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September FAQs


Q– What annuals can I plant this late?
A– Certain frost-tolerant annuals will last quite a while as late-color accents in the garden or in containers, and the Fall Magic series is based on this fact. Cold-tolerant annuals include Pansies, Dusty Miller, Flowering Cabbage & Kale, Lysimachia, English Ivy, Petunias, Calibrachoa, Dracaena, hardy Grasses, Osteospermum, Diascia, Nemesia, Lobelia, Sage, and others. (Not all of these varieties are available every year.) Protect from hard frost. Mums will take only a very light frost. Other flowers that continue to set bud, like pansies, will continue to have healthy flowers in the absence of frost. Continue to fertilize as long as they are actively growing. The color of flowering cabbage & kale deepens as the weather cools and persists until snow covers the plants. Asters provide nice fall color, also; however, these are perennials that will grow taller in the garden in subsequent years, so place them accordingly and provide winter mulch. Pansies often will survive the winter, especially if given protection.

Q– When can I stop fertilizing my annuals?
A– Apply fertilizer in mid-August to assure best performance through the remaining season. Then continue to apply as oftenas once a week until frost. However, the payoff lessens as cold weather approaches, as annuals will not last much longer due to frost. Also, avoid getting fertilizer on nearby perennials this late in the season.


Q– When will your spring-flowering bulbs arrive in Retail?
A– The first week of September, we usually have bulbs available for sale. They can be planted right until the ground freezes.

Q– Can I plant my spring-flowering bulbs now?
A– Yes, but it’s better to wait till October, by some opinions. Use Bulb-tone, not bone meal, which can attract animals. The most important time to fertilize bulbs is in spring, every year.

Q– How can I get tulips that will come back year after year, instead of getting just one year of good flowering from them?
A– Variety selection and soil quality are most important. For the best bet, choose Darwin Hybrids or Fosteriana or species (wild) tulips; most of these act as perennials. Experiment with other varieties, as some others may perform for you. Fertilize with Bulb-tone, and especially fertilize again during their active growth period in spring every year. Site them in a well-drained location in good soil in full or part sun. Plant larger varieties 8-10” deep, which is deeper than most written instructions usually indicate.

Dried Flowers:

Q– How can I preserve my flowers before they are killed by frost?
A– Harvest flowers that are suitable for drying before frost. Hang in small bunches in a dry, dark, airy location until dry.

Foliage & Flowering Indoor Plants:

Q– Should I do anything special when I bring my houseplants inside for the winter?
A– Check them for pests. Keep them isolated from other houseplants for a couple of weeks until you are sure they are safe, and inspect them again before mingling with others.

Q– How can I get my poinsettia (that I kept from last year) to turn color?
A– See “How to Care for the Poinsettia” information sheet. It involves artificially controlling the length of the daylight period.

Q– How can I get my Christmas or Thanksgiving cactus to flower?
A– Flower buds set as the day length declines. Growing them indoors under artificial light will interfere with this process. Grow indoors in an area that only gets natural light. Or leave outdoors until the nights are getting cool; bring inside before frost, and the buds should have set.


Q– How do I go about bringing my Rosemary and other herbs inside the house to over-winter them?
A– Make sure they are not bringing pests into the house with them. See handouts on “Over-wintering Rosemary” and “Herbs for the Windowsill” in this section. You will get best results if the plants are already in a pot, not planted in the ground.


Q– What should I do for my lawn?
A– Continue to water if possible during dry periods. Apply lime if needed, but get a soil test first. Dethatch and aerate old lawns. Fertilize in the fall with a fall formula (low in nitrogen). This is also a good time to start new lawns; mulch the new seeding and keep evenly watered until the ground freezes.


Q– Should I continue to fertilize?
A– No. Fertilizing and/or pruning at this time may encourage development of new shoots which will not have sufficient time to harden before cold, dry, winter weather. It’s OK to apply phosphorus through fall.

Q- How late can I plant container-grown or divided perennial plants?
A– Until approximately six weeks before the ground freezes. Plants will continue to put on root growth until the soil temperature consistently stays below 40 degrees. It is not recommended to plant evergreen trees and shrubs in the fall.

Q– Should I cut back my perennials in the fall?
A– Yes. Cutting back lessens the chance of disease and insects over-wintering on the dead foliage and causing problems next year. Also, fall cleaning reduces the amount of chores to be done in spring. Do not cut back perennials that continue to provide late fall and winter interest, such as Sedums and Ornamental Grasses, until they lose their attractive form. When cutting back, leave about 1-2” of stem above ground.

Trees & Shrubs:

Fertilizing: See Perennials.
Planting: See Perennials. However, use caution when planting broadleaf evergreens in the fall. Make sure they get regular water after transplanting, do not use fertilizer, and apply Wilt-stop at appropriate times (later).

