October Garden Tips

Fall is not the end of the gardening year. It is the start of next year’s growing season.”

~ Thalassa Cruso

Flower Gardens

Mums are frost hardy and are a great value for the spectacular show of color they provide. After the foliage freezes on your gladioli, cannas, dahlias, begonias and other tender summer-blooming bulbs dig them up, brush the dirt off, let them dry for a few days, then store them in vermiculite or peat moss and keep the medium moist throughout the winter. 

Planting large pots of garden mums, asters, or flowering kale as you remove annuals from beds and borders gives you a spectacular show of color immediately.

Make notes on the past growing season’s gardening successes or disappointments while the details are still fresh in your mind. If you had problems, come in and we will try to help you turn them into successes.


October is the best month to plant your spring-flowering bulbs. Fertilize with bulb food, super phosphate or bone meal when you plant the bulbs. Water them in thoroughly after planting.When planting bulbs the pointed end of the bulb is positioned upward.

Plant small, early-flowering bulbs where they can be seen from indoors, since they bloom when it is usually too cold to enjoy them outside. Plant small, early flowering bulbs where they can be seen from indoors, since they bloom when it is usually too cold to enjoy them outside.

Perennials & Roses

Plant perennials at the same time you plant bulbs. You’ll be able to place perennial plants between your bulb groupings for color from spring to fall.

Many perennials and ornamental grasses add seasonal interest to the garden with attractive seed heads and plumes. Choose what you would like to remain intact and tidy up others by cutting back tall stems to the base foliage.

As the soil cools, apply mulch around perennial plants, especially those that have been recently planted.

Water roses less frequently and stop fertilizing to prepare them for winter dormancy.

Don’t forget to water monthly during the winter if there is no natural snow or rain. 

Remove any foliage with fungal diseases such as powdery mildew and rust. Discard in the trash. Cleaning up now will help prevent a recurrence of the problem next year. 

Cut back perennials leaving a 6 inch stub above the ground. Leave those with attractive seed heads for winter interest, such as coneflower and yarrow. 

Leave the fronds of your outdoor ferns on the plant to protect the crowns. Prune out the old fronds in the spring when new shoots show in the spring.


Green Thumb Winterizer should be applied in mid October. Your lawn will be nice and green in the spring.

As leaves fall, rake them from lawns and add to compost or shred them and dig directly into your vegetable garden. Soggy mats of leaves on turf can lead to disease problems. 

Leave your grass at a height of 2 ½” for the final mowing of the season. Continue to water as long as the temperatures remain above freezing. Give your lawn a good watering before you drain your sprinkler systems. Drain the system before the temperatures drop into the low twenties, to avoid freeze damage to the lines and sprinkler heads. Insulate and protect the vacuum breaker that is above ground before the first freezing weather.


In October, deep water trees and shrubs every three weeks thoroughly. 

Do not fertilize trees now. If you had insect problems on your trees and shrubs, spray a dormant oil spray on the trunks and limbs to suffocate those insects that are overwintering in the cracks and crevices of the bark. 

October is the best month to select trees and shrubs with fall color. Genetically, plants may differ in their fall beauty, so what you see in the nursery is what you’ll have in your yard. 

If you see browning needles in your pines and spruces, do not panic. It is a normal phenomenon. In the fall these plants lose their oldest needles and keep three or four years of their newest growth. 

Rake up all aspen leaves to reduce the chance of revival of any leaf-related disease you may have experienced. Dispose of these leaves and do not add them to your compost pile or incorporate them into your vegetable garden.

Vegetable Gardens

Prepare your vegetable garden soil this fall following your harvest because amending soil in the spring can be delayed if wet conditions prevail. Add Premier sphagnum peat moss, manure and Nature’s Yield Compost now. It will age and decompose over the winter and provide for earlier and easier planting next spring.

Rototill shredded leaves, garden debris, grass clippings and kitchen scraps, (excluding meat products) into your garden this fall. They will compost over the winter and greatly improve your garden soil next spring. Be sure the organic matter is insect and disease free. 

Cut dead stalks of asparagus and trim raspberry canes which have borne fruit this year. Look for the leftover plugs at the top of the canes to tell which ones fruited this year. Divide rhubarb and transplant overcrowded roots after the first killing frost for improved production next year. 

Indoor Plants

Holiday cactus need special care to get beautiful flowers this December. Buds will form for the holidays if you keep artificial light off them at night starting in mid October. 

Your houseplants will benefit from a good leaching. Take them to your kitchen sink or bathtub and water twice or three times to remove built up soluble salts remaining from fertilizer or minerals from the water. If left, these salts can build up and burn the roots and browning the tips and margins of the leaves.

Amaryllis is the most majestic of all the holiday plants. To have blooms at Christmas, plant amaryllis bulbs 7-10 weeks earlier. Choose a pot about 2″ wider than the bulb and one that is heavy enough to keep from tipping. Fill the pot part way with potting mix. Set the bulb so that the top 1/3 of the bulb will be above the top of the soil when you fill the pot to 1″ below the top edge of the pot. Give the plant about 4 hours of bright light a day. Plant every 2 weeks for a spectacular color show all winter.

Feathered Friends

Feeding the birds outside during the winter is great fun for young and old alike. You do need to have the right foods for the birds you are trying to attract. Start early while there are plenty of birds around. Keep the feeding stations clean and full. Clean out bird houses and bird feeders to prevent the spread of diseases for next year’s families. Be sure to supply a water source for birds during the winter time.

Water Features   

Get your pond ready for winter. Remove debris and clean the pond surface and filters. Remove old foliage and place plants into deeper water. Pond netting will keep fallen leaves and unwanted predators out of your pond. 

October is the time to clean the organic matter from the bottom of your pond. Remember the yucky sludge from your pond makes an excellent addition to your compost pile.

Set up a deicer or aerator in your pond to ensure one area remains unfrozen and gasses can exchange for fish.   

Empty fountains and remove pumps before freezing weather arrives. Cover fountains with fountain covers or bring them into the garage. Birdbaths must be coated with Thompson’s Water Sealant before winter if they are left outdoors. Use a birdbath heater to prevent the water from freezing. 

After October 15, (or when the water temperature falls below 50º F) feed fish Tetra Pond Spring and Fall Diet. Stop feeding fish once you see ice along the edges of the water in the morning. 


Be sure to rake your leaves in the fall, disposing of any diseased or insect-ridden leaves. Rake healthy leaves into a pile, chop them up with your lawn mower, and add the resulting mulch into your compost pile or rototill it into your garden. 

