Garden Year Planner
Early Spring, February–March
This is the beginning of the gardening year, and heralds a busy period for gardeners. However, don’t be overeager: keep off lawns, beds, and borders if they are frozen or wet, as walking on them risks compacting the soil. And don’t attempt to dig until the weather improves.
- Start weeding: pull small seedlings by hand but dig out the roots of perennials such as dandelions, or use a glyphosate weedkiller.
- Prepare the soil for planting by forking it over and digging in organic matter.
- Sow seeds of half-hardy and tender bedding plants indoors in a frost-free place.
- Plant summer-flowering bulbs, hardy perennials, and ornamental grasses.
- Plant bare-rooted shrubs and garden trees.
- Prune bush roses.
- Prune deciduous shrubs and climbers that flower later in the summer, such as buddleja, jasmine, lavateras, and certain varieties of clematis.
- Prune hardy evergreen shrubs and trees.
- Lift and divide oversized clumps of perennials; discard dead or unproductive sections in the middle of the clump.
- Prepare soil for planting in fair weather.
- Rake the lawn, removing leaves and other debris, and brush off worm castings if you need to mow.
- Repot or top-dress shrubs, climbers, and alpines growing in pots and containers.
Mid- to Late Spring, April–May
The garden is changing daily now, with plants shooting up and buds bursting into life. Many spring bulbs are in flower, trees are in blossom, and brand new, spring-green foliage is everywhere. For many gardeners, this is the very best time of the year. Yet the weather can still be unpredictable. April is prone to sudden frosts and even in warm areas they are not unknown in May. Don’t be tempted to sow seeds outdoors too early, and protect vulnerable plants by covering them or bringing them indoors at night.
- Apply a general-purpose fertilizer around established shrubs and roses.
- Mulch the soil after a rain or watering.
- Stake herbaceous perennials as growth emerges.
- Sow seeds of half-hardy and tender annuals inside, or buy plug plants and grow on in a frost-free place.
- Harden off bedding plants sown earlier in spring.
- Sow hardy annuals in situ.
- In late spring, thin hardy annuals sown outside.
- Plant evergreens, and move any that are in the wrong place.
- Prune early-flowering shrubs and climbers after they have bloomed.
- Cut back ornamental grasses as they start to grow.
- Make new shrubs and climbers by layering.
- Start taking softwood cuttings from new shoots.
- Sod or sow new lawns, and repair worn-out lawns.
- Apply a spring fertilizer, and weedkiller, to lawns.
- Cut the grass with the blades quite high.
- Keep weeding.
Early Summer, June
Rising temperatures should now be coaxing summer flowers into bloom—roses and peonies come into their own, and perennial flower borders will soon be looking their best. You should have completed most of your seed sowing, pricking out, and potting on. And with the warm weather and the end of night-time frost, tender plants can be moved or planted outdoors.
- Feed flowering shrubs and roses with a rose fertilizer to promote flowering.
- Weed carefully to avoid damaging nearby plants.
- Buy bedding plants and plant out after the last frost.
- Plant hanging baskets and summer pots outside when all risk of frost is past.
- Plant out half-hardy and tender bedding plants after the last frost.
- Prune late spring-flowering shrubs and climbers after they have bloomed.
- Trim vigorously growing hedges, e.g., privet.
- Remove suckers from roses.
- Tie in climbers regularly to their supports.
- Divide congested clumps of primulas and irises after they have flowered.
- Continue to take softwood cuttings.
- Mow lawns regularly, and lower the blades.
- Water new plants in dry spells.
Mid- to Late Summer, July–August
The work in the garden gradually eases off as summer progresses, leaving you free to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. The likelihood is that you will spend most of your time watering during dry spells, deadheading plants that have already flowered, keeping beds and borders weeded, and pruning back the uncontrolled growth of your more overenthusiastic and vigorous plants. If you have a corner of the garden devoted to vegetables, herbs, and fruit, now is the time to harvest and enjoy them.
- Prepare the soil for a new lawn or border.
- Plant early-spring-flowering bulbs—such as snowdrops, crocuses, and daffodils—in late summer.
- Take semiripe cuttings of shrubs.
- Deadhead flowering plants to promote new blooms.
- Cut back herbaceous plants after flowering for a second burst of foliage and flowers.
- Prune rambling roses as soon as they have flowered.
- Prune established climbers and deciduous shrubs that flower on the previous year’s growth.
- Trim evergreen and conifer hedges in late summer.
- In dry spells, continue to water new plants and those still establishing themselves, as well as new lawns. Water in the early morning and evening rather than in the heat of the day.
- Water and fertilize hanging baskets and containers regularly.
- Fertilize and mulch roses.
- Continue to weed regularly.
- Mow lawns regularly—perhaps as often as once a week or more—but set the blades higher during hot, dry spells.
As rain returns and the weather cools, get ready for a season of activity— planting hardy perennials, shrubs, and bulbs for the following spring, lifting and dividing established plants, clearing away the dead and dying plant debris of the summer, and protecting tender plants from the coming harsh conditions.
- Remove dead and dying stems and foliage from perennials, but leave a few to protect the roots over winter.
- Plant hardy perennials and hardy evergreen shrubs early in the season.
- Plant deciduous shrubs and trees in late fall when the leaves have fallen.
- Remove and compost summer annuals.
- Plant spring-flowering biennials, such as wallflowers.
- Plant spring-flowering bulbs but leave tulips until November.
- In late fall, transplant deciduous shrubs.
- Lift and divide hardy perennials.
- Lift and store, or insulate, tender perennials and shrubs before the first frost.
- Lift and store dahlias and cannas after the first frosts.
- Take hardwood cuttings of deciduous shrubs.
- Check tree ties and loosen if tight.
- Cover ponds with nets to keep out falling leaves, which contaminate the water as they decompose.
- Apply a fall lawn fertilizer.
- Lay sod or sow new lawns.
- Mow lawns less frequently as growth slows.
- Rake up leaves and debris from lawns.
- Aerate lawns using a fork, and top-dress to stimulate root growth and prevent moss.
- Repair lawns, if necessary.
Cold winter months are a time of rest for most plants, as their growth cycles slow down or stop and they enter a period of dormancy before coming to life again the following spring. But there is still plenty to do in the garden—and venturing out in the fresh air can really raise the spirits.
- Dig organic matter, such as well-rotted manure or garden compost, into clay soil.
- Protect slightly tender perennials with straw or compost.
- Brush heavy snow off trees, hedges, and shrubs to prevent the weight from snapping branches.
- Plant deciduous trees, shrubs, and hedges on dry, frost-free days, unless the soil is very wet.
- Prune trees (except for plums and cherries) and wisteria, and renovate overgrown or old deciduous shrubs.
- In late winter, coppice shrubs for special effects like colorful stems or bold foliage.
- In windy gardens, prune back the topgrowth of tall roses and other shrubs to prevent windrock.
- Check stored dahlias, cannas, and gladioli, and remove any that show signs of rotting.
- Wrap up pots with bubble wrap and cover vulnerable plants with fleece if frost is forecast.
- Continue to take hardwood cuttings of deciduous shrubs.
- Take root cuttings of perennials.
- Continue to rake up leaves from lawns.
- Keep off lawns and soil when sodden or frozen.
- Check and repair garden tools.
- Make plans for next year’s planting. Renovate deciduous shrubs