Monthly Garden Tips

January Monthly Garden Tips


Brrr … is it spring yet?

  • Brush snow from evergreens as soon as possible after a storm. Use a broom in a upward, sweeping motion. Serious damage may be caused by heavy snow or ice accumulating on the branches.
  • Give suet to the birds to help give them energy. Peanut and berry flavors are the best sellers.
  • If you have some time this winter, paint the handles of you garden tools red or orange. This will preserve the wood and make the tools easier to locate next summer when you lay them down in the garden or lawn.
  • Check Preston’s for new garden seeds. Stopping in to our sunny greenhouse on a cold winter day will give you an instant feeling of spring.
February Monthly Garden Tips


Go seed shopping!

  • Houseplants with large leaves and smooth foliage such as philodendrons, dracaena and rubber plants benefit from having their leaves washed to remove dust and grime.
  • When using salt to melt ice on walks and driveways, spread it carefully to avoid damage to nearby shrubs and plants. Consider using sand instead.
  • Plan out your vegetable garden ahead of time. Buy seeds now to get the very best selection. Seeds can be started indoors later this month so they are ready to move outside when the weather warms up.
  • Protect your evergreens with Wilt-Stop, a protective coating that keeps your evergreens from drying out. Apply it lightly when temperature is above 40 degrees outside.
  • Consider purchasing a notebook to keep records of all your gardening information. Include information such as seeds planted, favorite vegetable varieties, warranties on shrubs and trees from Preston’s, and yardage of mulch used to make it easy to order next year.
  • Check Preston’s for new garden seeds. Stopping in to our sunny greenhouse on a cold winter day will give you an instant feeling of spring.
  • Turn the compost pile.
March Monthly Garden Tips


Welcome the birds to your garden.

  • Plan your vegetable garden on graph paper. Remember to rotate crops just like the farmers do. Tomatoes and Peppers use many nutrients from the soil and should be moved from year to year to prevent mineral deficiencies.
  • Place birdhouses outside this month. Clean out any existing houses for new bird families to move in.
  • After pussy willows have bloomed, prune the shrubs drastically to encourage long branches and large fuzzy catkins for next year.
  • Remove mulch or covers from roses, clematis, perennials, and other tender plants after night temperatures remain in the 30’s. Be prepared to re-cover if a cold snap returns.
  • Touch up garden and landscape areas with a fresh layer of bark mulch.
  • Give your houseplants a good once over. Dust leaves with a moistened cloth, repot in fresh soil, and give them a boost with some water-soluble fertilizer.
April Monthly Garden Tips


Bouquets of beautiful bulbs …

  • Now is a good time to start summer flowering bulbs indoors. Gladiolus, cannas, and dahlias can be started in pots inside and then moved outdoors after danger of frost.
  • Cut spent flowers on tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and other spring flowering bulbs as the flower fades. Do not cut the foliage until it dies naturally. The leaves are necessary to produce food for strong bulbs for next year.
  • Remove sticks, rocks, and other debris from you lawn to prevent damaging your lawnmower or injuring yourself when mowing. Check your lawnmower and other lawn care equipment in preparation for the coming season.
  • Put a birdhouse in the garden or even a bat house to attract insect-eating friends.
  • Measure rainfall with a rain gauge posted near the garden so you can tell when to water. The garden needs about one inch of rain per week from April to September.
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May Monthly Garden Tips


Prep your vegetable garden.

  • Plant some new varieties of vegetables in your garden! ‘Chello’ a yellow cherry tomato, has a super sweet flavor and is just right for salads or eating straight from your hand. ‘Valencia Orange’ is an orange bell pepper that grows 4 ½ inch fruits and is perfect for use in salads, sandwiches or cooked in a stir fry.
  • May is the time to repair your lawn. Fill in any bare spots by loosening the soil surface, sprinkle down grass seed and apply a light application of Preston Incredi-Bloom. Water the new seed daily for three weeks.
  • Bring indoor tropical plants outside for their summer vacation. Gradually get them used to the wind and sun by putting them out for just an hour or two a day and slowly increasing the time outdoors.
  • Place a pot of herbs as close as possible to the kitchen for easy access. Chives, parsley, oregano and mint are all ready to go out now. Basil loves hot weather, so wait a couple more weeks before putting it outside.
  • Apply a layer of crushed eggshells in the area where you plan on putting tomatoes this year. Tomatoes love calcium and this is an easy way to recycle and have healthier tomatoes this season.
June Monthly Garden Tips


Fertilize, and look out for pests!

  • Remove old flower heads from annual bedding plants to keep them blooming.
  • Watch for black spot and powdery mildew on rose bushes. Spray them with Rose Rx to prevent these diseases from occurring. Avoid watering the leaves as this will cause the disease to spread more rapidly.
  • Now is the time to feed your azaleas and rhododendrons with Espoma Holly tone. This will increase next years flowers.
  • Be alert for snail or slug damage in your host a garden. Leaves will have many holes, especially near the edges. Thin leafed varieties are more desirable to snails and slugs than thick, puckery-leafed varieties. Use Slug Magic at the first sign of damage.
  • Give your flowers a boost with Preston Incredi-bloom about once a month. This will provide you with a bounty of flowers for the rest of the summer.
  • Birds love blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries as much as we do! Protect your berries with netting before they ripen and are eaten by the birds.
July Monthly Garden Tips


Water — not too much, not too little

  • Check often to see if containers are receiving adequate water. As the temperatures rise, plants will need more water.
  • When cutting flowers for bouquets, use a sharp knife or shears for best results. Cut on an angle to provide more stem surface area for receiving water. Put cut flowers immediately into water, a basket is not the best thing to use.
  • For fall harvest of lettuce, radish, carrots, beets, turnips, kale and spinach, sow seeds in late July to early August.
  • Begin scouting for Japanese beetles, especially on roses, rose of Sharon, birch, and linden trees. Use Bonide Eight for a quick kill.
  • This is the month when hydrangeas are looking their best. Spread 2 ½ cups of Espoma ‘Soil Acidifier’ around the base of the plant and water in. This will lower the pH of the soil, promote dark green foliage, and turn the pink flowers to blue.
  • During the hot summer months, mulch can be especially useful for conserving water. Add a thin layer of shredded hardwood mulch to your perennial beds and in your landscape.
August Monthly Garden Tips


Extra veggies? Donate them.