It pays to have good quality tools and keep them in good condition because it causes the least amount of damage or stress to plants. It’s also easier on the gardener as your work will go faster. 

Choose a pumpkin with a stem that is at least 2″ long. Pumpkins that are darker orange may last longer and are a bit tougher. When you get it home, clean it with soap and water to keep bacteria away. Protect from frost.

Stay warm while outside with a chimenea or fire pit. These outdoor “fireplaces” will keep you cozy warm while preparing your meal and entertaining outside.

Stop spiders, crickets, millipedes, earwigs and other bothersome bugs from coming into the house for the winter by spraying Green Thumb Home Pest Control around the foundation of your house and especially window wells. 

Fall is a great time to relax, enjoy your patio and cook outdoors. Try adding apple, hickory or mesquite chips to your grill for a unique flavor. 

Echter’s Plant Doctors are available during store hours seven days a week to answer
your gardening questions. For accurate diagnosis, it helps to bring in a sample.

June Garden Tips

“It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.”

~ Maud Hart Lovelace

Flower Gardens

“Dead-head” (pinch off the spent blooms) on perennials, annuals and roses for longer flowering periods and more and larger blooms.

Want some color in a shaded area? Try begonias, impatiens, coleus, ivy geraniums, fuchsia, or lobelia. Watch for geranium budworm on geraniums and petunias. Besides the obvious destruction of the flowers, another telltale sign is tiny black droppings on leaves and the ground beneath the plants. The most effective treatment is to spray Eight insecticide every 10 days or treat organically with BT. 

Shade your patio for late summer by planting annual vines, like morning glories, moon flowers, scarlet runner beans, or sweet peas. 

Cut flowers for bouquets early in the morning and place the stems immediately into a bucket of water to keep them fresh until you are able to arrange them. 

Stake your tall blooming flowers like gladioli, delphiniums, and cannas to keep the flowers showing and upright. 

If you are going away on vacation this summer, water all your plants (indoors and out) thoroughly before you leave. A drip system with an automatic timer will assure you that your plants will be watered while you are gone.

Container Gardens

Container gardens and hanging baskets can need a lot of fertilizer in a short time. The only practical way to get enough fertilizer to them is with a water-soluble fertilizer like Jack’s Classic Blossom Booster.

Top off your planters and container gardens with a half-inch of Mini Nuggets bark mulch to help keep in the moisture. 

Perennials & Roses

Prevent rose and perennial diseases like powdery mildew from taking hold by using a systemic fungicide before the problem appears. Once those diseases appear it is very difficult to control. Bee balm, phlox, columbines and lilacs are some of the plants prone to powdery mildew.

Fertilize your roses regularly for continuous, large and beautiful blooms. We also have rose fertilizer with a systemic insecticide for continuous insect control.

If you had rust or black spot on your roses last year, give them a good preventive spray to reduce the problem this year. You will have to repeat the spray according to the directions on the container. 

Look for empty spaces where you could plant some bulbs this fall between perennials to add more color next spring. Our fall-planted bulbs arrive around Labor Day weekend. 

Control grass in perennial flower gardens with Over the Top. It is unique in that it kills grass without damaging most perennials. 

Shade your patio with perennial vines including trumpet, honeysuckle, clematis, Engelman ivy, wisteria and silver lace vine. Even grape vines work well to create a shady spot.  

Pinch back asters and mums until mid July to encourage branching, compact growth and extra flowers. 

Too much shade? Echter’s has many shade-loving plants. For perennials try ferns, hosta, forget-me-nots, lamium, astilbe, violas, columbine, hellebores, bergenia, lily of the valley, and many more.  

Plant baby’s breath in your rose garden. It’s a great addition for any of your flower arrangements.

Grass has a very hard time growing under spruces and pines. To solve this problem, we suggest either mulching or planting one of several ground covers. Vinca, purpleleaf wintercreeper, ajuga, sweet woodruff, plumbago, creeping mahonia, and kinnikinnik are just a few suggestions for those difficult situations. 

 Use Mini Nuggets mulch or red cedar mulch in your flower beds. They will retain moisture and retard weeds from emerging. 

Vegetable Gardens

Avoid overhead watering when tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, corn and other vegetables that need pollination are in flower as the pollen may be washed away, resulting in fewer fruits.

Remove the Season Starters from around your tomatoes, peppers, etc. before the weather turns hot.

Watch for tiny holes in radish and bean leaves. Flea beetles are most likely the problem. Spray or dust with Eight to take care of those tiny problems.

Ross netting over your fruit trees and raspberries will help keep birds and squirrels out of your fruit crops. In addition, bird-repelling scare tape will be beneficial in protecting your fruit for a while.

A floating row cover “tent” over your cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower will help eliminate cabbage loopers.  If they are already present, a dusting of Eight dust will take care of this insect. 

Mulch your annual flowers and vegetable garden after the soil has warmed. Use Mini Nuggets bark mulch for the summer, and then till it into the ground this fall to improve the soil structure.   

All vegetables should be harvested early in the morning when it is cool, especially lettuce, spinach, herbs, peas, and beans. Pick edible pod or sugar pod peas when the seeds are barely visible for best quality. Continue fertilizing with a high phosphorus (the second number) fertilizer. Corn is an exception; it prefers a bit higher nitrogen (the first number) in the analysis. 

Trellis your vining cucumbers, squash and small gourds to make more room for other vegetables. Trellising also improves air circulation and keeps the fruit off the ground. 

Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems to get water directly to the plants’ roots. You can either lay the hose on top of the mulch next to the plant or under the mulch. This is the most efficient way to water your gardens. 

Plant bee-attracting flowers in and near your vegetable garden to draw these pollinators to your crops.  If you have to use an insecticide, use it very early in the morning or late in the evening to protect the bees. Harvest broccoli when the buds are still tight and before any flowers open.

Lawn Care

Those impossible weeds like bindweed, dandelions and thistle in your lawn can be controlled with Ferti-lome’s Weed Out or Weed Free Zone. These are the most effective weed killers you can buy.

If you fed your lawn in April, it’s time to put on another application of fertilizer before the summer heat arrives. A slow release fertilizer is a must for this time of year.

You can use your grass clippings either as mulch in your garden or in your compost pile. Clippings have valuable nutrients. If you used a weed killer over your whole lawn, don’t reuse the clippings from the next mowing. 

The best part of the day to water our lawns is early morning while it is still cool and use a low-angle sprinkler that puts out large water drops for your lawn watering. This will reduce water loss due to evaporation. Use a sprinkler that fits the area to be watered to avoid run-off onto the sidewalk, driveway or street.