Q- Should I prune trees & shrubs in the fall?
A– As a rule, no, except for removing dead or diseased tissue.


Q– Should I fertilize?
A– Continue to fertilize as long as the plant is actively growing. For instance, kale continues to grow through fall, but onions have gone dormant by now. Use a high-nitrogen formula for leafy plants and high phosphorus for flowering/fruiting plants.

Q– Why are the leaves of my cole crops and root crops wilting?
A– See “Cabbage Maggots” information sheet in this section.

Q– How can I extend the Vegetable season?
A– Cold-tolerant varieties of vegetables and herbs can be grown under row cover, or even longer in a cold frame, until quite late in the season. Greens like lettuce are suitable for fall crops.


Q– How late must I continue watering?
A– The gardens still need at least 1” of rainfall per week. Water if rainfall is insufficient. This is especially true for trees & shrubs newly planted anytime this season, and for all other new plantings.

August FAQs

Dried Flowers:

Q– How do I dry flowers to preserve them?
A–Now is the time to harvest. Two basic methods are 1) hanging the flowers upside down in a dark, dry, ventilated area or 2) using a drying agent like silica gel, available from craft stores.


Q– How should I be fertilizing now?
A– Continue a regular schedule for vegetables, annuals, herbs, and containers. A mid-August application is important for maintenance through the remaining season. It’s OK to reduce the frequency as fall approaches, as growth slows when days shorten and frosts begin. Containers usually require more frequent applications than garden beds. Fertilize chrysanthemums until the buds show good color. For perennials, trees, and shrubs, stop using anything with nitrogen by mid-August. This will help prepare the plants for winter dormancy. Phosphorus can be continued into the fall, if desired.


Q– What causes my stone fruits (peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, etc.) to get brown spots that spread to the whole fruit, and then the fruit shrivels and dries on the branch?
A–Brown Rot of Stone Fruit


Q– I grew herbs this year. How do I harvest them?
A– Some are best dried, others are best frozen. In general, the best time to harvest is before the plants flower. Be sure to understand the use of individual herbs before consuming them. Not all herbs are edible.  Click here for more herb harvest information.


Q– Why are the buds and tips of my tall phlox yellow and distorted?
A– They may have “phlox tip midge”. This insect’s maggots live among developing leaves in phlox buds from June until frost. Control by picking off infested tips and putting them in the trash (not the compost pile), or spray with pesticides labeled for midges on outside ornamentals.

Trees & Shrubs:

Q– Why do my apple/crabapple leaves appear sparse and ugly and brown?
A– Apple scab is probably the culprit. This will also damage fruit and needs to be controlled early in the season by frequent spraying. In the fall, pick up and rake up all leaves and fruit on the ground and put it into the trash, not into the compost.

Q– What are those ugly nests in my fruit trees/apples/lilacs/trees and shrubs along the road?
A– Fall webworms. Apply Bt as soon as nests are visible. Or wait till dusk or dawn (when the worms are in the nests) and squish the whole nest-full or prune out the whole branch and destroy it. Do not burn the nests, as it is harmful to the branches.

Q– What is happening to the leaves on my dogwoods?
A– The problems is probably caused by Dogwood Sawfly, which skeletonizes the leaves, leaving the mid-veins. Next early summer, look for groups of young larvae on the underside of leaves. These may also attack the wood in your house. Chemical control is only worthwhile if larvae ore less than 1 inch long.

Q– I am concerned by what I hear about wooly adelgids on hemlocks, which has been destroying hemlocks in other states and now has appeared in southern Maine. What should I know?
A– Hemlock wooly adelgid is a serious pest on this valuable tree. It looks like white dabs of cotton. If you think you see this on a tree, contact the State Dept. of Agriculture 287-3891. Do not transplant seedlings from the wild from other states, and do not buy from out-of-state nurseries. All nursery-grown hemlocks in Maine are supposed to be carefully regulated to prevent this pest from spreading, so be sure to buy from a reputable nursery. Ask the nursery staff if you have concerns.


Q– What is eating the leaves off my tomatoes/peppers/eggplants, leaving only the leaf rib?
A– Look for Tomato Hornworm, a fat green worm with stripes. It grows up to several inches long. Hand-picking is best, or prune off the branches they are hanging from and destroy them. You may find them on the underside of a leaf midrib. Also search for eggs and destroy them. Another sign of their presence are dark, small droppings on the ground, which you may see before you find the well-camouflaged caterpillars. Bt is only effective early in the worm’s life stage, probably before you notice damage. Chemical sprays are also available.

Q– What is that dark brown, wiggly insect with two pincers that are in my corn silk, flowers, or under the siding of my house (or other hiding places)?
A– Earwigs.  Click here for more information.