  • Pick zucchini and summer squash every day or two to keep the plants producing.
  • Letting your lawn go dormant and dry in the summer months can discourage Japanese beetles from laying eggs in your lawn, which hatch into turf damaging grubs. Try to limit watering to every 2-3 weeks.
  • You may notice a dust or talcum-like powder on your roses, lilacs or phlox this month. Applying a fungicide, such as Bonide Rose Rx 3 in 1 (it’s organic!) will keep the disease from spreading. 
  • Hot peppers will keep best if stored after they dry. Thread the peppers on a string and hang in a cool, dry place.
  • If you are harvesting more vegetables than you can eat, bring them to Preston’s and we will drop off at the Palatine Food Pantry.
September Monthly Garden Tips


Give your garden some fall color!

  • Plant trees, shrubs, and evergreens now. Fall is an excellent time to finish any landscape projects that were put off because of the heat.
  • Control creeping Charlie, dandelions, and other broad leaf weeds in your lawn with Bonide Weed Beater. Spraying in the fall will give you much better results than waiting until next spring.
  • Feed your lawn with Preston Turf Food. This organic based, slow release fertilizer will perk up your tired lawn.
  • Resist the urge to trim azaleas, rhododendrons, lilacs, forsythias and other early spring blooming shrubs. They have already set their flower buds for next year’s bloom.
  • Bring in houseplants before they start getting used to the cold weather.
  • Fall is a good time to improve the soil in your vegetable garden. Use Bumper Crop to increase the organic matter for luscious rich soil.
  • Winter pansies, flowering kale, cabbage, and fall mums may be planted now to give a little color to the garden when summer flowers have faded away.
October Monthly Garden Tips


Put the garden to bed.

  • Protect your evergreens, including boxwood, azaleas, and rhododendrons from the drying winter winds by applying Wilt Stop in October or November. This will provide a protective layer on the foliage to help prevent moisture loss.
  • Add a little fragrance to your spring garden. Try planting hyacinth bulbs now and their soft perfume will fill the spring air. Varieties such as Woodstock, White Pearl, Sky Jacket and Blue Pearl are all deer resistant and bloom in mid-spring.
  • Before you put away all of your garden tools, make sure they are cleaned. Rusty, non-functioning tools are no fun to play with in the spring.
  • Leave the seed heads on black-eyed susans, cone flowers and ornamental grasses. Not only do they look great in the winter, but they’ll provide food for the birds.
  • Map out open spaces in your garden to plant spring flowering bulbs. Tulips, daffodils, and many more.  Bulbs are here and ready for you to plant!
  • Your lawn is hungry! Give it its last boost before winter. Fertilize with Preston Winterizer to help strengthen your lawn for winter and ensure a healthier lawn in the spring.
  • Squirrels and raccoons love pumpkins and indian corn. Spray these fall decorations with Bonide Repels-all to help keep the critters from redecorating. 
November Monthly Garden Tips


Tree-shaping, tool-sharpening

  • Protect your evergreens, including holly, boxwood, azaleas, and rhododendrons, from the drying winds of winter by watering them deeply and regularly in the fall. Unless there’s plenty of rain, let a slow trickle of water soak into the soil around the roots for half an hour once a week.
  • You can also spray your evergreens with Wilt-Stop at the end of November or before it gets very cold. This adds a protective layer on the foliage that will help prevent moisture loss.
  • Keep your valuable landscape plants from becoming a “bunny buffet” by applying a repellent such as Bonide Repels-All or Liquid Fence. To keep the animals from damaging the trunks of your young trees, wrap them with tree wrap or vinyl tree guards.
  • This is the best time of year for pruning trees. Now that the leaves are gone, you can see the framework of the tree. Use the DDD rule. Cut any damaged, diseased or dead branches.
  • Before you put away all of your garden tools, make sure they are cleaned, and your pruners and shears sharpened. Rusty, non-functioning tools are no fun to play with in the spring.
  • If you start your amaryllis bulbs now, you’ll have big, showy blooms in time for the holidays.
December Monthly Garden Tips


Winterize, winterize, winterize

  • Protect your roses from winter winds and cold temperatures. After the first hard frost, wrap a rose collar around each plant and fill it with straw, shredded leaves or mulch. If possible, wait until new growth appears next spring before cutting back the canes.
  • Going away for the holidays? If you can’t find a plant sitter, consider using a Plant Nanny. They will provide your plants with water while you are away.
  • Deer and rabbit proof your valuable trees and shrubs by spraying the now with Repels-All or Liquid Fence.
  • Mulch tender perennials and newly planted shrubs to protect tender roots from extreme cold and fluctuating temperatures. Use loose organic material such as shredded bark or cotton burr compost.
  • Have you raked up those felled leaves yet? Your lawn still needs as much light as possible to prepare for winter. Also, leaves don’t make good mulch for perennials and should be raked or blown off perennial beds.