Month-by-Month: Chores for Southern Gardeners
This garden calendar’s timing aims for the middle south in the middle of each month. For the lower south, the tasks will fall toward the beginning of the month. For the upper south, wait until month’s end.
January: Keep pansy blossoms plucked to get more buds and blooms. Fertilize garden beds and containers of annuals when you’re watering. Start any indoor plants. Make the most of a wet, warm day to get rid of winter weeds. Add organic matter and a complete fertilizer, and then let it mellow till March.
February: As soon as possible, plant early spring annuals, including petunias and geraniums. Start a garden journal to record what and when you plant, and how it fared.
March: Transplant indoor plants outside. Water transplants well and feed them with fish emulsion or root-stimulator fertilizer following the directions on the label. Make sure that young poppies and larkspur don’t dry out; as they put on flower buds, water and mulch around the base of the plants. Gently pull the mulch away from pansies and other transplants tucked in last fall. Slugs and snails destroy tender transplants.
April: Add mulch around spring annuals and don’t forget to apply fertilizer and thoroughly water the flowers you transplanted last month. Deadhead spring flowers for a second round of flowers; if you allow the seeds to set, the plant’s done for the year.
May: Water regularly with a sprinkler to discourage spider mites and aphids. Make composts of pansies and violas, which respond with smaller flowers and skinnier stems when night temperatures rise. Don’t plant vinca rosea until this month at the earliest.
June: Start watching your garden for signs of trouble. One common warning flag is yellow leaves on young plants, an indication that plants need nitrogen. Yellow leaves at the growing point signal a root problem or that the flower was planted too deep. To fertilize beds in dry spells, water them first and then use a fertilizer mixed with more water. Make sure that the water soaks through thick mulches; rake back a bit of mulch if you must or, better yet, use soaker hoses.
July: Plant the second round of heat-loving summer annuals: balsam, celosia, cockscombs, marigolds, and zinnias. Include some dwarf sunflowers, Mexican sunflower, portulaca, scaevola, and vinca rosea. Cut back impatiens and all sorts of hanging-basket plants that have become leggy with the heat. Rejuvenated, these plants will bloom again for months. Choose a spot with late afternoon shade to grow flowers for cutting. Irrigate slowly to soak the bed deeply for best rooting, and finish watering in time for the leaves to dry before darkness falls.
August: Replenish mulch around annual plantings. Adding another inch of pine straw or ground bark suppresses weeds and moderates the most stressful months of the growing season. Plant small chrysanthemum plants during this month. Save the seeds of celosia, cosmos, four o’clock, the morning glory family, spider flower, and zinnias. Let plants mature as much as possible before gently crushing the flower heads to collect the seeds. Separate the seeds from other materials.
September: Use a complete fertilizer on fall-blooming and other flowers planted in July. Get to know overwintering annuals, such as pansies and violas, which perform best when planted in the fall for early spring blooms. Transplant the garden chrysanthemum right away. Deadhead first blooms so that side buds can open. Sow seeds of the following flowers in flats for transplanting next month: calendula, candytuft, pinks, sweet alyssum, and sweet William. Grow outdoors in late-day shade in a mix of half potting soil and half compost. Keep moist; add fertilizer at half-strength every other week.
October: After five consecutive nights with temperatures in the 60s (15 to 20°C), transplant pansies, ornamental cabbage, and flowering kale. Transplant the other annuals you started last month after they develop three sets of true leaves and you’ve had two weeks of night temperatures in the 60s. Sow poppy and larkspur seed with sand for better spacing.
November: Don’t mulch patches of fall-seeded annuals, such as candytuft, larkspur, and poppies. Watch for seedlings and keep the beds weeded. Fertilize once before the end of the year.
December: Wild temperature swings can be deadly to dry plants. Prevent drought damage by watering before plants wilt. For warmer water that’s gentler on the plants, set timers for midday, lay your hose out in the sun, or capture rainwater in dark-colored containers before using the water to irrigate. Watch for caterpillars. Pile the mulch on transplanted annuals. Make excellent, free mulch from leaves chopped up into coin-sized pieces. Rake away fallen leaves, spent flowers, and frosted plants, including weeds. Compost this debris, adding kitchen waste and the first cutting of your overseeded rye lawn. Tidying up now can mean fewer weeds, pests, and diseases next season.