Monthly Gardening Tips
The Gardening Tutor Buttons About Button Announcements Button Contact Us Button Links Button Who Needs The Gardening Tutor Button Services Button First Visit Button Before and After Button Testimonials Button About Button The Garden Shoppe Button Monthly Gardening Tips Button The Gardening Tutor Home Button

See Past Gardening Tips Here

2015 Gardening Tips
June Keeping Plants Alive Until You Plant Them
May Weeds
April Important Supplies to have During a Drought
March Using White in the Garden
February Buy Summer Flowering Bulbs Now
plus What to Plant
January Rose Pruning, Sweet Peas and More
plus What to Plant

2015 Gardening Tips

JUNE 2015


For more tips, planting suggestions, and great photos, check out The Gardening Tutor Facebook page!

While at the nursery “Just to look” the pretty plants call to you to take them home. Once you get them home you have no idea where to plant them. You figure you will get to them tomorrow but tomorrow turns into next week. You finally have a minute and when you go outside the pretty plants are crispy-limp or dead-dying. Take heart, we have all been there. Here are some suggestions for keeping your plants happy while they wait to be planted:

  • As soon as you get your plants home water them and place them in a spot with light shade. Even if the tag states that they are “full sun” plants it will help to place them out of full sun while you find time to get back to them.
  • Do what the nursery does. In the nursery, container plants are watered every day. Generally, the container size equals the amount of water needed. The smaller the container the more quickly they dry out. For instance, six packs and 4 inch containers may need to be watered more often on a sunny day with temperatures in the 90’s (morning and late afternoon) to keep them from drying out.
  • When you are purchasing a specimen plant in a large container (5 gallon or larger) ask the nursery professional how often the plant is being watered.
  • If your plants do end up drying out, water them slowly so that the water can saturate the soil. If you give them too much water too fast the water will just run off and the roots will remain dry.
  • On the day of planting, water your plants well while they are still in the containers. This will make sure that the roots are well hydrated and ready to be planted.
  • Especially during drought-use water holding polymers in the planting hole. Using more polymers is not better! Follow the directions on the package. Look in the photos of The Gardening Tutor Facebook page for photos of water holding polymers.
  • If the soil is dry when you are ready to plant make sure to water around the plant in the planting hole before you cover the hole with soil. This extra moisture in the planting hole will help keep the dry soil from leaching moisture from your newly planted root zone.
  • After watering the newly planted area mulch around all your plants.

Sometimes you need to know when to let the plants go straight into the compost bin. It’s ok, keep the faith you’ll do better next time.

June 2015

  • Did your irrigation system just up and stop working? When is the last time you changed your battery in the controller? In general, if your controller has an alkaline battery, change it once a year.  If the battery is the lithium type, change it every 5 years. The battery keeps the memory of what is programmed into the controller. If your controller is the type that attaches to your hose it also has a battery that needs changing once a year or as often as the manual suggests. Your hose attached controller will stop working if the battery dies. When you are ready to learn everything you need to know about your drip system contact Mary for an appointment!
  • Do you have Dahlias growing in your garden? If you have tall growing or Dahlias with the dinner plate sized blooms you may need to stake the stems so they do not fall over. Stake early and try not to run your stake through the tuber. To encourage your large flowering dahlias to be a little shorter (and less top heavy), pinch out the tip growth when they have grown about two feet high.
  • Some vines such as sweet peas and Clematis may need help clinging to a trellis. Mary uses Velcro gardening tape for vines like this. As the vine adheres to the trellis you can undo the lower Velcro tape and use it to attach the vine higher up the trellis. Providing a trellis with small diameter grids (pencil size or smaller) will help your Clematis and Sweet Peas better grab ahold of the trellis.
  • Rhododendrons will put their energy into the blooms for next year instead of into creating seeds if you remove the old blossoms. Carefully snap the old blooms off the plant while avoiding breaking the new growth. When you are ready to learn how to care for your plants and build your gardening confidence, contact Mary.

Planting Suggestions for June

  • Annuals: Petunia, Marigold, Impatiens, Cleome (may need staking), Zinnia, Celosia
  • Veggie Seeds: Lettuce, Radish, Carrot
  • Veggie Plants: Lemon Cucumber (save space use trellis), Eggplant, Squash, Basil, Nasturtium (not a veggie but leaves and flowers are edible)

Back to Top

MAY 2015


D0 you know that a weed seed can stay dormant in the soil for 100 years until something (the right amount of water, soil disturbance, fire or other change) starts the germination process? Yikes! Have you ever heard the adage ‘one year of seeds, seven years of weeds”? Am I trying to scare you? Perhaps.