Q– The bottom leaves of my tomatoes are turning yellow, spotted, then brown and shriveling. What’s wrong?
A– Early Blight.  Click here for more information

General Pests:

Q– What is eating leaves and flowers on many varieties of my flowers, trees, shrubs, weeds, grasses, fruits, & vegetables? Sometimes only the midrib of the leaf remains. I don’t see an insect.
A– Look for dark, cinnamon-brown colored beetles at night. This is the Asiatic Garden Beetle . Treat as you would any beetle that is damaging your crops.

Timely tips:
• Remove raspberry canes that have finished fruiting, leaving new shoots for next year’s crop.
• Remove all annual weeds from the garden before they go to seed.
• Keep watering, for a total of 1” per week of water including any rain that falls. Pay special attention to newly-planted plants.
• Start cool-weather greens for a fall crop.
• Take cuttings from house plants to start new ones.
• Harvest potatoes after tops have died back.
• Plant green cover crops (clover, alfalfa, annual rye, or vetch) in areas of the vegetable garden that have been harvested already.
• Make records of what did or did not do well in your gardens so that you can plan for next year. Photos are helpful and can also brighten up your winter as you review them.

Disease/pest prevention: Remove mildewed and other diseased or insect-infested plant materials and remove them from the garden. Also remove weeds before they spread seed. Do not compost anything with seed, insects, or disease.

Tomato problem resources:
Ortho book, located at Information Desk at Longfellow’s
University of Maine Cooperative Extension

July FAQs


Q – What is that shiny golden bug feeding on my Sweet Potato Vine, Morning Glories, & other plants?
A– This is Golden Tortoise Beetle. One of its preferred foods is the genus Ipomoea, which includes these plants. Control: Any spray good for beetles in general, such as Sevin. See reference sheet “Golden Tortoise Beetle”.

Perennials and Roses:

Q – Can I seed perennials now to flower next summer?
A– Start new seedlings indoors, or outdoors in a protected area if you can control the watering situation carefully. Plant seedlings into their final locations or into a holding bed before fall. Provide a loose, weed-free mulch after the ground freezes but before snowfall.

Q–What should I do with my spring-flowering perennials that have gone by?
A– Cut back dead stems or seed heads. Cut back and divide spring-flowering perennials like iris, creeping phlox, etc. Water well until established. Plant jumbo pots of annuals in bare spaces.

Q– What is that iridescent black beetle clustered on my rose blossoms, raspberries, and other plants?
A– Japanese beetles. See reference sheets. If using pheremone traps, place them at the edge of your property but not near the neighbors’ gardens, as these will attract large numbers of beetles to that area.

Q– Why are my lilacs, summer phlox, bee balm, and cucumbers covered with powdery white?
A – This is a fungal disease called powdery mildew. To prevent the problem in the future, avoid high nitrogen fertilizers, provide a location with good sun and good air circulation, select resistant varieties when available, remove and destroy dead leaves and debris in fall, avoid watering leaves especially in the evening, use fungicides as soon as there is any sign of mildew and continue through the season. A bad infestation is difficult to control for the remainder of the season. Prevention and preventive spraying are the best controls.

Vegetables and Fruits:

Q– The bottom leaves of my tomatoes are turning yellow, then brown and shriveling. What’s wrong?
A– Probably they have Early Blight. Water early in the day whenever possible, so plants can dry bfore nightfall. Pick off affected foliage and destroy (do not add to compost). Spray or dust with an all-purpose fungicide like Copper Fungicide  at the first sign of damage, or by mid-July. Or just wait out the season without treatment, as you will get edible tomatoes even with blight affecting the plant. Only the most severe cases will prevent a normal harvest. At the end of the season, destroy plants and discarded fruits and do not compost them. Next spring when planting, use a black plastic mulch to reduce the amount of spores that splash up onto the leaves from the soil.

Q– The bottom of my tomato fruit is turning black. What’s wrong?
A– This is probably Blossom End Rot. The most common cause is uneven watering. Soil should be evenly moist, rather than drying out hard and then getting a good watering. Pot-grown tomatoes are particularly susceptible, so use a pot that is as large as you can manage to prevent the plant becoming root-bound, and establish a regular watering program.
This condition also occurs in the garden. Irrigate regularly when rain is inadequate. The use of mulch also helps to keep the soil moisture even; black plastic rather than organic mulch cuts down on disease and provides the heat that tomatoes need.

Q– How can I fill in empty spots in my garden left by early crops that have been harvested?
A– Plant late crops of beans, radish, broccoli, lettuce & other greens, and peas before August 1. Or plant cover crops like annual rye or buckwheat and till them in later, to improve the soil.

Q– What should I be doing for my apple trees?
A– Summer is a good time for light pruning, especially of water sprouts (vigorous upright shoots). Continue spraying on schedule to prevent scab.

Q– How can I prevent birds from eating my blueberries before I can pick them?
A– Cover bushes with bird netting before berries start to turn blue. Remove net only to harvest fruit.

