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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Here you will find monthly tips specific to Massachusetts for your home garden and landscape. Be sure to also follow us on Facebook and Instagram for weekly tips.

Looking for help following through with your project goals? Use our locator map to find a professional near you!

Sow pansy and geranium seeds now.

Cool flower and foliage colors, such as blue and purple, make a small garden seem larger.

Cut branches of pussy willow, forsythia, witch hazel and flowering quince on a seasonably warm day and bring them indoors. Put some water in a vase, add the branches and in just a short time … Spring!

Sunlight degrades chlorophyll so turf under snow often has better green color.

Start slow-to-germinate and slow-to-grow herbs such as parsley now.

Start seeds of Spanish onion and leeks now to get huge bulbs for summer harvest.

Start seeds in clean containers and sterile germination mix to avoid damping off.

A heating mat is a good investment for starting seeds indoors.

If you want to plant indoor bulbs or keep them for next season, let the leaves continue to grow and don’t trim back foliage until it has turned yellow.

Grow sprouts in the kitchen for a healthy addition to salads and sandwiches.

Do not over water succulents.

Avoid wetting leaves of hairy-leafed houseplants such as African violet.

Entice young gardeners by growing houseplants with unusual features.

A well-planned landscape should be almost as attractive in winter as in summer.

Check if seeds from last season are viable before purchasing anything new this year.

Plant an oak for longevity, durability and beauty.

Reapply deer repellents at temperatures above 32ºF to avoid contact freeze injury.

Cilantro (fresh leaves and stems) and coriander (seeds) come from the same plant.

Immerse yourself in gardening books to beat the winter blues.

Rotate houseplants weekly to keep them from leaning towards the light.

Cyclamen plants make beautiful Valentine’s Day gifts. Their cherry red and pink flowers are an excellent choice.

Plan to install a hedge around areas of the yard that you prefer to keep private.

Chickadees, titmice, starlings and purple finches often begin their spring songs this week. Listen!

If a cutting garden is in your plans this season, consider the following flowers for beautiful, colorful displays indoors or out. Dahlias in the medium size forms, zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos for their light and airy appeal, ammi, yarrow is adored by pollinators and blooms beautifully in the garden as well as being a long-lasting cut flower, Shasta daisy is a favorite in the cottage garden, nigella and of course, roses and herbs all offer both beauty and fragrance in a bouquet.

Watch for signs of early spring bulbs.

Begin a garden journal. Keep track of gardening plans and purchases. Later add a section for what’s blooming and when.

A prolific producer of nectar, lobelia (Lobelia spp.) is a magnet for pollinators. Attracting hummingbirds, butterflies and honey bees, lobelia thrives in sun to part shade and will tolerate average to wet soil. Blooming either red or blue in the summer, lobelia will reach heights of up to 4’ tall and is hardy in zones 4-8.

If you didn’t get to it last fall, now is the perfect time to tune up power equipment used in the garden. Change the oil, replace spark plugs, tighten bolts, sharpen the blades on the lawn mower, replace dirty air filters and clean all debris from and near engine parts.

Use a certified professional arborist to prune large branches on mature trees. Visit our locator map to find a landscape professional near you!

It may be tempting to tackle overgrown shrubs when the weather breaks in early spring, but you may prune off the flower buds by accident.

Either put up or clean out nesting boxes for birds. The birds are searching out nesting sites now and you can attract them with a clean bird house and perhaps some nesting materials. Place any nesting materials either on the ground, in the crotch of a tree or hanging on a tree limb. Placing a birdhouse near your vegetable garden will help with keeping insect pests such as grasshoppers and caterpillars under control.

The common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus [L.] Blake) is a valuable wildlife plant due to its production of fruit in late fall and winter. Flowering in May and June, its ability to grow on steep banks makes it helpful in controlling soil erosion. The American robin and cedar waxwing are attracted to the common snowberry for a source of food and cover.