Weeds compete with your ornamental plants for nutrients and water in the soil. Some weeds can attract certain insect pests to your garden. The more you can keep ahead of the weeds, the healthier your plants will be. If you can eke out a piece of time to be in your garden and the garden is full of weeds, you may want to do some weeding instead of adding new plants. Need some alone time? One way for me to get time alone is to do the dishes or go out and pull weeds; everyone seems to vaporize when I start these chores.

If there are too many weeds to pull by hand, at the very least go out and mow them down with the weed eater or lawn mower. Ideally this mowing is done before seeds are formed. If you missed this pre seed head time, after you mow the weeds down rake up the cuttings and remove them from your property. I have pulled a weed just before it went to seed and left it on the ground only to come back a few days later to see that the weed had gone to seed after I pulled it! If you are ahead of the seeds you can compost weeds such as dandelion; however, if you have Cynodon dactylon (Bermuda Grass) or other weeds that spread by underground rhizomes do not put them into your compost pile (remove these weeds from the property too).
Sometimes people use a rototiller to grind up the weeds to make it easier to remove them but if you chop up perennial weeds such as Bermuda Grass or Convolvulus arvensis (Bindweed) you will just spread the problem.

May 2015

For more tips, planting suggestions, and great photos, check out The Gardening Tutor Facebook page!

  • Pots and other containers may need some cleaning up. Wash the soil that may have splashed up from the rains from the outside of the container or just give a general wipe down to keep the container looking good.
  • If the soil level in your containers is low it’s time to lift your plants and add more soil underneath or remove your plants and create a whole new design for the season. Contact Mary when you are ready to learn how to have beautiful containers in all seasons. Also, if you see lots of ants in your containers the soil has probably dried out. When watering your containers remember to water slowly and thoroughly (in this way you can water less often).
  • Ready….Set….Plant your tomatoes!! Plant your tomatoes deeply to encourage lots of roots and a sturdy plant. By 'deeply' I mean remove the lower leaves and put the whole lower portion of the stem in a deep hole and cover with soil. You'll have about 3 or four sets of leaves above soil level.
  • Once the flowers have faded, you can prune Lilacs, Rhododendrons, Forsythias and other spring flowering shrubs to shape if needed. If no shaping is needed, remove the spent flowers to encourage flowers for next year. If you leave the old flowers on Rhododendron and Lilac (among other spring bloomers) the plants will put their energy into making seeds.
  • Prepare your flowerbeds before you go shopping. This way you can come home and plant them right away instead of your babies drying up before you get to planting them. Keep new plants in dappled shade and not in full sun while they wait to be installed.
  • If you desire lots of bloom during the summer months, plant warm season annuals such as, Cosmos, Lobelia, Petunia, Calibrachoa (Million Bells), Impatiens, Morning Glories, and Zinnia now. When possible, choose healthy plants with only a few flowers (to make certain it’s the color you desire) instead of plants that have been in the container longer and may have stretched.
  • When you are looking for plants with long lasting blooms consider perennials such as Monarda, Felicia amelloides, Gaillardia, Fuchsia and Osteospermum. Remember to consider what the plant looks like in each season and not just when it blooms. All of the plants mentioned in this tip require some pruning to keep them looking good. When you are ready to learn more about how to prune the plants in your garden contact Mary.
  • When you notice aphids or spittlebugs on your plants, try spraying them off with a strong spray of water (not so strong it breaks your plant) to knock back the infestation. Do the water spray every few days and you should see a noticeable drop in population. Water in time for the foliage to dry before evening. Scale insects, on the other hand, will not be bothered by your water spray and you will need to hand pick or use an oil spray or insecticide (which may not always work to rid the plant of scale insects).
  • Before you apply a layer of mulch to your garden be sure to wet the soil and after you apply the mulch water it in. This is especially true for compost that is still hot to the touch (not aged completely yet) as the nitrogen in the mulch could burn your plants.
  • Weeds, weeds everywhere! If you can, pull weeds before they go to seed. Remember the saying, ‘One year of seeds, seven years of weeds’. If you don’t have time to handweed and you would like to avoid using herbicides than consider using cardboard to smother patches of weeds in your garden. Overlap the edges of the cardboard by about 6 inches (so sunlight cannot reach the weeds) and put at least a 3 inch layer of some type of mulch on top of the cardboard. Even without the cardboard, mulching at least 3 inches high will help control weeds (but remember, rarely is a garden ‘weed free’).
  • If you bought freesias in bloom you can plant them in your garden. Keep them watered until the foliage starts to turn brown and then ease back on the water. Once the foliage dies back you can stop watering Freesia. Freesia are a bulb-type plant and will usually come back year after year with the rains in spring. Another summer dormant bulb (no need to summer water) is Allium. Look on The Gardening Tutor Facebook Page soon for photos of Alliums in bloom!