Q– What is the soft, fat, reddish-brown larva or that fat, yellow beetle with black stripes on my potatoes, peppers, or eggplants?
A– Colorado Potato Beetle or its larvae. Click here for more information.

Trees & Shrubs:

Q– How much should I be watering?
A– Water at least 1” per week if that amount of rain does not fall. This is particularly important for shallow-rooted shrubs like rhododendrons, which cannot draw moisture from deep in the soil and which are forming next year’s buds now. It is also especially important for trees & shrubs just planted this year.

Q– What’s eating the leaves of my dogwoods?
A– Look for little larvae, up to 1”, perhaps with white, powdery substance on them. This is Dogwood Sawfly. See two reference sheets available.

Q– Should I still be pruning?
A– Stop pruning evergreens and spring-flowering shrubs that flower on previous-year’s growth by mid-July. Summer-flowering shrubs can be pruned after flowering or early next spring.

Tomato problem resources:

Timely tips:
• Start a preventative spray of Bt for tomato hornworm and fall web-worm, and fungicide for tall phlox.
• Renovate strawberry beds when the harvest ends.
• Start late crops of cold-tolerant vegetables like, scallions, peas, lettuce, spinach, other greens, and radishes.
• Hold back on nitrogen fertilizer applications to the lawn in the heat of summer.
• Keep watering so that lawns and gardens receive at least 1” of water per week from rain or hose.


June FAQs


Q – What is that shiny golden bug feeding on my Sweet Potato Vine and Morning Glories?
A– This is Golden Tortoise Beetle, and one of its preferred foods is the genus Ipomoea, which includes these plants. Control: Any spray good for beetles in general, such as Sevin.

Q– I just planted some annuals and now they are all dead. We did not have a frost.
A– There are two likely possibilities. If the weather has been cool and damp in late May/early June, the soil has not warmed up enough for warm-weather annuals like basil and cucumbers, and they often die in cold soil. Also, if we have warm (and especially windy) weather, new plants with small rootballs have not had time to root out in the soil and will dry out very quickly. One day without water under these conditions is enough to kill small plants.


Q– What should I do about those ugly leaves left over from my spring-flowering bulbs?
A– Do not cut or braid the leaves. Let them die back naturally. When they are mostly brown, then you can remove them. Mow around them, plant perennials or tall annuals around them, but leave the leaves in place—the bulbs need them to make flowers next year.

Q– When can I divide and move my bulbs?
A– Tougher varieties can be moved anytime. However, the best time is after the leaves have died back, so that the leaves can nourish the bulbs as much possible while they are still green. In the new location, enrich the soil with organic material (not fresh manure) and organic fertilizer or Bulb Booster.


Q– How often do I have to water my hanging baskets or other containers? Why are my containers drying out so fast now? Would SoilMoist added to the soil cut down on watering needs?
A– On a hot, windy day, water at least once a day. In cooler or cloudy weather, they may go a few days without watering. Do not overwater and keep the soil soggy. The soil needs to dry out a bit between waterings, but not to the point of wilting. Remember that wilting can also be caused by too much water, so adding more water to wilted plants may just compound the problem. Use two methods to test whether a container needs water: put your finger in the soil to see if it is moist, and lift the pot to see if it is heavy (plenty of water) or light-weight (dry). Container-grown plants start needing more water in summer because the light levels are higher and the air warmer. Also, because the plants have grown larger, leaf volume is much greater, so the leaves are giving off (transpiring) more water into the air. Remember that plants in a clay pot will dry out more quickly than in a plastic pot. Also, lush leaves (like impatiens) will dry out more quickly than succulent leaves (like portulaca). SoilMoist is a polymer that holds water. It does help retain moisture in the soil so that plants can be watered less frequently. Follow package instructions. However, it is not advised for plants like Rosemary or Portulaca that need good drainage, or during long periods of rainy weather (which can’t be predicted at planting time, of course).


Q- Why do my basil leaves have holes in them?
A– Almost certainly, these holes are caused by slugs feeding at night. See slug control information. Also, Sluggo is a product that we recommend.

Q– How long do I have to wait to harvest my herbs?
A– Except for seeds like caraway, harvest herbs anytime the plant is big enough to withstand having some shoots removed. Most herbs taste best if harvested before they flower.


Q – Why is some of my grass turning yellow, then brown, in patches, and sometimes spreading?
A– See Chinch Bugs Information Sheet.

Q– What should I do for my lawn now?
A– Water enough to equal at least one inch of water (combined rainfall and watering). Raise the mower blade height in hotter weather, as longer grass will keep the roots cool. Avoid nicking the bark of trees and shrubs with the mower or trimmer, as this can cause severe damage to the bark and possibly death.

Perennials and Vines:

Q– Why are my bearded iris leaves dying? (Later in month) why are some of the rhizomes mushy and smelly?
A– Probably you have an infestation of iris borer. See information sheet in this section.

