living a well tended life... at any age

why you need a gardening calendar (yes, you!)

Last weekend as I ventured out into my gardens for the first time this year, I was once again reminded of how handy it is to have a gardening calendar.

Part of my landscape design services includes a set of maintenance instructions for all plants. It covers things like which plants to cut back (and when), signs that a plant needs dividing, and bed prep for every season.

Ironically, for years I  never did this for myself, figuring I’d just “know” what needed to be done and when.

Right.

Of course I DID know, but I’d always put tasks off or forget entirely (cobbler’s kids, blah blah). So when I put my new gardens in a few years ago I made a point of creating my own gardening calendar.

And if you garden – even if only in pots and window boxes – so should you.

A gardening calendar is a super useful tool. It keeps you on track so that your garden stays manageable, and your plants thrive. It’s also a great place to keep notes – on everything from new plants that worked well (and ones that didn’t), to plants and projects to keep in mind for the following season.

You can use whatever format you like – a separate wall calendar, a pretty gardening journal or even a looseleaf notebook. I keep mine on a document in my computer and print it out at the beginning of the year. I make notes when I’m out in the garden and add them to the original document (usually in a bold, bright color), so that I’m ready to go next year.

Here’s what my typical gardening calendar looks like:

January – beginning of March

Not much is going on outside so I take advantage of the break. I’ll go through my magazines and books and begin making lists and plans for the season (this spring will hopefully bring a new cutting garden on the side of my house).

Middle of March – beginning of May

pruned butterfly bush, forced forsythia branches, spring planter, peony rings

Cut back all of my subshrubs (butterfly bushes, bluebeards, Montauk daisies and Russian sage), to  promote nice bushy plants with profuse flowering.

Cut forsythia branches to “force” indoors.

Turn over winter pots to make room for spring bulbs and cold tolerant annuals.

Set out peony rings once stems emerge.

Cut back any plants left up over the winter.*

Middle of May – End of June

cut back perennial, summer planter, deadheading perennial

Make a second cut to subshrubs that bloom in fall, as well as a first cut to all late blooming perennials (monarda, Joe pye weed). This eliminates lanky, leggy plants and promotes lots of flowering.

Cut back plants to delay blooming (like catmint, which flowers too early for me to enjoy in my backyard).

Inspect rear planters to see what’s died over the winter – replace plants as needed.

Turn over the spring planters to include summer annuals that will last till fall.

Deadhead perennials that have started flowering, to extend bloom times.

July- beginning of September

staking

Deadhead, cut down plants that are “finished”, stake (if needed – I HATE staking!). The goal during this time is to do a little bit each day (preferably in the early morning).

Middle of September-November

fall planter, perennial

Turn over pots to include cold-tolerant annuals (and a few pumpkins).

Plant new perennials now that the heat of the summer has passed (also a great time to get the best deals at the nurseries).

Assess the season and make notes for next year.

*Cut back all plants except for those that stay up through the winter – either for ornamental purposes or to serve as a food source for the birds.

December

winter planters

A final turnover of my pots and planters, filling with dwarf evergreens, giant pinecones and evergreen and berry branches.

Obviously this list is specific to my gardens and growing zone (don’t know your “zone”? Here’s a great link to help you find out). And I have a separate list of all of the plants on my property, along with their individual maintenance requirements.

We just had a bunch of snow here last week, with more cold temps (and snow – UGH!) to come. But don’t be fooled – spring is officially here and now’s the time to get organized!

I’d love to know how many of you keep some sort of gardening journal/log/calendar, as well as any other gardening questions you may have – ask away!

2 Comments

  1. Christa the BabbyMama on March 25, 2013 at 9:45 am

    I’m too lazy for this sort of thing. Perennials are my besties and my garden is entirely live and let die.

    • sherisilver on March 25, 2013 at 9:52 am

      Darwinism in the garden is a very good thing! xo

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