from Sevin or just pick them off the plant. The beetle traps can be used but be sure and place them a long way from they plants that are most susceptible to damage. Anne and I are always taking calls from listeners who are having problems with white flies, aphids, spider mites and scale. Horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps can help with most of these problems.


Tomatoes should be producing vigorously now. Blossom end rot and wilt diseases are among the problems you will be experiencing now. Tomatoes like plenty of water on the roots and a dose of fertilizer might help now. Your other vegetables may need a little side dressing too.


The heat and humidity is often unbearable during this month. Give your plants as much water as they need but don’t over do it.


This includes the lawn, although the cool season lawns should be semi dormant and requiring only an inch a week. Your warm season grasses are more tolerant of the hot weather. They may require a more fertilizing but don’t plant a warm season lawn in August. This may be a good month to completely renovate the cool season lawn. Kill the grass and weeds with Roundup early in the month and till it up near the end. The soil will be ready to accept new seed, fertilizer and plenty of water in September. August is another good time to control grubs in the lawn with milky spore or the proper pesticide. This is also a good time to put out a pre-emergence for cool season weeds like henbit and chickweed. Don’t plant grass if you do this. It won’t germinate.


Don’t fertilize or prune trees and shrubs in August unless you have to. This stimulates growth and will make the plant more susceptible to damage when it gets cold. Replenish your mulch but don’t put down more than two or three inches.


This is normally a good month to cut back and divide iris. You can also divide day lilies right now. Pinch back annuals and perennials and summer flowering bulbs. Control insects on your flowers by spraying them with a good spray of water. Continue deadheading roses and your spraying program. You can still plant container grown roses, but they need plenty of water. Some of the ever-blooming roses might need a little fertilizer.


August is a great time to plant the fall garden. Lettuce and other cool weather vegetables may be planted now.


This is the month cool season lawn lovers have been waiting for.


If you prepared the lawn in August by killing the existing grass and weeds and tilling its now time to reseed with fescue and blue grass. Of course you can patch the trouble areas of your lawn without doing a complete overhaul. If you take this route, be sure to aerate the existing lawn so it can get a little air into its system. Buy the best varieties of seed you can find for this area. Several varieties like “Wolfpack” and “Tar Heel” were developed at N.C. State University and grow well in the heat and drought of this area. Place wheat straw sparingly over the seeded areas. The new seedlings should not be allowed to dry out.


The existing fescue and blue grass should be fertilized using a formula of one pound of nitrogen for every thousand square feet. A good 16-4-8 slow release fertilizer will fill the bill. The first number is the nitrogen percentage. The cool season lawn also needs a lime, but it would be a good idea to get a soil test before you waste your money. Hopefully it won’t be as dry as some Septembers seem to be, but it’s essential that the grass, new and old, get plenty of water to build a root system and survive the winter. Warm season grasses can be over seeded with rye grass or allowed to go dormant. Do not fertilize warm season grasses again until May.


Roses should be deadheaded and sprayed and watered as you’ve been doing all summer. This is probably a good time to stop fertilizing roses. You can plant roses during September. Be sure to clean up leaves and petals from underneath roses to prevent disease from spreading.


It’s a good month to plant some fall blooming perennials like those beautiful garden mums. Otherwise, keep your perennials watered and pinched back.


September begins a period of good planting conditions for shrubs and trees. Keep them watered and I personally wouldn’t fertilize them at this time. Always have a plan ready so you can plant the right cultivar in the correct location in your landscape. Continue to watch for insect and disease pests.


Pansies and other cool season annuals can be planted now. If you need to divide your perennials like day lilies this is a good month to do so.


You can still fertilize the cool season lawn this month if you didn’t do it in September. October may still work well for those of you who haven’t yet reseeded your lawn with fescue and blue grass. Make sure the seed makes good contact with the soil. Lime can be distributed, but a soil test is a still a good assignment for folks who are serious about lawn planting. Keep the falling leaves off your new lawn.


Shrubs and Trees can be planted this month. Buy named varieties from our great nurseries in the area. Dig a hole that is about a foot wider than the root ball and a few inches deeper. Mix in some organic matter, break up the soil well and loosen up the root ball so the roots can stretch out. Keep the plant watered, but don’t over water.


October is a great time to buy spring flowering bulbs. Buy the largest and firmest you can find and store them in a cool place until November. Add mulch to the perennial beds and do not fertilize.


Prepare your vegetable garden plot for next year by adding lime and maybe growing what farmers call a cover crop.


October is a time when we bring in the last of our houseplants that have spent the summer out of doors. Check for insects and find a good spot for them to spend the winter.


Roses should be deadheaded and you should continue your spray program. Their roots still need some water each week. Keep the rose bed clean.


This is an important month for the fescue blue grass lawn. Fertilize your cool season lawn around Thanksgiving at about the same rate as September using a good quality slow release fertilizer. A pound of nitrogen for every one thousand square feet should do it. This fertilization will help the grass roots grow strong.


Its time for your warm season lawn to take a break until spring. You may be able to install cool season sod in November if you are careful. It’s also probably too late to over seed this type of lawn with a rye grass to keep it green during the winter. Falling leaves could smother new seedlings. Your lawn still needs an inch of moisture throughout the winter.


Kill broadleaf weeds if they are still actively growing and the soil is warm enough.


Cut roses back to waist high to prevent the winter winds from damaging the roots.


November is a good time to plant and move trees and shrubs. Mulch them well for winter. Get as much of the roots when you move them. Pruning is probably not a great idea this month.


Pansies and some other perennials can be planted in November. Keep them watered but do not fertilize. Check the mulch around theses plants.


Spring flowering bulbs may be planted this month. Mix in a little fertilizer at this time. If you haven’t bought them yet, find the largest and firmest available.


December can still be a time for planting trees and shrubs. Dig a hole that’s about three times the width of the root ball. Break up the soil and add some organic matter. Spread the roots of the plant and leave a few inches of the root ball above ground level. More if the plant needs excellent drainage. Keep the old and new trees and shrubs watered.


It’s ok for minor pruning of your evergreens especially if you want to use them as decorations. You can also prune dead or damaged material out of shrubs and trees in December.


December brings the Christmas season, poinsettias and Christmas trees. Pick out the freshest tree you can find. Shake it to see if needles fall off. Cut an inch or so off the trunk and place in a stand filled with hot water. This will allow the tree to soak up a lot of water initially. Check the water level often during the holiday. When you buy a poinsettia, make sure it’s covered when carrying it outdoors. These plants are very susceptible to cold damage. Find a place in your house that has plenty of light, no drafts and temperatures in the 60 to 70 degree range. Just like other houseplants, poinsettias should not be over watered. Add water when the soil feels dry and don’t let the plant sit in water.


You may be able to sod cool season grass can be planted depending on the soil temperatures. Keep broad leaf weeds in check with herbicides containing 2-4-D. Don’t leave gas in the lawn mower if you are through cutting for the season. Fertilize your cool season lawn early in the month if you didn’t around Thanksgiving. Warm season grasses should be left to go dormant.


It is not too late to plant spring flowering bulbs.


Cut roses canes back to about waist high if you have not completed previously. This will help roots stay in place if plants are blown around by winter winds.