Q – What is causing the holes in my Hosta leaves?
A – Probably slugs or snails. See Information Sheet. Also, we recommend the product Sluggo.

Q– Why is my clematis wilting?
A– A disease called clematis wilt may be at fault. Consult with the Nursery Dept. for current recommendations. However, tiny tears in the stem caused by high winds may be the cause. Cutting back the stems may be enough and the plant itself can be saved.

Q– What is that bright red bug/What is defoliating my Asiatic and Oriental lilies and fritillaria?
A– Look for red eggs under leaves, a yellow-brown to orange red larva, or a bright red bug. See handout on Lily Leaf Beetle. Spraying “Sevin” works well.


Q- What are those growths at the base of my rose bush or on the stems? Some of them are hard and rough, and others are smooth and spongy.
A– See Information Sheet on Crown Gall.

Q– What should I be doing now to care for my roses?
A– Deadhead the blooms as they go by, use preventive sprays regularly according to package directions, and water regularly. When cutting roses, cut just above a leaf that has five little leaf parts, to encourage the formation of more bud-producing shoots.

Trees and shrubs:

Q– When should I prune my evergreen shrubs and trees?
A– Prune when new growth is partly unfurled.

Q– When should I prune my flowering shrubs?
A– Prune spring-flowering shrubs like forsythia and lilac after they have flowered. Do not prune summer-flowering shrubs like hydrangeas or smoke bush this late in the season, or you will sacrifice blooms. However, dead wood or bad branches may be removed.

Q– What is defoliating my crabapple trees and/or the trees in my woods? (Late June)
A– Gypsy moths. See two separate handouts.

Q– How should I care for my rhododendrons and other flowering evergreens and azaleas?
A– Remove spent bloom clusters. Topdress with oakleaf compost or cottonseed meal, or fertilize with acid fertilizer like Hollytone after bloom is finished.

Vegetables and Fruits:

Q– What animals are eating my vegetables?
A– See various Information Sheets that are in this section.

Q- What is cutting off my vegetables at the stem and leaving the tops?
A– Cutworms. See Soil Insect Pests of Vegetables.

Q– What is that soft, fat, reddish brown insect on my potatoes/eggplants/peppers?
A– Colorado Potato Beetle. See Information Sheet.

Q– Why are the leaves of my cole crops/root crops wilting?
A– See Information Sheet on Cabbage Maggots.

Q– How can I protect my ripening strawberries from pests eating them?
A– Lay netting or floating row cover over the plants to protect from birds and chipmunks. See two handouts on Strawberries for general culture information.

Q– How can I take care of my vegetable garden for best results?
A– Water daily while seeds are germinating and when transplanted seedlings are rooting into the soil. Water the equivalent of 1” minimum per week unless we get that amount of rain. Thin new plantings of direct-sown seeds as they emerge. Fertilize regularly. Remove weeds while they are still small.

Q– What is that yellow & black striped bug on my cucumbers and other cucurbits?
A– See handout on Cucumber Beetles. Organic: Japanese Beetle Killer with pyrethrin, Rotenone Pyrethrins, Rotenone dust. Next year, cover with floating row cover until the female flowers (flowers with a swelling below the base of the petals) start to form, then remove the cover so flowers can be pollinated. The beetles’ cycle will be mostly over by then. In fall, clean up all weeds and refuse and do not compost any cucurbit vines that were affected.

Timely tips for June:
• By the end of the month, start preventive spraying for powdery mildew on Phlox, Monarda (Bee Balm), or other susceptible plants. Use a fungicide that lists this disease as a target.
• Start preventive spraying with a fungicide on Nonstop and Hanging Begonias. This will help prevent Botrytis in hot, moist weather, which will cause whole branches to drop off the plant.
• Prune hedges, especially evergreen, through mid-July. Prune spring-flowering shrubs after they bloom.

May FAQs


Q – Can I plant my marigolds and geraniums yet?
A– At the end of the month, but not before unless you pre-warm the soil and provide special protection. But most annual seeds can be planted after the middle of the month, like nasturtium seed. Wait till the end of the month to direct-seed basil. Plant summer-flowering bulbs like glads and cannas in mid-May, later for tender ones like dahlias. Start fertilizing on a regular schedule.

Q– Should I fertilize now?
A– First, make sure the soil you are using, whether in flower beds or in containers, is good quality, enriched soil. Fertilize new transplants with starter solution like MiracleGro. Continue to fertilize annuals on a regular schedule. Those that grow in full sun require feeding every couple of weeks for best results, more often for containers. Very vigorous plants in full sun, like trailing petunias, benefit from once a week or more often. Plants in partial shade, especially compact ones, need fertilizer less often. Containers in full sun do best with slow-release fertilizer (Osmocote pellets) at time of planting and again in mid-summer, in addition to regular liquid feed.