APRIL 2015


    For planting suggestions and to see lots of photos and more tips visit The Gardening Tutor Facebook page! This month watch for photos of tomato cages made from 6-6- 10 wire.

April 2015

  • Two of the most important gardening supplies to have during a drought are compost for mulching around your plants and water holding polymers to use at planting time.
  • When shopping for flowering plants, buy plants that have just a few flowers so you will know the flower color. Also, this means most of the flowering will happen in your garden, not the nursery.
  • Once the danger of frost is past, you can plant your Dahlias! Remember Dahlias love well draining soil. In the Demo Garden Mary leaves the Dahlias inground all year but for gardens that have poor drainage you may need to dig up the tubers and overwinter them in a cool, dry place. Also, if you have gophers or poor draining soil consider planting your Dahlias in containers!
  • Remember to bait for earwigs, sowbugs, snails, and slugs especially around newly planted areas. You may not have these pests now but they can hitchhike into your garden on your newly purchased plants!
  • Cool season annuals such as Pansies can still be planted this month but by May it will be time to plant your warm season annuals such as Cosmos, Zinnias, and Lobelia. For more on annuals see Annuals and The Best Use of Your Money.
  • Citrus plants can be fertilized monthly with a time release citrus food. Instead of tossing the fertilizer on top of the soil, gently mix it into the top inch or so. Water well after applying.
  • This a great time of year to apply a nice layer of compost to your garden. If using as a weed suppressant you’ll need to make certain to apply at least a 3 inch layer of compost so the sunlight is cut off from the dormant weed seeds. If you just want to fertilize your plants you can apply an inch of compost on top of soil or mix the compost into the top inch or so of soil.
  • For those of you who used the sheet mulching technique last fall, you may find that the cardboard is all decomposed now and your lawn is gone. If the cardboard is still there you can simply cut holes in the cardboard where you would like to plant your new plants.
  • One of the most important tasks in the garden in spring is to check your irrigation lines for leaks and emitters that need replacing. Also, as plants grow larger the drip emitters need to be moved out farther from the trunks of shrubs and trees. Contact Mary when you are ready for drip irrigation tutoring-including how to set your irrigation controller.
  • The best way to improve sticky clay soil is to add organic matter (compost). This is true for sandy soil too! Changing the soil does not happen overnight though; you will need to apply compost at least once a year (twice is even better). Mixing the compost into the soil (amending) will help the process happen faster. Mix some compost into the top 6 to 12 inches of soil and then put a top dressing of compost 3 inches high.
  • Weeding continues this month. You are going to be so happy when you get ahead of the weeds this year instead of letting them go to seed! You can do it, just start with 10 minutes of weeding at a time.
  • Gardening terms, such as 'mulch' and 'compost' can be confusing. When you are ready to feel more confident in your gardening projects contact Mary for a consultation. 707-545-6863


MARCH 2015


    For planting suggestions, color photos and more gardening tips, check out The Gardening Tutor Facebook page. The March issue of The Sonoma County Gazette is all about gardening. In this year's issue you'll find an article by The Gardening Tutor about Using White in the Garden.