When putting together a plan for fruit trees, it's best to map it out on paper first. Consider ripening times as well. Cherries ripen first in late May–late June, apricots ripen late May–early July, plums ripen late June–mid-September, peaches ripen late May–mid-September, nectarines ripen late June–early September, pears ripen July–late October and apples ripen early July–late November. Need a landscaping professional to help? Visit our locator map and find a pro near you today.

If you didn’t get to it last fall, now is the time to cut ornamental grasses to the ground. Compost the tops. The new shoots will appear soon.

Cut out the oldest stems at ground level to rejuvenate old lilacs and forsythias.

Chionodoxa (aka Glory-of-the-snow) naturalizes via bulbs and self-seeding.

Got drip irrigation? If not, this is the year to install drip in the vegetable garden. Click here to learn more!

Purple coneflower (Echinacea spp.) makes a beautiful addition to the perennial garden. Purple coneflowers are beautiful as cut flowers brought into the house, attracting a variety of bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Blooming all summer in the full sun, the purple coneflower will grow up to 4’ and is hardy in zones 3–9.

Remove suckers from trees as they compete for water and nutrients.

Pansies can be purchased and planted outside now. Pinch off each flower as the spent petals curl. This will encourage additional flowers to bloom until it gets too hot. If you purchase heat-resistant varieties, they will bloom even longer. Visit our locator map to find a local garden center today!

Great for a damp, shady location is buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). Its fragrant, white flower heads appear in June and are a magnet for several species of bees and butterflies. Round, reddish-brown fruits follow after the flowers and will persist into winter. Growing 6’ tall and beyond, buttonbush is hardy in zones 5-9.

An herb adored by bees is lemon balm! A member of the mint family, lemon balm is easy to grow. Its yellow-green leaves contrast beautifully with surrounding herbs in the garden. Unlike other varieties of mint, lemon balm stays in place and can be cut back when it gets too tall.

As soon as the weather permits, and the soil is not too damp, rake winter debris from lawns and flower beds. A bamboo, or other springy type, rake is less likely to tear sod.

Consider raised bed gardening if garden soils are slow to dry in spring.

Create a grass-free zone around trees in lawn areas.

Grow up! Create a trellis or structure to support vining plants.

Landscape mulches are the first line of defense for annual weeds. Refresh now! In need of a landscaper to lend a hand? Visit our locator map to find a pro near you!

Prune roses to prevent disease and encourage flowering.

Consider installing a rain barrel. Screen covers and using collected water regularly help deter mosquitos in rain barrels.

Plant Epimedium along a shady path.

Plant one of your favorite tree species this week in honor of Arbor Day on April 28th!

Follow spacing recommendations when planting new plants to allow room for growth. Questions? Visit our locator map to find a local garden center or landscaper that can help!

Forsythia should be pruned immediately after flowering. Their new flower buds form by early June. The branch tips of forsythia will root where they touch the ground if not pruned back.

Harvest no more than a third of the stems on a rhubarb plant.

Apply any preventative grub control in May. These typically need to be watered but check the label directions for more information. Visit our locator map to find a local garden center near you!

Stake perennials that tend to flop. 

Attracting many different types of bees, sneezeweed (Helenium spp.) will thrive in swampy conditions. Full sun with average to wet soil conditions, sneezeweed will bloom bright yellow or orange flowers from summer to autumn. Growing up to 5' tall, it is hardy in zones 3-9.

Spring is the best time to repot houseplants. It’s time to replant when actively growing houseplants outgrow their containers.

Did you know our Massachusetts-native trees provide reciprocity for all living things in the state? It's a pretty cool process—here's an example. A forest is made up of trees 🌳 that intercept rainwater 🌧 and direct it to the forest floor👇, making water available to plants 🍄 that feed and shelter wildlife 🐛. And then that wildlife feeds and distributes plant seeds 🦋 to encourage more growth 🌱. The circle of life—and the key to Growing Wild! 🌎

We're showing love for our planet by planting pollinator gardens! Pollinators, which include mostly insects but also some animals, transfer pollen from male to female plants. This process helps create seeds that become the next generation of plants. 🐝🌺 Visit the Growing Wild web page and show us where your garden grows!