Q– When can I buy or plant my containers, or put out my moss basket?
A– Yes, anytime the days are nice – but only those planters that are light enough for you to move inside if frost threatens. So moss baskets may be difficult for some people to manage moving. Containers received as Mother’s Day gifts may contain cold-tolerant plants, like pansies or osteospermum; but do not consider them freeze-proof. Impatiens, begonias, and other warm-weather plants cannot tolerate cold nights at all. Start fertilizing weekly with liquid feed for full sun plantings, every other week for low sun or slow-growing plantings.


Q– Why are some of my bearded iris leaves ragged on the edges?
A– See information sheet “Dealing With Iris Borers” under June section. June is when the worst symptoms show.

Q– Last year I had Lily Leaf Beetles that destroyed my Asiatic & Oriental Lilies. What can I do now?
A– Start looking for the red eggs on the undersides of leaves, and squish the eggs, or pinch off the affected leaf and destroy it.

Q– How should I fertilize?
A– We do not recommend fertilizing newly-planted perennials. Fertilize established plantings with organic fertilizer or aged manure or compost or with synthetic 5-10-5 or 5-10-10.

Q– What should I do for my roses now?
A– As they begin to leaf out, prune away any dead material. Start a regular fertilizer program and, when leaves appear, a regular spray program for diseases and pests.

Q– What other chores should I do now?
A– Stake tall or floppy perennials like peonies with peony rings that supply convenient support or with stakes to which plants can be tied as they grow.

Spring-Flowering Bulbs:

Q – I can see lots of areas where I want more bulbs. Can I buy them now?
A– Bulbs are sold and best planted in fall. If you purchase forced bulbs like tulips and daffodils in pots, you cant fertilize and water them, wait till the leaves die back, and plant them at a proper depth in the garden (see April entry). The best planning is done in spring, however, so make notes of exact locations of where you want to plant more bulbs in the fall. Now is the time to fertilize spring-flowering bulbs to ensure good bloom next year.


Q -Can I plant the rest of my vegetable garden yet?
A– Even cold-tolerant vegetables should not go into the ground until the first of May in most gardens in Central Maine. Around mid-May, plant corn. Beans should wait till the end of the month. At last, after Memorial Day, you can plant warm-weather vegetable transplants outside without much worry. Basil is about the last to go into the ground; June 1 is not too late for basil. Start a regular fertilizing schedule.


Q- What should I do to care for my lawn?
A– Apply crabgrass preventative two weeks before the last frost.
Fertilize with lawn fertilizer such as 4-1-2 (high in nitrogen) at 1 lb. nitrogen per 1000 square feet.
Replant dead areas of the lawn, rake the seeds in well, cover with loose hay or pine needles, and water until the seedling grasses are established. Small dug-out sections of lawns are caused by skunks looking for grubs, so use a grub control. Keep it watered (especially new lawns) and healthy to avoid disease and insect problems. Compost longer clippings after mowing, only if no herbicide has been applied to the lawn.

Garden Soil and Garden Locations:

Q– How can I get the best soil for my gardening needs?
A– See our many handouts on soil preparation, composting, etc. Also see our Retail staff for soil test kits and the University of Maine kit. Add as much weed-free, plant-based, organic material as possible and dig it in as deep as you can. For containers, use a light, soil-less mix such as Longfellow’s or Pro-Mix. Use an organic mulch that does not have weed seeds in it and from a source that was not sprayed with herbicide.

Q– I have a very wet or dry area or other specific needs. What can I plant there?
A– See the related sections of our Plant Guide. Also see information sheets Landscape Plants for Moist to Wet Location and Landscape Plants for Dry Locations.

Q- How can I keep dogs and cats out of my garden?
A- Aside from fences, we recommend a product called Dog & Cat Repellent, for outdoor use only.

Trees, Shrubs and Vines:

Q– Should I apply lime or wood ashes to plants that love sweet soil?
A- Some plants, like lilacs, delphiniums, and clematis, do prefer a sweeter soil. However, continually adding sweetening agents can create a problem over time. Have the soil tested periodically to see if more lime should be added .

Q– Why is my forsythia only blooming on the bottom?
A – The bottom part was probably insulated by snow, and cold winter temperatures killed the top buds. Consider planting more modern, hardy varieties that are now on the market.

Q– How do I plant my new tree or shrub?
A– Remove the plastic wrapping or ntting or pot. If the rootball is encased in burlap, remove that. If the plant has been grown in a pot, loosen any roots that may have become tightly wound around the rootball. Do not fertilize the first year.

Q– What should I do for trees and shrubs now?
A – Apply appropriate fertilizer. Rhododendrons and azaleas should be fertilized with and acid fertilizer (if a soil test indicates that the soil is not becoming too acid) after flowering, not now. We do not recommend fertilizing any newly-planted trees or shrubs until they have been in the ground for a year.