Trees & Shrubs

Container-grown trees, shrubs, roses, and perennials can be planted anytime during the summer. Planting early in the morning or in the cool of the evening reduces the stress on both the plant and the planter.

Protect your trees and shrubs from grass trimmers. The best way to protect these plants is to eliminate the grass directly around the tree, encircle it with weed barrier fabric, and cover the fabric with bark or rock mulch.

Watch for wasps or yellow-jackets in and around your trees (especially aspens). This may be a sign that there are aphids on the leaves. By ridding your trees of the aphids, the yellow-jackets will go away.    

Prune spring-flowering shrubs and ornamental trees after they have finished blooming. Prune only the spent flowers of lilacs. Lilacs set their flower buds for the next year very soon after flowering, so don’t prune into the branches. 

Placing weed barrier around trees and shrubs with about 3″ of mulch on top will retain the moisture that you put on your plants. Cut to the edge to slide fabric into place around the plants. Cut a large “X” into the fabric where each plant is so you can fold back the fabric as the plant grows. Be sure to keep the weed barrier and mulch about 4″ away from the trunk of your trees and shrubs. 

Don’t be alarmed if you find tiny fruit on the grounds under your fruit trees. Fruit trees automatically drop poorly pollinated fruit. This is a natural occurrence. You can also help your crop by thinning the small fruit on the tree to six to eight inches apart. Leave the largest and healthiest fruit. This will make it easier on the tree and improve the quality of the fruit. This will also ease the weight on the branches. 

Watch for deformed or mottled leaves on honey locust. Leafhoppers and pod gall midge are common insects on these trees. A good systemic insecticide will help rid your trees of these pests. 

Spray your ash trees for the ash sawfly and aphids. We have sprayers that reach 30 feet, and can take care of these pesky insects early. Prevent re-infestation for one year by applying Ferti-lome Tree and Shrub Systemic Insect Drench with a watering can. This will also protect your ash trees from the deadly emerald ash borer which reached Colorado in 2013. 

If you suspect spider mites on any trees, shrub or evergreen, you can do this simple test. Take a piece of white paper and shake the branch onto the paper and examine the paper to see if anything is moving. 

Water Gardening

Once the temperature of your pond reaches 65 degrees, it is safe to set out tropical water lilies. Place water lily fertilizer tablets into the soil of your pots.

Water hyacinths and water lettuce are nature’s floating filters. They help oxygenate the water and keep algae growth down. Algae can also be controlled by a floating barley straw bale in the pond. 

If you don’t have room or don’t want to dig a hole in your ground, you can still have a water garden. Use a large non-draining ceramic pot to create a small water garden. Add a couple of water plants and you are all set. 

Feed your pond fish on a regular basis, but only what they can eat in five minutes. 


Aloe plants are not only decorative, but also practical. They have a wonderful healing sap for rashes, cuts, burns and sunburns. Just break a stalk open, squeeze and apply. Keep an aloe plant among your houseplants.


Change the water in your birdbaths weekly and clean your bird feeders to prevent diseases.  


To control mosquitoes, drain all standing water, no matter how small the amount, including rain gutters, plastic sheeting, pipes, drains, trash cans, saucers under pots, etc.

Change the water and clean your birdbaths and wading pools at least once a week to keep mosquitoes from laying eggs in stagnant water.

Use Quick Kill Mosquitoes or Mosquito Plunks in your ponds and fountains to kill the mosquito larvae. These controls do not harm fish, birds or water plants. 

Before you treat or spray lawns, houseplants, trees, shrubs or flowers, be sure your problem is identified correctly. Bring a sample of any plant problem in to Echter’s plant doctors for a correct solution to the problem.

Echter’s Plant Doctors are available during store hours seven days a week to answer
your gardening questions. For accurate diagnosis, it helps to bring in a sample.

May Garden Tips

“The world’s favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.”

~ Edwin Way Teale

Echter’s Plant Doctors are available during store hours seven days a week to answer
your gardening questions. For accurate diagnosis, it helps to bring in a sample.

Flower Gardens

Wait until danger of frost has passed before planting tender plants. Frost blankets can help protect your plants from unexpected late freezes. When is it safe to plant my flowers?

Pinch back your annuals at planting to promote stronger, bushier plants and more flower production.

Annuals, vegetable plants and roses, selected from inside our greenhouses should be “hardened off” before planting outdoors. This is done by exposing the plants to the hot sun and drying winds gradually until the plants are fully acclimated. 

Use weed preventer to keep weeds from sprouting in your flower and vegetable gardens after you have set out your plants. Don’t use weed preventer where you are sowing seed until after it is up and growing. 

Summer-blooming bulbs like dahlias, gladioli, cannas and lilies can be planted outside now. If you started these bulbs inside and they are now up and growing, keep your frost blanket handy to cover them if there is a hard freeze predicted.

More on Planting and Caring for Annuals and Vegetables

Container Gardens

Plant your hanging baskets and container gardens now to give them a good head start. By June they should be well established.

Keep an eye on the weather and bring your baskets and containers inside if the weather gets cold. 

If your outdoor hanging baskets and planters have dried out too quickly in the past, mix granules of Soil Moist (a polymer) into the media of your container gardens and hanging baskets before you plant. This will help retain water for the plants to use as needed. We’ve added polymers to Echter’s Container Mix so you can reduce the frequency of watering.

Perennials & Roses

Prune back hybrid tea roses, floribundas and other everblooming roses to 10″ in early May. Also, prune out any dead, diseased or weak canes. 

Do not do a heavy pruning on climbing roses. Prune only those canes which are broken or dead. Deadhead, (cut off the old flowers) on daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and other spring-blooming bulbs, but don’t remove foliage until after it turns yellow. The foliage is making nutrients for the bulbs for next year’s show of color. 

Weeds take nutrients from the soil and away from your desirable plants. The smaller the weed, the easier it is to remove. Pulling them early will keep them from producing and spreading seeds.

Put up plant supports now for perennials that need to be staked, like delphiniums, peonies, yarrow, etc.  Before you know it these plants will be too tall to do it easily.

Speed up the warming of the soil in your perennial and bulb beds by removing the mulch from around the plants.

Vegetable Gardens

Before rototilling your garden, be sure the soil is on the dry side. Then, add compost and/or peat moss to the garden and work it all in. 

Make your list of the tomato varieties and pepper varieties you want to grow in your garden from these links. It’s easier if you know what you want before you go shopping.

  Echter’s Tomato Varieties        Echter’s Pepper Varieties

Plan your vegetable garden so that specific plants, like tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, etc. are planted in a different spot than they were planted last year. Rotation of your crops is very important to prevent any diseases prone to that particular vegetable. 