Gourds are fun for young gardeners. If a young gardener is in your life, begin seeds now indoors. Plant them outdoors after the threat of frost is gone and use a trellis as they will spread with rambling vines everywhere!

Purchase plants from your local garden center. The month of May is the busiest month for garden centers and retail greenhouse operations in this region. During the month of May, they have a wide selection of plants and vegetable transplants. By purchasing plants from your local garden centers in May, you will get the best selection of plants and service and you will feel good about supporting local businesses. Need help? Visit our locator map to find a location near you!

Do you have any pollinator-friendly plants in your garden this year? Pollinators help combat climate change AND pollinator-friendly-plants look beautiful. Stop in this weekend and ask for plants that support pollinators! Join us in celebrating our planet by planting pollinator gardens too! Click here to find a local garden center. 🌻🌺🌼

Plant purple basil as an edible edging at the front of flower borders.

Various bee species are drawn to wild geranium (Geranium spp.). Thriving in full sun to shade and growing up to 2’ tall, wild geranium will produce flowers in shades of white, yellow, lavender or pink at various times throughout the growing season. They are hardy in zones 3-8.

When clematis are beginning to flower, stop fertilization of the plant. If fertilization is continued at this time, it will shorten the life of the flowers and they will all open at almost the same time. You may, once again, begin fertilizing when flowering is complete to encourage a second bloom for repeat-flowering clematis. Slowly taper off fertilization and watering by mid-autumn.

Planning on planting a pollinator garden this summer? We can help! Click here to fill out the form to add your town/city to the map and learn more about where to pickup a free growing wild starter kit including two native plants, seeds and a garden sign! 🌳

Ready to celebrate National Garden Week? Click here and fill out the form to receive a link to participating nurseries to snag a free #GrowingWildMA starter kit! The kit includes a garden sign, native plants & seeds!

Remedy color lapses in the perennial garden with annual flowers. 

Pinch off side buds of peonies to encourage larger blooms. 

Learn to recognize and report all life stages of the spotted lanternfly. Visit to learn more.

Watering in the mornings rather than the evenings can reduce slug damage to plant leaves such as hostas.

If a flower stem appears on a rhubarb plant, remove it. A flower may mean that the plant is in need of dividing, which you would do early next spring, or perhaps a soil amendment of manure of compost would be helpful.

Let’s see your pollinator garden photos! Post them to Facebook or Instagram and be sure to tag Plant Something MA using @PlantSomethingMA. There is still time to pledge to Grow Wild and add your town/city to the map. Visit to learn more!

We're commemorating our affection for the Earth by establishing gardens that promote pollination! Vital pollinators, mainly insects but also some animals, transport pollen from male plants to female ones, resulting in the development of seeds that will produce the next generation of plants. Planting just one flowering plant also provides pollen or nectar for pollinators. Click here to pledge to Grow Wild!

Keep removing flower spikes on basil plants as they continue to grow. This will encourage more leafy growth.

Attract pollinators with showy flowers as well as a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Click here to learn more about planting for pollinators.

Don’t let the grass get too long in between mowing so you can leave the cuttings on the lawn as fertilizer.

Vegetable gardening and cooking go hand-in-hand.

Start seedlings of cabbage for a fall crop.

Show us where your garden grows! Our locator map showcases towns and cities where pollinator gardens and plantings are taking place throughout the Commonwealth. Click here and pledge to Grow Wild today! #GrowingWildMA

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to make a first sowing of sweet corn.

Harvest culinary herbs in the morning after the dew has dried.

Pinch back petunias during hot weather to keep them bushy and in flower.

Asian longhorned beetles are emerging. Click here for more information and to report suspicious beetles.

Spray garden phlox, roses and monarda with a solution of one tablespoon baking soda to a gallon of water to prevent white, powdery mildew on leaves.