Timely tips:
• Now is the time to plant bareroot stock like roses, asparagus, trees, and shrubs. Plants that are planted in pots of soil are not limited to early spring planting. Soak roots in tepid water for several hours before planting.
• Finish cleaning perennial beds of old debris. Replace worn-out mulch but keep it away from bases of plants.
• Prune any trees and shrubs that are not going to be flowering in the next few weeks. Remove branches damaged by winter.
• Fertilize spring-flowering bulbs.

April FAQs


Q– Chores: What should I be doing in the garden this month?
A– Spread compost or leaf mold on garden beds and rake up debris. Remove remaining dead plant parts. Wait to do any planting until the soil has dried out enough that a ball of soil will crumble in your hand. If you have a cold frame, put cool-weather tolerant seedlings into it (gradually); or start cool-weather, early garden crops like peas, carrots, and greens by direct sowing in the soil of the cold frame.


Q–What plants can be planted outside now? (Central Maine)
A– Make sure the soil is dried out enough. Harden off any annuals before planting them. This advice applies to container plantings as well. After planting, cover them if a frost is expected. The following can be planted after April 15, if the soil is well-drained and temperatures are warmer, but we do not recommend planting that soon, and waiting until May 1 will give much better results:
Alyssum, Bacopa, Calendula, Dianthus, Diascia, Dusty Miller, English ivy, Lobelia, Million Bells, Nemesia, Osteospermum, Pansies, Petunias, Scaevola, Snapdragons, Sweet Peas, Vinca, Violas.

Q– How do you “harden off” plants?
A– Leave them in their original containers and put outside, out of direct sun and wind, for a couple of hours, then bring back inside. Increase the time they are left outside each day. Then plant in the ground after a few days. This decreases the transplanting shock and the plants will be more likely to thrive. If you are putting seedlings started indoors into a cold frame, also use this gradual process. The use of row covers can help plants adjust during the earliest part of spring.

Q– What does “cover them on frosty nights” mean?
A- If it seems especially cold at bedtime, or if the weather report forecasts widespread frost, the plants need a “blanket” to keep from getting damaged by cold. If you live in a cold area, such as the mountains or in a low spot (cold air sinks), even “scattered frosts” may apply to you. Appropriate coverings include row cover (Reemay), burlap, or old sheets. Heavier materials like actual blankets need to be kept off the young plants by stakes or some other system to prevent crushing them. Plastic is not as good a choice.


Q – What should I do to take care of bulbs that are coming up?
A– Remove leaves and debris that might interfere with growth. After green shoots appear, fertilize with a high-phosphorus fertilizer (P) and again around time of bloom. If possible, remove flower heads of daffodils and tulips so the plant’s energy will go into the health of the bulb, not into seed production. Do not cut back bulb’s leaves until they turn brown, and do not braid them (daffs).

Q– Do you have any tulip and crocus and daffodil bulbs for sale?
A– No. We sell those in fall, which is the best time to plant them. Bulbs you see growing in people’s gardens now were planted last fall, or a previous year. We do have some forced bulbs for sale in pots, though, until around Easter.

Q– Can I plant my forced bulbs in the garden, and will they come up next year?
A– Generally, yes. Fertilize the bulb plants while the leaves are still green with a product like Miracle-Gro. Wait until the ground thaws and is workable. By then, the flowers will have gone by and the leaves have turned brown on the bulbs. Plant the bulbs in a rich, well-drained soil in full sun (partial sun is OK for daffs). Plant them deeper than they have been growing in the pot – 10” for tulips and 8” for large daffs and 5” for small daffs. Many tulip varieties do not return reliably from year to year, so gardeners often discard those. Daffodils may re-bloom for many years if they are in a good location and you fertilize them every spring.


Q– When can I divide my perennials?
A– Now is fine for most perennials. However, if a species blooms early, you may disturb this year’s flowering by dividing now, so it is better to wait till after flowering. Fall is the best time for moving or dividing peonies. Pay attention to how deep to plant them (German iris, for instance). Remember to make sure all new divisions and plantings are watered frequently until established.

Q– When can I plant perennials that I buy?
A– If you found them outside here at Longfellow’s, they are hardened off and can be planted out now. If they have broken dormancy (leaved out), cover them if you expect a frosty night, or they will get frost damage.
If you found them inside a greenhouse here at Longfellow’s, they have not been hardened off and must be exposed to the outdoors gradually. Even then, if they are leaved out, cover them on a frosty night.

Q– Why aren’t my perennials coming back? They died.
A– It is too early to know whether most perennials will come back successfully. Some stay dormant until quite late in the spring. Others may appear to have green on them now but will not have enough stored energy to make it through the rest of the spring. Wait to see what happens. If something really did not survive, it may be because of no mulch and inadequate snow cover, moles or other rodent damage, poor drainage, or a tender plant being planted in a too-harsh location. Other causes of winter death include having layers of flat leaves (like maple) pack down on them and smother them, or putting loose mulch on the plants on top of a layer of snow, which also may smother them by causing the snow to pack into an ice layer.