When planning your vegetable gardens, consider planting extra rows and donating the surplus to your local food bank. 

Plant your corn when the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees. Plant in blocks to improve pollination by the wind. Ross netting over your strawberries will help keep birds and squirrels out of your fruit crops. In addition, Bird Scare tape will be beneficial in protecting your fruit.

Check the “When is it safe…” link, which will enable you to judge when to plant your vegetable starts. For anything that you plant outside early this month, make sure that you have a frost blanket handy for those sudden and unexpected cold snaps. 

For fun try cherry tomatoes or strawberries in a hanging basket. Combine tomatoes with lettuce in a basket for color contrast in an edible combination. 

Cedar barrels or large pots make great vegetable gardens. Plant a tomato plant in the middle and lettuce, spinach or herbs around the edge for the beginnings of a great salad. Patio Prize tomato can be grown without a support. Indeterminate (vining) tomato plants need a tall tomato cage to support them. 

Plant your own cup of tea. Chamomile, lemon balm, catnip, spearmint and peppermint are just a few herbs that make delicious, healing teas. 

Never cut rhubarb stalks off the plant. Instead, hold the stalk near the base and give it a slight twist as you pull it away. Rhubarb flowers may be pretty, but they take away nutrients from the stalks. As soon as these flower stalks appear, prune them to the ground.

Bees are very important in pollinating fruit and vegetable crops. Time the use of insecticides before plants bloom and your will spare these beneficial pollinators. 

Lawn Care

Set your lawn mower blade to 2 ½ to 3″ to encourage deeper drought-resistant roots. The longer grass will keep the ground cooler and require less water. Mow your lawn during the day or early evening when the grass is dry. Never mow when there is moisture on the blades. This encourages the spread of disease and causes the clipping to clump. Leave your grass clippings on the lawn by using a mulching mower and reduce your need for fertilizer by 30 percent.

If you fed your lawn in April, put on another application of fertilizer before the summer heat arrives.
The best part of the day to water your lawn is early in the morning while it is still cool. There will be a lot less moisture lost to evaporation and the grass will be more resistant to fungal disease.

Now is a great time to reseed the bare spots in your lawn. Rake the areas thoroughly, scatter the grass seed and water it in, so that the seed can settle into the loose soil. Keep the seed moist until it has germinated. Fertilize with New Lawn Starter. Do not use a fertilizer with weed preventer in the areas where you have seeded or it will prevent the grass seed from germinating. If you had disease problems in your lawn last year, apply Ferti-lome F-Stop as a preventive measure

Echter’s Grass Seed Blends

Trees & Shrubs

Prune off old lilac flowers just below the flower right after they bloom. Trim out a couple of the thickest branches all the way to the base to help keep the lilac full and well shaped. Prune other early-flowering shrubs after their blooming time as well.

Watch for wasps or yellowjackets in and around your trees (especially aspens). This may be a sign that there are aphids on the leaves. By ridding your trees of the aphids, the yellowjackets will go away. 

Did you have worms in your apples last year? Help prevent these nuisances by spraying your apple trees with Bonide Fruit Tree Spray. Spray your fruit trees as soon as the flowers fade to control insects early. Another preventive measure is to rake up weekly all the apples which fall to the ground. 

Pines put out a thick shoot, (called a candle) from the end of the branch each spring. To control the height of mugo pines and have denser plants, use your fingers to break (do not cut) the candles in half before they turn green and the needles begin to separate. Do not remove the whole candle.

Spray plants with Bonide All Seasons Spray Oil to control oyster shell scale and other insects. This is a safe and effective insect control. If you had problems with mildew on your lilacs, a good spray of a preventive fungicide will help eliminate this problem. Read the label for the frequency of each spray.

Fertilize your trees and shrubs early in May. There are several ways to fertilize:
1) Use a Ross Root Feeder with the appropriate fertilizer pellet to get the solution right down
to the roots.
2) Use a topical granular around the plants and water in. 
3) Use slow-release fertilizer and work it into the soil around each plant. This feeds them for
several months. 

Water Gardening

Divide water lilies and other hardy pond plants this month. Place Aquatic Plant Tabs into the soil of your pots of water plants to fertilize them.

Water hyacinths and water lettuce are nature’s floating filters. They help oxygenate the water and keep algae growth down. Algae can also be controlled by a floating barley straw bale in the pond. 

May is a good time to introduce new fish to your pond. Float the bag that’s holding the new fish on your pond to equalize the temperature of the water inside to the temperature of the pond. Then release the fish into the pond. 

Wait to introduce the tropical water plants when the water temperature reaches and stabilizes at 70 degrees. 

Take your camera when visiting public gardens or even your friends’ gardens. If you want to have a beautiful flower or shrub you’ve seen, bring in a picture or a sample and we can help identify it for you.

Indoor Plants

Move your houseplants out to the covered patio at the end of May. Keep them out of the wind and direct sunlight. Remember to check them for dryness, since they will dry out much faster than they did indoors. 

Turn your houseplants a quarter turn periodically to keep the growth from leaning toward the window and the light. Fertilize your indoor plants twice a month with Jack’s Classic Houseplant Special. A good fertilizing program will help your houseplants get their good spurt of new growth this spring.


Plant a trumpet vine or honeysuckle to attract more hummingbirds. Stop by our customer service desk for a list of other plants which attract “hummers”.  

When trying to lure butterflies to your garden, place the butterfly-attracting plants in a large grouping.  A saucer full of wet sand will provide water for butterflies. Ask for a list of plants which will attract butterflies to your yard at our Plant Doctor desk. 

Attract ladybugs to your yard by planting marigolds, angelica, roses, butterfly weed, yarrow and many other plants. You can start your “colony” with ladybugs from Echter’s. Remember to disperse them in late evening when it is calm and mist the plant on which you need control first.


Check your hoses and connections to make sure they don’t leak. Echter’s carries hose repair kits and replacements for old washers. 

When you hand water, use a nozzle with a shut-off or trigger nozzle that stops the flow of water when released.

January & February Green Thumb Tips

“Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year — for gardening begins in January with the dream.”

~ Josephine Nuese

Flower Gardens

Don’t worry if you see evidence of leaves of your fall-planted bulbs popping up out of the ground. This is quite normal and there is no way to stop them. Keep the soil moist, which will cool it and keep the bulbs hydrated.  

To prevent sparrows and finches from shredding crocus blossoms, place a piece of Bird Scare Tape tied to a stick every few feet among the flowers. The flashing will frighten away the birds.