Watch for Japanese beetles eating leaves of roses, beans, grapes and other plants.

Happy Fourth of July! Your container gardens are probably flourishing these days and we'd love to see them. Post a picture or two to your Facebook/Instagram feed or story and be sure to tag @PlantSomethingMA

Harvesting basil stems rather than just leaves results in bushier plants.

Pinch chrysanthemums and shear back asters for a more compact and fuller late fall bloom.

Take along pruning shears on garden strolls to snip dead twigs, stems and flowers.

Use drip irrigation, mulch, wider spacing and proper fertilization to reduce disease. Click here to learn more!

Dormancy is a natural adaptation of turf grass to survive heat and drought stresses. Fertilizing dormant lawns will encourage weeds.

Order and plant autumn crocus now.

Stay alert for plant sales at local nurseries and garden centers! Use our locator map to find a local retailer.

Pick zucchini before it reaches the size of a baseball bat.

Buy produce unavailable from the garden at a local farm stand or farmers’ market.

Deadhead perennials such as coneflower and coreopsis to encourage rebloom.

Be sure to check hanging baskets both morning and evening for watering. They can often require it both times during hot weather.

To minimize black spot on roses, water early in the day and try not to wet their leaves.

Use hand pruners to remove watersprouts from trees and shrubs. These fast growing shoots are considered a waste of energy that diverts growth from the main plant.

August is tree check month. Click here to report Asian longhorned beetles and for a visual list of look-a-like insects.

Now is the time to plant crops like lettuce, beets, and carrots for fall harvest.

Dig, divide and move daylilies after they’ve finished blooming.

The secret to growing any of the bramble fruits (raspberries or blackberries) is faithfully removing the canes once they’ve finished bearing fruit. Neglected brambles quickly become an impenetrable thicket of dead branches.

Place orders for spring-flowering bulbs early to get the best availability.

Do not handle hairy, white and black hickory tussock moth caterpillars. Their barbed hairs are used for defense which easily detach and can become embedded in the skin, eyes, or mucous membranes. Exposure to these hairs generally results in a localized rash and associated itching but can also cause a more severe allergic reaction.

To dry flowers for indoor arrangements, cut before they reach full bloom.

Water tomatoes regularly early in the day to avoid dry spells and then soakings. Watering in this manner will reduce the incidence of pests, disease and cracking fruit.

The best time to control Japanese knotweed is when it is in flower.

For the best flavor, harvest sweet corn just before cooking.

Pinch off new blooms on pumpkin vines to help existing fruit develop.

Harvest pickling cucumbers when they are 2–6 inches long.

Dahlias will continue to bloom until frost.

Let seeds from mature dill plants fall to the ground to sprout a new crop next year. 

Keep harvested tomatoes at room temperature as opposed to the fridge. Have a surplus this year? Share with a neighbor!

Peonies resent transplanting and do not need dividing. Resist digging up established plants unless you must.

Harvest carrots using a garden spade rather than by hand. Pulling them by hand often leaves you with a handful of leaves and no carrots. Place the spade approximately 4” away from the plants and push into the ground. You will be able to easily wedge the carrots out.

Harvest the bulk of the basil crop and make pesto to freeze for winter use.

Check apples for ripeness by taste testing.

Sow oat or crimson clover cover crop to recycle nutrients and build organic matter.

Plant clusters of ‘Iris reticulata’ bulbs for color in the rock garden next spring.

Apple scab is the most common disease on crabapple but affects nearly all species and cultivars of apple.

Now is a good time to control poison ivy. Also keep in mind that oil in poison ivy is still active in dead stems and roots. Click here to learn more.

Finish moving houseplants back indoors before frost.

Don’t wait until October to get fall flowers like mums and asters from your local garden center.

Harvest mature green tomatoes before frost. Ripen in a paper bag with an apple or banana.