Trees & Shrubs:

Q– What basic things should I know about planting trees & shrubs?
A– Make sure you have the right plant for the right location (eventual size, light requirements, soil drainage requirements, etc.). Remove the pot or burlap or other wrapping. If the roots are tightly grown among each other, loosen them up a bit. Dig a hole larger than the rootball. Do not amend the soil. Plant at the same depth the plant was growing. Leave a bit of a depression around the rim of the hole to collect water, and do not mound up soil so water runs off. Water slowly and long to make sure the planting hole is saturated. Water at least 1” weekly until the ground freezes in fall, more often in very hot, dry weather.

Q– What should I do with the tree guards I planted around small trees last fall?
A– Remove them so they do not restrict growth during growing months.

Q– Is this a good time to prune?
A– Once active growth is occurring, around mid-April to early June, pruning is not a good idea because sap is flowing so freely.

Q– My tree/shrub looks dead. Should I remove it?
A– It may just be late to leaf out. Some plants take longer than others. If it still shows no sign of life in late spring, you can assume it’s gone for good.


Q– What vegetables can be planted outside now? (Central Maine)
A– Make sure the soil is dried out and crumbles easily in your hand; otherwise, wait until it dries more. Harden off all transplanted seedlings, and wait until at least the middle of April for best results, unless you have a very protected area. From seedlings: lettuce, onions, biennial or perennial or tender perennial herbs (including chives, parsley, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary). Cover them if a frost is expected.
From seed: peas & snow peas, turnips and misc. greens, beets, carrots, lettuce, mixed salad greens, onion sets, parsnips, radishes, cabbage & broccoli & other members of the cabbage family.

Q– Why can’t I plant my tomatoes outside now? The snow is gone!
A– The soil is still cold, and night temps are still much too cool for warm-weather crops like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, beans, and basil. Even if they do not get frosted, they probably will succumb to disease. Wait until the end of May. Ways to speed things up: use raised beds, spread clear plastic on the soil to trap heat (black is second-best), use row covers, cloches, cold frames, Wall-of Water. Or plant in containers and bring in at night.

Timely tips: Before doing any planting, make sure the soil has dried out enough that a fistful will crumble easily and not stick in a moist ball. Spring planting depends on warmth of the air, warmth of the soil, and having the soil dry enough to be workable without forming mud or clumps.
Prune winter-damaged branches if you can tell they are clearly dead.

February FAQs

Q– When can I start seeds indoors?
A– Some seeds can be started now. This is an ideal time to start members of the onion genus, for instance. Others are pansies, green peppers, impatiens, and perennials that normally flower in early summer (although most perennials will not flower the first season after seeding). Use grow lights for best results any time you start transplants indoors, as most people do not get enough natural light from their windows. Start a regular fertilizer schedule as soon as the first true leaves are well developed. Do not start warm-season plants like tomatoes yet, as you will have a tough time keeping them healthy until time to plant them outside ( see March questions).

Q– My seedlings are keeling over! They were looking great! What’s wrong?
A– They probably have a disease called “damp-off”. Spray remaining seedlings with an all-purpose fungicide. To prevent this problem in the future, make sure everything associated with the seeding process is sterile: hands, tools, containers, seeds, soil. Also make sure the temperature of the soil and air is appropriate for the crop you are growing, and make sure there is good air circulation. An effective way to sterilize tools and pots is to soak them in a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water.

Q– When can I start pruning my fruit trees and other trees and shrubs?
A– Wait until the end of March or first of April, before the first buds open. Pruning now can encourage disease problems. You may see pruning being done in commercial orchards earlier than March, but their schedule is not appropriate for the home landscape. Stop pruning mid-April through early June, because sap is running too freely during those weeks.

Q– I want to start gardening! Is there anything else I can do now?
A– Yes. Clean, disinfect, and sharpen tools; this will make things a lot easier later. Also, check bark of trees and shrubs for casings of insect eggs and destroy them to reduce infestations during the growing season. Start begonia tubers. And of course, plan ahead! This is the best time to plan on paper, do research, and work out problems in advance. Flowering shrubs can be cut now and brought inside for forcing into flower (place in warm water in a sunny room).

Q– When is the best time to repot houseplants? What should I know about repotting? When should I start fertilizing houseplants for the coming growing season?
A– Repot in late winter or early spring. If it is a flowering plant, you may want to wait until the plant is between flowering cycles. Usually, plant into the next size (both width and depth) pot, rather than making a big increase in the pot size. Don’t pack the new soil down hard, but settle it in well, so that no air pockets remain. Watering will help settle the soil. Start fertilizing again later in February or early March.