Check your gladiolus, dahlia and canna bulbs you have stored to make sure the media in which they are stored is still moist.

Perennials & Roses

When planning your flower bed, whether it is planted in annuals or perennials, don’t overlook ornamental grasses for a beautiful contrasting texture. 

Be sure that the winter mulch around your perennials, roses and bulb beds is still in place. Replace mulch that has been blown away by heavy winds. 

Cut the seed heads from your ornamental grasses and use them to make very attractive dried flower arrangements in your house. 

Cut back last year’s growth from ornamental grasses now before this year’s new growth begins.


When snow and ice are gone from shady areas of lawn (especially on the north side of structures) rake the grass to prevent snow mold. 

Water your lawn with a sprinkler during long stretches of mild dry weather. Be sure to disconnect the hose and put it away before the weather drops below freezing again. 

If you see “trails” in your lawn, you may have voles, a common rodent in Colorado. We carry products to eliminate this pest. Voles have been known to chew on bark of trees and shrubs, especially junipers. You may notice dead branches on junipers later in the spring.  Look deep inside the shrub and you will see where the bark is missing.

Vegetable Gardens

January is a good month for gardening, at least on paper, as you start planning for this year’s garden. Although you’ll want to include many of your family’s favorites, why not try something you’ve never grown before? 

February is the best time to prune grape vines. By waiting until just before growth begins in spring, you can recognize and remove any dead or damaged wood.

Your spring crop of asparagus will benefit greatly from the addition of manure to the bed.

Test your soil for pH and nutrients so you’ll know what is needed before you plant this spring. Soil amendments that improve your gardens can be tilled or spaded now and worked in. We can test your soil for you at Echter’s or you may use one of our easy-to-do test kits and test it yourself.

January and February are the best months to purchase your flower and vegetable seed. The best availability and selection is early. 

Take inventory of your seed starting supplies, such as pots, soil, and flats. Sterilize any that you have used before or purchase new supplies. Be ready so that you will have everything you need for a successful project. 

When starting seeds indoors, use a propagation mat. It keeps the soil in the trays at a constant warm temperature. You will get quicker germination, more seedlings and more uniformity.

Trees & Shrubs

Knock down heavy snows from your shrubs and tree branches by gently pushing up with a broom. Start with the lower branches and work your way up the tree or shrub.

It is very important to keep your lawns, trees, shrubs, perennial and bulb beds watered once a month throughout the winter as weather permits. You will reduce the chance of root damage on perennials, trees and shrubs and reduce insect population and disease problems in your lawn next year.

Get an early taste of spring. Prune branches of forsythia, quince, spirea, dogwood, viburnum, pussy willow and crabapple and plum trees. Bring them indoors to bloom. Cut the branches at an angle and place them in a vase of water. Change the water twice a week and in about 3 weeks the stems will bloom. Don’t prune the rest of the shrub until after they have flowered in spring.

Prune summer and fall blooming shrubs in February. This is the time to shape up your trees as well. Remove dead, dying, or unsightly parts of the tree. Your pruning arsenal should include bypass pruners, a compound action lopper, a tree saw and a pole pruner at minimum. Bring in your tools for sharpening if they have become dull.  

If you have large trees that need pruning, call us for the name of a tree service. The sooner you call, the more likely you will get your trees pruned at the best time of year. 

February into early March is the best time to prune fruit trees. Prune out any dead or diseased branches, any branch that is crossing and rubbing another and any “water sprouts” (those weak “branches” that shoot straight up). 

On a nice warm day, spray Bonide All-Seasons Dormant Oil on trees, shrubs, roses, vines or most anything else you had insect or disease problems on last year. It kills overwintering insect eggs and will help reduce the problem this year. Avoid spraying blue spruce or you will have a green spruce. 

When shoveling snow from your sidewalks and driveways, pile the snow around trees, shrubs and perennial plants instead of out in the street as long you have not used chemicals or salt to melt the ice. These plants will benefit from the added moisture.

Indoor Plants

If a houseplant is not doing well, check these five growing factors: light, temperature, nutrients, moisture, and humidity. They must be favorable to provide good growth. Bring the plant in to our plant doctors if you need help with a diagnosis. 

Keep holiday cacti blooming by keeping them in a cooler location with bright sun. You can move them outdoors in summer in a semi-shaded location. Then bring them in next fall for reblooming. 

Cyclamen are great plants for brightening your home in winter. They prefer a cool, dry and bright place. The pink, red, white or maroon flowers will continue for weeks.

Try growing a citrus tree in your house. If is best to have a tree which has been grafted, as opposed to trying to grow them from seed. The fragrance of the blossoms is wonderful and after pollinating the flowers with a cotton swab or artist’s brush, you should eventually have fruit. Choose the sunniest window in your house for citrus. 

Grow your own herbs inside. Either from seeds or plants, there is nothing like fresh herbs for all kinds of winter dishes, like soup, stews, and many other comfort dishes for those cold winter days.   

Keep your poinsettia blooming after the holidays by providing proper care. Poinsettias need good drainage, so if the pot is still wrapped in foil, remove the foil or make a hole in the bottom to allow the water to drain out. Keep the soil moist, but don’t overwater. Place your plant in a cool, (60 to 65 degrees F.) location that gets plenty of light. Keep out of warm or cool drafts, and fertilize once a month. 

Children are fascinated by “garbage gardening”. Carrot tops can be grown in a dish with a small amount of water. This results in a delicate fern. Sweet potatoes, pineapple tops, avocado seeds, orange or grapefruit, and peach seeds can also be started.

If you are overwintering your geraniums inside, be sure to cut them back 1/3 of their height before February 1. 

If you have a problem with those very annoying fungus gnats coming from the soil under your houseplants, let your plants dry out down to at least 1 inch before watering them. Gnats thrive in moist soil and multiply. Quick Kill Mosquito Bits with Bti, a biological pesticide will control them in the larval stage. Applying a pyrethrum or permethrin to the soil will reduce their numbers. Whitefly sticky traps will also catch those that come out of the soil. 

African violets bloom better when surrounded by other African violets. The more the merrier.


Echter’s offers many seed mixes for all types of birds who are seed eaters. Individual types of seed are also popular and there is a great selection to choose from. Sunflower seed, safflower seed and nyjer seed are among the favorite choices. Insect-eating birds such as flickers and nuthatches have a taste for suet and peanut butter rather than seed, so be sure to consider their needs as well.

Put your leftover Christmas tree outside and decorate it with strings of popcorn and cranberries to feed the birds. Add pine cones which have been spread with peanut butter and rolled in bird seed. The birds will love you. 