If clematis with pink flowers is on your wish list for next season, consider “Asao,” “Bees Jubilee,” “Elizabeth,” or “Pink Fantasy.”

Purchase straw now to have on hand to mulch garlic, shallots and strawberry beds.

Purchase local firewood to reduce the risk of spreading invasive wood-boring insects.

Support a local farmer and visit a pick-your-own pumpkin patch. Click here to find a location near you!

Mix a batch of potting soil for winter use.

Bring any terra-cotta containers inside for the winter.

Plant astilbes in low, damp areas.

Ripe apples snap off easily when gently lifted with the palm of the hand.

Apply deer repellents to valuable trees and shrubs in the landscape.

Now is a great time to have the soil in your vegetable garden tested. If limestone is needed to raise the pH or sulfur to lower the pH, fall is the best time for either application. Click here for more information from the UMass soil testing facility.

Harvest pumpkins when the rind is hard and the color is a uniformly, deep orange. If a longer storage life if preferred, leave 2” of stems attached to the fruit when harvesting.

Do not remove the outer skins on onion, shallots and garlic when storing them for the winter. These papery skins protect the bulbs from dehydration.

Now is a great time to lift and divide crowded clumps of spring and summer-blooming perennials. Transplant them into open areas of the gardens.

Consider cutting hydrangeas that have dried and bringing them into the house.

Start a compost pile, if you don’t already have one, this fall. Simply pile up leaves and organic debris in an out-of-the-way space in the yard. Plan on turning the pile once a month to speed up composting.

Lime can be applied to lawns any time that the soil is not frozen. Get a soil test with a pH measurement to determine how much lime to apply. Visit the UMass Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Laboratory web page to learn more about submitting a soil test.

Deer tick activity may be rising again over the next month. Protect yourself!

Yellowjackets and wasps may be bold now while searching for sugar, including your fresh picked apples!

Start seeds of basil, parsley, cilantro, oregano, thyme and chives for growing indoors this winter. Herbs require lots of light for best growth. Place the pots of newly planted seeds near a window that receives direct sunlight most of the day. Your plants will be happiest there all winter!

Do not use the stems and berries of invasive Oriental bittersweet for wreaths. Dispose of bittersweet by putting into the trash to be sure it doesn’t spread.

Don’t cut down hydrangeas with colored flowers or they won’t bloom in the spring. You can cut off the flower heads for neatness.

Collect seeds from annuals and perennials that you wish to grow next year.

Give Christmas cactus 12–14 hours of total darkness nightly to form flower buds.

Pumpkins are an excellent source of the antioxidant beta-carotene.

Dig up and pot up a clump of chives for indoor use all winter.

Consider ‘Abundance,’ ‘General Sikorski,’ ‘Polish Spirit’ or ‘Viola’ as a beautiful clematis to combine with a rose in the garden for a lovely display of color.

Hire a certified arborist to remove high branches and/or diseased trees. They can also identify weak branch structure, cavities from animals and potential decay before masked by leaves again next season.

Store lawn furniture, garden art and exterior lighting that may be damaged by spending the winter months exposed to the elements.

Unhook and drain garden hoses completely. Roll them up and store them off the ground in a garden shed or garage.

Mountain laurel needs little pruning beyond what is necessary to keep the plant shapely and to remove dead or diseased wood. Prune right after the flowers fade. If necessary, make drastic cuts to promote young growth to replace a leggy branch or even renovate a whole, overgrown shrub.

Do not cut down hydrangeas with colored flowers or they will not bloom next year.  You can remove the flower heads to keep the garden neat.  If your blue hydrangea fails to bloom each year, cover it completely, this fall, with a mound of bark mulch, leaves or straw to protect the buds from the harsh winter winds.  Uncover it at the end of March.

Start paperwhite narcissus now for fragrant blooms in 4–5 weeks.

Consider adding spicebush (Lindera benzoin) to the landscape next season. Spicebush is an excellent early spring food source for small bees and pollinators due to its fuzzy, yellow flowers that emerge on its bare branches. A host for the swallowtail caterpillar, spicebush has dramatic, golden autumn foliage. Thriving in zones 4-9, spicebush prefers moist, well-drained soil and sun to shade.