March 2015

  • Buy and place traps for Yellow Jackets now.
  • The sunshine is making you think of tomatoes isn’t it? If you buy tomato plants now and plant them you may have many weeks of worrying about them and protecting them from the cold weather that is still to come. Our frost dates in Sonoma County run from the end of October through mid April (later in the demo garden-until the middle of May). If you begin your tomato journey right now you can start tomatoes by seed in a greenhouse setting. Mary’s strategy is to purchase healthy, 4 inch tomato plants in April (to get the best selection) and keep them inside at night to protect them from frost; then plant tomatoes in the ground at the beginning of May (or when overnight temps have warmed up).
  • Weeding is one of the most helpful tasks you can do in the garden this month.
  • Planting frost hardy shrubs such as Lavender, Ribes, Escallonia, and Coleonema, as well as many others, can still be done now. Remember to keep your newly installed plants watered so the rootzone does not dry out. Also, remember to mulch well around your new plants (keeping mulch 6 inches from stem-scatter the mulch in a thin layer in the 6 inch area from stem to the deeper mulch so it looks natural). When you are ready to learn how to prepare, plant and mulch in your garden, contact Mary for an appointment.
  • If your soil is workable (moist but not soggy) you can prepare areas now in your garden where you want to install new plants. Weeding, turning the soil and working in some organic matter (compost) are some of the tasks to do to get ready. Gardening will be more of a pleasure when you can buy your plants and go right home and plant them!
  • Buy compost. If you have a place to store a delivery of compost you are in luck! Having a big pile of compost at hand means you can amend your soil and/or mulch in short bursts of time instead of doing it all at once and exhausting yourself. Remember to cover your pile with a tarp to keep the rain and weed seeds off your compost. If the compost is not aged buying now will give it time to age at your place before applying to your garden. Note: storing compost on a driveway may stain the concrete.
  • Sometimes weeds and other undesirable plants grow too close to your desired plants. Instead of pulling the weeds (and possibly pulling out the desired plant) go below soil level and cut out the weeds from around your seedlings and other plants.
  • Be careful when planting roses that have only been in the 5 gallon container for a few weeks; you will not need as big a planting hole as you think. Nurseries need to ‘pot up’ their supply of bareroot roses before the plants start to put on growth; it takes time for the new bareroot plants to become ‘rooted’ (create a nice system of roots). You can actually keep the roses in the 5 gallon container for a year to establish a nice root system and plant in ground next dormant season (the heat from the container will help roots to grow quickly-remember to keep the soil in the container moist).




    The question I hear most often this time of year is, “How do I prune my roses?” Here in the Santa Rosa area there is still time to prune your roses.

    One of the most helpful tasks you can do to keep your roses healthy is to keep the area below and around the roses clean of leaves. Diseases such as rust, powdery mildew and black spot are fungal diseases that spread easily. To remind you of why you would want to keep the area cleaned up, it may be helpful to think of this leaf debris as similar to athlete’s foot fungus. Before you prune, gently strip off all the leaves and thoroughly rake the area. Striping the leaves first will help you to clearly see which stems you are pruning.

    Different types of roses prefer different pruning but here are some general things to keep in mind. Angle your pruning cuts away from the bud so that any water will run away from the bud. Prune a quarter inch above an outward facing bud (or to a bud that is going to grow in the direction you would like). Cut out any spindly growth (growth that is less than the diameter of a pencil). Prune out any growth that will be growing into the middle of the rose so that the rose bush will have good air circulation. Good air circulation will cut down on the possibility of diseases. Also, prune out any dead, diseased, or damaged growth. Where branches cross, decide which branch to keep and prune out the other branch.

    After you prune and clean up the area, apply a 3" layer of good quality compost on top of the soil to help reduce weeds and feed your roses. Keep the compost about 6 inches from the base of the plant.

February 2015

  • For planting suggestions, color photos and more gardening tips, check out our Facebook page.
  • Roses still need pruning? No problem, better to prune now, even though new growth has started, than to not prune at all. Prune out the dead and damaged stems. Where stems cross choose the healthiest one and prune out the other. For a nice shape make cuts just above growth that is facing outward (away from the center of the bush). Contact Mary when you would like to learn how to prune your roses or if you’d like Mary to prune for you. 707.545.6863
  • To avoid damage to new growth avoid spraying your roses while the growth is young. If you still need to spray wait until the new growth has hardened off.
  • When you first see aphids on your rose bushes or other plants you can use a strong spray of water to knock the aphids off. Repeat the water treatment for several days and you will see a big reduction in the population without needing to use a pesticide.
  • Annual weeds are popping up everywhere. Get ahead of them by pulling them now before they go to seed. Remember, “one year of seeds/seven years of weeds.”
  • Sweet pea transplants can still be planted this month for lots of amazing blooms in April and May! Protect the little plants from snails, slugs, sowbugs and earwigs.
  • If you would like to use less spray for plant diseases, consider purchasing roses or fruit trees that are “disease resistant” varieties.
  • To encourage more blooms, continue to remove the spent flowers (with their stems) from cool season annuals, such as Iceland poppies and pansies.
  • Cool season annual plants will appreciate some liquid fertilizer once a month. Mary uses Maxsea all purpose plant food for pansies, poppies, Bellis perennis and other winter annuals. You can also fertilize bulbs as soon as you see the new growth coming up (this is especially helpful to bulbs in containers).
  • Hydrangeas and Buddleja (butterfly bush) can be pruned this month. When you would like to learn more about what to prune and how to prune, contact Mary.
  • If you did not get time to add compost to your veggie garden last fall go ahead and dig some in now (as long as your soil is workable-moist but not soggy) to prepare the soil for your spring veggie planting.
  • Glazed pottery can crack and chip in freezing weather. Remember to protect your glazed containers and art when temperatures drop.
  • Once Camellia blooms turn brown remove them and keep the area under and around the plant clear of fallen blossoms too in order to keep your Camellia from becoming infected with petal blight
  • Check out the archive page for tips from past February Tips.