Ever wonder about how the birds protect themselves in the freezing cold weather? First of all, they need clean feathers, so an unfrozen water source is essential for birds to bathe. They need water in the winter as well as spring and summer. By placing a birdbath de-icer in your birdbath, the birds will stay happy all winter. 

Another requirement is shelter. You will often find a lot of birds in dense shrubs, spruce and pine trees. Any protection you can offer would be appreciated very much by our feathered friends. If squirrels are a nuisance, use a squirrel-proof feeder. 

Home & Patio

Urea is a safer ice melt around lawns, plants and pets, but it only melts ice down to about 15 degrees. If you need to use calcium chloride for cold-temperature ice melting, try to avoid pushing it onto desirable plants. Only use as much ice melt as is necessary and try to keep it in the center of the walk.

Dried herbs for cooking taste better when dried on paper towels or a wire screen. Hanging them upside down can deplete their essential oils.

We can sharpen your mower blade for a nominal fee. Bring in your lawn mower blade on or off the mower. 

Home & Patio

Gardening is a great way to exercise. You can burn as much as 300 to 400 calories per hour by digging, raking, or turning compost. Besides, gardening is fun and fruitful! Be sure to start with short spurts and ease into longer periods of gardening time.

Echter’s Plant Doctors are available during store hours seven days a week to answer your gardening questions. For accurate diagnosis, it helps to bring in a sample.

September Garden Tips

September days are here, with summer’s best of weather and autumn’s best of cheer.
~ Helen Hunt Jackson

In the Flower Garden

Pansies planted this month will stay in bloom until the ground freezes. Mulch them for winter protection and these hardy pansies will be back in flower when the warm days of spring return. They are great companions for spring-flowering bulbs.

Plant frost-hardy plants like garden mums, asters, flowering kale, flowering cabbage, and pansies as you remove tender annuals from beds and borders. Mums are a great value for the spectacular show of color they provide.

For fun try taking cuttings of your favorite geraniums before first frost. Dip these cuttings in a rooting hormone and place in good, lightweight soil. Water in well, but let soil go fairly dry between waterings. 

When digging up your cannas, dahlias, and gladioli, use a felt tipped pen to write on the bulbs what color each bulb is so that you will be able to identify which is which in the spring. Store these and other tender bulbs in moistened vermiculite or peat moss in a cool area and protect them from freezing over the winter.


The best selection of bulbs is now. Don’t forget bulb food or super phosphate when planting your tulips, daffodils, crocus and other spring-flowering bulbs. Plant colchicum and fall-blooming crocus now which will bloom for you this fall. 

The easiest way to plant bulbs at the proper depth is with a bulb planter or an auger which attaches to your electric drill. When planting bulbs the pointed end of the bulb is positioned upward.

Plant bulbs under groundcovers like thyme or veronica for a great combination of flowers and backdrop. This is a low maintenance technique for combining plants for a succession of color. 

Plant small, early-flowering bulbs where they can be seen from indoors, since they bloom when it is usually too cold to enjoy them outside. 

Perennials & Roses

September is an excellent time for planting perennials! The temperatures are cooling down and the soil is still warm, which allows rooting to take place. Plant your perennials at the same time you plant bulbs. You’ll be able to place perennial plants between your
bulb groupings for color from spring to fall. 

Divide peonies and daylilies at this time of year. Stop in for a care sheet for instructions for both of these beautiful perennials. Remove any foliage with fungal diseases such as powdery mildew and rust. Discard in the trash. Cleaning up now will help prevent a recurrence of the problem next year. 

September Lawn Care

Lawns grow best in spring and fall. They will benefit greatly from two more feedings. Fertilize your lawn with Green Thumb Lawn Fertilizer by mid September. Green Thumb Winterizer should be applied in mid October. Your lawn will be nice and green in the spring.

Bindweed, dandelion, and other perennial weeds will be moving food reserves down to their roots now. This is a great time to use Weed Free Zone to kill these invasive weeds, roots and all. 

Core aerate your lawn in mid to late September, so that winter moisture can soak in. 

September is an excellent time to seed your lawn. Cooler temperatures mean less stress on you and your lawn. 

Trees & Shrubs

September is a great time to plant trees, shrubs, and vines. The soil is still warm
and good for root development and to get the plant established. Water in well
and cover with mulch to retain moisture.

Be sure to pay extra attention to the watering needs
throughout the fall and winter months.

Don’t be alarmed if your pine trees begin dropping their older needles. It’s normal for the inner needles to yellow or brown and drop off in the fall. 

Avoid excessive pruning of trees and shrubs, because pruning encourages new growth to begin and you want the plants to harden off before going into
dormancy for the winter. 

If you had insect problems on your trees and shrubs, whether they be aphids or borers, an application of Ferti-lome Tree and Shrub Systemic Insect Drench, will greatly reduce their population. Apply this fall, and your plants
will be protected for a whole year. 

Watch for leaf color to change on the trees and shrubs around your neighborhoods. Then come into the nursery and select the plant of your choice and the color that you want. Genetically trees and shrubs may have different shades
of fall color, so this is a great time to pick your plants. 

Rake up fallen apples, crabapples, and other fruit from the ground
to prevent insects from overwintering. 

You can reduce the amount of bruising and damage to apples and other fruit by using a long-handled fruit picker to reach the highest branches of fruit trees. 

Vegetable Gardens

Harvest potatoes when the foliage browns. It is better to harvest potatoes when the soil is fairly dry, using a pitchfork or spading fork to gently loosen the soil around them. Let the tubers dry for a few hours in a warm place, but out of the direct sun.

Winter squash — such as acorn, spaghetti, buttercup, butternut, and Hubbard — are ready to harvest when you cannot puncture the skin with your thumbnail
and the stems are dry and begin to shrivel.

Gently turn pumpkins and gourds to prevent soft spots. Place three or four inches
of straw under your pumpkins to prevent damage to the bottoms.

Before first frost dig up herbs like chives, rosemary and parsley, place them in pots in a south-facing window for seasonings all winter.

When onion tops start to yellow, bend them over to divert the plant’s energy to the bulb. After the tops turn brown, lift the onions from the soil and let them dry in the sun. Once the skins are dry, cut the stems and store the onions in a cool, dry place.  

Make notes or a journal to keep records on which of your vegetables did best and were the most prolific and which vegetables did not perform well. Next year, focus on planting varieties which performed well for you.  

Spray or pull up all weeds before they go to seed. This will save a lot of time
and aggravation next spring.

When Early Frosts Threaten…

Water deeply and thoroughly before cold weather – hydrated plants
will do better when an early frost occurs. If plants do show some signs of frost damage, wait a few days in order to give them time to recover
before pulling them up. 

