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Upper Midwest Gardening: Gardening Calendar

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Wondering what gardening tasks need to be done and when? Upper Midwest garden contributor Rebecca Kolls shares her to-do list.

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  • Repot houseplants with new soil.
  • Sow seeds indoors. Keep moist until germination.
  • Prune fruit trees before bud break.
  • Tune up your lawnmower: change spark plugs, sharpen blades, and add new oil.
  • Cut back ornamental grasses and other perennials left for winter interest.


  • Remove tree-trunk protectors once the snow melts.
  • Plant trees or shrubs once the soil is workable.
  • Fertilize lawn once the grass is up and growing.
  • Plant cool-season veggies once the soil is workable: potatoes, lettuce, spinach, and peas.
  • Amend garden soil once it's dry enough to do so.


  • Divide fall-blooming perennials.
  • Apply a pre-emergent to control crabgrass when the lilacs are blooming.
  • Plant warm-season crops after the last frost (typically mid-May).
  • Control slugs with products containing iron phosphate.
  • Deadhead spring tulips, but let the foliage die back naturally.


  • Plant summer-blooming bulbs early this month.
  • Prune spring-blooming shrubs once flowers fade.
  • Mulch flowerbeds as temperatures warm.
  • Weed 30 minutes a day to keep weeds away.
  • Stake taller flowers such as delphiniums and peonies.


  • Harvest baby/new potatoes once plants bloom.
  • Stake tomatoes early. Remove suckers and apply mulch.
  • Plant cool-season crops at the end of the month.
  • Deadhead annuals to keep them coming back.
  • Pinch out herbs to make them bushier.


  • Plant perennials now to get rooted for winter. Divide spring-blooming perennials: astilbe, iris, bee balm, black-eyed Susan, coneflower, hosta, and campanula.
  • Continue harvesting vegetables daily. Pick up and use (or compost) fallen fruits from garden.
  • Replace tired potted flowers with cool-weather fall mums, pansies, ornamental kale, and cabbage.
  • Core aerate your soil for terrific results next season. Leave plugs on the grass to decompose naturally.


  • Plant spring bulbs for glorious color next year. If you have a squirrel problem, plant alliums, daffodils, and hyacinth -- squirrels turn up their noses at the smell.
  • Fall is best time to start a new lawn or repair an old one. Use seed specifically suited for your area.
  • Collect seeds from heirloom flowers and vegetables -- dry two weeks on paper towels and then store in airtight containers in a cool, dark place.
  • Continue planting deciduous trees and shrubs; they can be planted as long as soil is workable.
  • Harvest warm-season crops before frost: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons, and squash.


  • Dig up summer bulbs, such as dahlias, elephant ears, and gladiolus, and store them in a box filled with sawdust or peat moss. (Glads can be stored in paper bags.) Keep in a cool but frost-free location.
  • Water evergreens until the ground freezes hard. Use a slow trickle of water to allow it to soak into the soil.
  • Mark dead or dying tree limbs to be pruned in December.
  • Fall is the best time to fertilize grasses in the upper Midwest. Use a winterizing fertilizer for best results.
  • Continue mowing your lawn as long as the grass is growing.


  • Plant paperwhite narcissus now for holiday blooms. Place bulbs tightly, points up, in a container with potting soil. Cover bulbs, leaving the top 1/3 exposed. Set in a sunny location and water every week.
  • Once the ground freezes hard, mulch around perennials and newly planted shrubs.
  • Protect the bark of young trees with tree wrap, burlap, or tree collars to prevent sunscald.
  • Tie up branches of arborvitae to prevent breakage from heavy, wet snow.


  • Prune oak trees during dormancy to prevent the spread of oak wilt disease; prune other trees and shrubs you marked earlier in the season.
  • To get your Christmas cacti to bloom, place it near a window. The night chill will coax it into bud.
  • Missing spring? Invest in indoor-blooming houseplants: African violets, orchids, kalanchoe, and amaryllis will cheer you up.
  • Let your houseplants rest. Don't feed, and water sparingly unless indicated otherwise.