Planting Suggestions for February

  • Bare root roses
  • Bare root fruit trees
  • Annual plants such as pansies, cyclamen, Iceland poppies and primroses
  • Veggie seeds such as beets, lettuce, and carrot as well as onion sets



    This is a great time of year for cleaning and sharpening your gardening tools!

    The blades of hand pruners and loppers are easily cleaned of rust and residue with 000 steel wool (if your pruners are really dirty-use some WD40 with the steel wool). Sharpen the blades (remember to only sharpen on the beveled side). You can then lightly spray the blades with alcohol and then lightly oil with some 3 in 1 oil or silicon spray (my personal favorite). Help your hands and your plants; clean and sharpen your pruners as often as needed to make good clean cuts using the least effort. At least once a year taking apart your hand pruners to clean all the parts will ensure the longest life for your pruners.

    For shovels, hoes, trowels and other tools use a stiff brush and wash the entire tool with mild soap and water (you can add a little bleach to the water if you like). After the tool is clean, dry it completely with a clean cloth. Sharpen any cutting edges. Lightly oil any wooden handles with boiled linseed oil or a vegetable oil; you may first need to use some sandpaper to smooth rough spots in the wood.

    One of the best ways to care for your tools is to store them out of the weather and hang them so the tools do not rest on their working ends.

    Remember for long lasting tools: always buy the best quality tool that you can afford!

    January 2015

  • Rose pruning can be a little intimidating. If this is the year you would like to increase your pruning confidence give Mary a call early to reserve your appointment time.
  • When you are just itching to get out and prune something remember that dead and damaged branches can be pruned from evergreen plants at any time of year.
  • Remember to sharpen your pruning tools before using. Sharp tools make clean cuts; dull blades can crush and tear stems creating entry points for insects and disease. Plus, using sharp tools is easier on your hands!
  • Spur prune Wisteria to 2 or 3 fat buds.
  • Old fruit that is still hanging on your fruit trees are called ‘Mummies’ and they can harbor pests and disease; remove as many mummies as you can and discard them. Also, clean up fallen fruit from the ground in order to keep insect populations and fungal diseases down.
  • Pruning fruit trees-Every fruit tree grower seems to have their own reasons for the timing of their pruning. One question to ask yourself before you prune is ‘would this fruit tree be less susceptible to diseases such as canker and eutypa dieback if I waited and pruned it in the summer?’ Stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, cherry, apricots and plums) are pruned in summer by many fruit growers for just this reason. Whenever you choose to prune, proper pruning cuts are important. Contact Mary for an appointment when you would like to learn more about pruning your fruit trees.
  • Save Money! Bareroot roses and fruit trees are in the local nurseries now! In order to continue to have such a variety of fruits to choose from it’s important to buy from our locally owned nurseries.
  • If you have had a hard time getting your sweet pea seeds to germinate in ground try growing them up in six packs first and then transplanting the starts into the garden. Use a fork to gently lift the plant from each six pack cell.
  • Weeding continues this month as long as the soil is workable and not soggy.
  • Daphne shrubs will be in nurseries this month! If you want something yummy to smell in your garden in winter nothing beats Daphne. For best fragrance impact, plant Daphne close to your most used entryway door. Daphne prefers well draining soil so best to prepare your planting hole properly for best results. Mulch well after planting (keeping mulch a few inches away from trunk).

Planting Suggestions for January
  • You may have missed planting your bulbs in ground last fall but the good news is that nurseries planted them for you in 4 inch containers! You can create some amazingly colorful container plantings this month! Fill them with: ranunculus, anemone, primrose and narcissus.
  • Satureja douglasii (Yerba buena) is a great California native plant for spilling over your winter containers! It smells like double mint too!
  • Watch for bareroot fruit trees, berries, roses and others coming into your local nurseries. Shop early in the season for best selection.
  • When you buy a bareroot rose you can plant it in ground or you can encourage more rooting by planting it up into a five gallon container (keep it watered throughout the year) and plant it next year.

The Gardening Tutor
Hands-on, Individualized Gardening Instruction
And Consulting
in Sonoma County
Santa Rosa, California

Hands-On Individualized Gardening Instruction and Consulting in Sonoma County