Harvest fruits and vegetables prior to a hard freeze. 
Pick your green tomatoes — tomatoes will continue to ripen after being picked green. Place them in a single layer in a cardboard box, being sure they do not touch each other and cover with a newspaper. Place boxes in a dark, cool place, but don’t forget to check often as the tomatoes will ripen sporadically.  

Just as a blanket will keep you warm, it will also keep your plants warm!
Frost blankets will protect a late-season vegetable garden from cold damage
and ensure that it continues to produce after the weather has cleared.
Avoid using plastic coverings — plastic attracts the cold & may harm plants.

When temperatures drop into the low 30s, be sure to disconnect hoses from spigots.  Don’t forget to drain your hoses, birdbaths, and other water holding items
to prevent them from freezing or cracking.


Check your houseplants carefully for insects before you bring them back indoors. 

Plant amaryllis bulbs the end of this month for blooms at Christmas.

Continue to supply your hummingbird feeders for the fall migration show.

July & August Garden Tips

“The Earth laughs
in flowers.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

If your pansies were too nice to take out in June but are looking sad now, replace them with some heat-loving annuals like periwinkle, salvia, marigolds, celosia, gazania, geraniums, portulaca, or verbena for a great color show in summer. 

“Dead-head” (pinch off the spent blooms) on perennials, annuals and roses for longer flowering periods and more and larger blooms.

Continue fertilizing annuals and perennials as instructed on your favorite fertilizer. This will give you continued flowering all season long.

Check the water needs for hanging baskets and planters daily. The wind and sun dry them quickly. 

Pull the weeds out of your flower beds before they get large. They are competing with your plants for water. Don’t let them produce seed or you will have even more next season. 

Yarrow, strawflowers, celosia, and gomphrena can be cut for flowers and dried. Take pictures of your container combinations so you can repeat or modify the designs next year.

Roses & Perennials

Roses are heavy feeders, so continue to fertilize throughout the summer to produce an abundance of big, beautiful flowers. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer of your choice and water at the base of the plant.

August is the last time that roses should be fertilized. They should then begin to “harden off” for winter. Remove old, spent rose blooms after they fade, cutting the stem just above the uppermost 5-leaflet node on the stem. 

Prevent rose and perennial diseases like powdery mildew from taking hold by using a systemic fungicide before the problem appears. Once those diseases appear it is very difficult to control.  Bee balm, phlox, columbines and lilacs are some of the plants prone to powdery mildew. 

If your iris did not bloom well this year, they may need to be divided. This is the time to divide overcrowded irises. Dig up the whole clump, sort out the rhizomes which have leaves on them, and discard the old rhizomes. Replant the good rhizomes after improving the soil with compost and working a little super phosphate into the soil below the root zone.

Plant fall-blooming perennials like asters, mums, agastache and Autumn Joy sedum for color August through October. Look for empty spaces in your garden where you could plant some bulbs this fall between perennials to add more color to next spring’s show. Our fall bulbs usually arrive around Labor Day weekend.

In the Vegetable Garden

Avoid overhead watering when tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, corn and some other vegetables are in flower. They need pollination and the pollen can be washed away, resulting in fewer fruits.

Water your garden early in the morning while it is still cool. There is much less evaporation at this time than in the heat of the day. 

Vegetables will stay fresher if you harvest them from the garden early in the day. Clean them as quickly as possible and refrigerate (except tomatoes which should not be refrigerated for best flavor).

Fertilize your vegetable gardens to maximize your harvest, and fertilize strawberry beds with ammonium sulfate now for more berries next spring. 

Remove vegetable plants that have finished producing. If they are free of insects and disease, compost the plants; otherwise dispose of them so they don’t infect your other plants. 

Pinch off the flower buds of onions to direct energy to the developing bulb. Harvest corn when the husk is tight over the ear and the silks are dried to a dark brown.

Plant broccoli, carrots, turnips, lettuce and radishes now to enjoy a nice fall garden. Choose early varieties so that they will mature before freezing temperatures. 

Summer Lawn Care

Don’t expect cool season bluegrass to look as green in summer as it does in spring and fall. If a lawn goes somewhat dormant in summer, it will still green back as soon as the weather cools and more moisture is available.

Those impossible weeds like bindweed, dandelions and thistle in your lawn can be controlled with Ferti-lome’s Weed Free Zone.

Do you have dry spots in your lawn where water won’t penetrate? A lawn irrigator will put the water right at the roots and aerate those areas, so that water will percolate down. An application of Revive will also help water soak into the ground and penetrate deeper into the soil instead of running off of slopes. 

If your did not make the second application of fertilizer in June or July, our recommendation is Green Thumb Lawn Food for summertime feeding of your lawn. It’s best to avoid fast-release nitrogen fertilizer on your lawns in the heat of the summer.

Trees & Shrubs

Deep watering of trees, shrubs, roses, vines, and perennials is essential this time of year. Water thoroughly, but only when the plants require water.  Check soil 3-4″ deep to determine when these plants need to be watered.

Protect your trees and shrubs from grass trimmers. The best way to protect these is to eliminate the grass directly around the tree, encircle it with weed fabric, and then mulch with bark or rock.

Examine all trees, shrubs, roses, perennials and annuals for insects and diseases. This is the time of year these problems begin. There are controls for any of these situations.

Water Gardening

Is your pond turning green? Add more shade on the surface of the water with water hyacinths, water lettuce and water lilies. Use Algae Fix to get rid of green water and then treat with MicrobeLift TAC. These beneficial bacteria will compete with algae for resources and work to keep your pond crystal clear.


If you set your houseplants outside on your patio, be sure to examine them periodically for insects and treat them accordingly. Continue fertilizing your houseplants according to the directions on the fertilizer container.

If your plants have been in the same pot for two or more years, this is a good time to repot them into an attractive container which is at least two inches larger than the present pot.

Check the chemicals stored in your garage. If you have had them more than two years, they may be losing effectiveness.  Organic BT formulations may be ineffective after one year.

The most environmentally friendly way to get rid of chemicals is to use them up according to directions. You may still get control. If not, reapply with newer product. The logical choice is to buy only what you need this season. We can help you choose the safest effective products. 

Contact your local County Extension Service for information on disposing of your older or banned chemicals. Chemicals should NOT be thrown out with the trash.

Miscellaneous Summer Tips

Keep your hummingbird feeder filled and ready for the “hummers” fall migration.

Take your camera when visiting public gardens or even your friends’ gardens. If you want to have a beautiful flower or shrub you’ve seen, bring in a picture or a sample and we can help identify it for you!