Spider plant is a pet-safe houseplant that improves air quality.

Cyclamen does better in cool bright locations indoors.

When creating a wildflower-rich habitat to support pollinators, choose native plants which are easily adaptable to local soils and climates. Native plants are also usually the best sources of nectar and pollen for native pollinators. Native plants are lower in their maintenance requirements. They do not need fertilizers and are less likely to become weedy.

Terra-cotta pots are porous and can easily crack if left outdoors in winter weather. Be sure to properly clean and store all pots for winter so they can be reused in the spring!

Now is a great time to lightly prune espalier trees. 

When growing rosemary indoors over the winter, be sure to keep the soil moist at all times for healthy plants. 

Harvest Brussels sprouts for your Thanksgiving dinner!

Mark lawn edges to keep plows and snowblowers inside the lines this winter.

Take time to give thanks to everything and everyone that you are grateful for in your life. Happy Thanksgiving!

Onions and garlic need good air circulation in storage. Mesh bags from oranges work great!

No plant is deer proof but American holly (Ilex opaca) is rarely damaged by deer.

Rhododendron leaves curl in the cold.

After buying the Christmas tree, store it in a shady, cool place outdoors. Once you are ready to bring it indoors and set it up, cut an inch off the trunk to expose fresh wood. Immediately immerse the tree in warm water when placing it in the tree stand without letting it dry out. Decorate and enjoy!

Microgreens or sprouts are an easy kitchen counter crop.

Grow plants with dramatic seedheads: globe thistle, coneflower, black eyed Susan.

Clip evergreen shoots selectively for seasonal decorations.

The Aztecs used poinsettia bracts to make a red dye for cloth.

Improving the home landscape increases property value. Consider hiring a professional for any large-scale projects. Click here to visit our locator map and find someone near you!

Give compost as a gift for a gardener—have a truckload delivered this spring!

Calcium or magnesium chloride deicers are less harmful to lawns than sodium chloride.

The lily flower is a traditional Hanukkah flower and is a staple for any Hanukkah bouquet.

A standout in the winter garden, ‘Filifera’ Sawara Falsecypress (Chamaecyparis Pisifera ‘Filifera’) can grow up to 12' tall, however, other varieties of false cypress stay 3–4' tall and wide.  Thriving in moist, well-drained soil, in full sun to part shade, Filifera is hardy in zones 4-8.

Winterberry and red twig dogwood stems add a pop of color in the winter garden.

If rosemary came into the house in a pot for the winter, be sure to keep the soil moist and do not allow it to dry completely out. Rosemary will not survive drought-like conditions.

Prune a climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris) just before growth begins by cutting back overly vigorous stems and shortening flowering stems that are growing too far out from the wall or other support.  Pruning also stimulates the growth of new shoots, on which flowers are borne.

Happy Holidays! Did you get or do you plan to give any indoor plants or something for the garden next year?

Consider Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) for an alternative to grass for a small space. Its rich green foliage forms a solid mat and makes an excellent groundcover. Chamomile releases an herbal fragrance when stepped on or brushed against. Mowing or shearing occasionally is recommended. Roman chamomile thrives in full sun, planted in well-drained soil and is hardy in zones 4-9.

Shop early for next year’s vegetable and flower seeds.

Make note of plants that attract birds in winter.

If a cyclamen is among the decorations in your home this holiday season, keep them in bright, yet indirect, light in a cool room (ideally 65 degrees). Water from the bottom and fertilize every two weeks.

Once the holidays are over, recycle your tree rather than putting it out in the trash. It can be chipped and shredded into mulch for your garden. You can also cut off the boughs and place them on perennial beds for added protection against spring thaws or place it near a birdfeeder to give birds shelter from wind and predators. Be sure to remove all decorations, lights and tinsel.

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