Keep your compost moist and aerate the pile by turning it.  

If your yellow jacket trap is not working anymore, it may be time to replace the attractant.  

Echter’s Plant Doctors are available during store hours seven days a week to answer your gardening questions. For accurate diagnosis, it helps to bring in a sample.

April Garden Tips

“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.”

~ William Shakespeare

Flower Gardens

Watering plants that have been recently planted outdoors is tricky. The rule is to water them in thoroughly after they are planted. Then watch the area next to the edge of the original soil ball to see if it is getting dry. You want to encourage the roots to move out into the surrounding soil to get water without letting the original soil ball get too dry. Reduce the watering frequency with time, but water thoroughly each time you water. Don’t just wet the surface of the soil.

An easy way to harden plants that are going outdoors is to cover them with Plant & Seed Guard for a few days after you plant them. You can use wire supports if necessary to hold the fabric away from the plants. Attach it to the ground with wire staples. It’s re-usable.

Pot begonias and dahlias now and keep them indoors until later in May. This will give them a good head start and they will bloom earlier after putting them outside.

Plant gladioli, lilies, cannas, callas, ranunculus, crocosmia and other summer blooming bulbs toward the end of April. Plant pansies between the bulbs to give you early color.

Fertilize your spring-flowering bulbs after the blooms have gone with Gro Rich Rose & Perennial fertilizer. Wait until the leaves turn brown to remove them. The leaves help build strength in the bulbs for next year.

Place your plant supports into position early. If you wait until they really need support, it may be difficult as the plant will be too large. This is especially true for peonies.

When you hand water, use a nozzle with a shut-off or trigger nozzle that stops the flow of water when released so you don’t waste water.

Before transplanting, be sure that your plants are not dry.

Flowering annual starts which can be planted out in early April after “hardening them off” are alyssum, dusty miller, sweet peas, anchusa, larkspur, centaurea, pansies, dracaena, and snapdragons. When is it safe to plant other flowers?

Pinch back your annuals to promote stronger, bushier plants and more flower production.

More on Planting and Caring for Annuals

Perennials & Roses & Vines

If you have a fence you’d like to hide there are several plants you can use besides shrubs. Vines like trumpet vine, silver lace vine, wisteria, honeysuckle vine, Virginia creeper and climbing roses which are perennials can be used. Annual vines like sweet peas, morning glories, Scarlet runner beans are just a few good fence covers. Remember other tall plants like sunflower or hollyhocks.

Group flowers and vegetables with the same water needs together to take advantage of their lower water requirements.

When planning your flower bed, whether it is planted in annuals or perennials, don’t overlook ornamental grasses for a beautiful contrasting texture.

Spring is the best time to divide perennials that bloom in mid or late summer such as asters and chrysanthemums. Wait until September to divide early spring-flowering perennials like bleeding hearts and peonies.

Plant wildflower seeds in April. Improve your soil before planting by raking in either peat moss or compost or a combination of the two.

Add some spice to predictable bulb and perennial beds by broadcasting seeds of annuals like larkspur, cosmos, poppies, bachelor buttons or other annuals among your established plants.

More on Planting and Caring for Perennials and Roses

Trees & Shrubs

April is the best time to plant new trees and shrubs. Improve the soil first with compost and/or peat moss. Then apply MYKE Tree & Shrub Transplanter and water in with Root Stimulator, both of which reduce transplant shock and stimulate root growth.

When planting large trees, stake them for the first year. Use 2” wide staking straps around the tree. Do not use wire, twine or rope on the tree itself. Place the stakes 2-3 feet away from the tree, tie the strap to the stake and leave a little slack. Let the tree sway slightly to develop roots and caliper.

April is perfect time to take stock of the plants in your yard. Are there plants that have overgrown their spaces? Are some sickly and unattractive? Now is the time to pull them out and replace them with a new and vibrant plant. This is what garden renewal is about.

Cut back butterfly bushes, blue mist spireas, Russian sage and other late summer-blooming shrubs at this time.

If you didn’t get around to pruning your shrubs and trees in March, you can still do some pruning now, the earlier the better.

Start your fertilizing program for roses, trees and shrubs when the leaves appear on the branches.

Protect your ash trees from Emerald Ash Borers. Use Ferti-lome Tree and Shrub Systemic Insect Drench for easy-to-use systemic protection from insects all year long. Follow the label directions and just mix it with water in a watering can or bucket and pour the solution around the base of trees or shrubs.

Watch for distorted leaflets on honeylocust trees. Leafhoppers can damage this trees fine leaves. They can also damage lawns. A good insecticide can help eliminate these tiny pests.

If you don’t have room for two different fruit trees for cross pollination, try one of our 4-in-1 apple, pear or sweet cherry trees for a great crop of fruit. There are four different grafts on one tree.

Are you tired of raking up crabapples in the summer? Spray crabapple trees with Monterey Floral Growth Regulator at mid to full bloom. This will prevent the fruit from forming.

Check for borer holes in your shade, spruce and pine trees. Evidence of these borers will be small holes, possibly with evidence of sap and/or sawdust. Our plant doctors can recommend the proper treatment depending on the type of tree and borer.

Remove protective tree wrap from young trees around April 1. Check the trunk for any problems.

Remember the worms on the ash trees last year? Watch for them again this year and spray with Eight from Bonide.

Although annuals look beautiful planted around new trees, there is a danger of over-watering your trees while trying keep your flowers pretty.

There are several trees, shrubs, and flowers which will attract those all-important pollinators – the bees. Anyone with a fruit tree or a vegetable garden knows their importance. Stop by our Plant Doctor desk for a list of these plants. Remember to refrain from spraying insecticides while bees are present. Something to note: bumblebees are more effective pollinators than honeybees.

Deep-root waterers get water under the lawn which is useful for trees, shrubs and roses. Some of these tools also have a container for dissolving fertilizer pellets to feed your plants right at the roots.

Before transplanting, always make sure trees and shrubs are not dry to help avoid transplant stress.

Start treating your pine and spruce trees for insects like scale, tussock moth, Cooley spruce gall, pine tip moth, pitch mass borer, and ips beetle. Come in and we can recommend the appropriate preventive treatments.

Vegetable Gardens

It’s time to plant seeds of peas, turnips, carrots, beets, spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, radishes. Plant garlic cloves, seed potatoes, dormant strawberry plants and onion sets.

Keep an N-sulate cover handy for unexpected frosts after your garden is planted. It will keep the frost off new seedlings as they emerge from the soil.

Mid-April is the time to set out broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Swiss chard, radicchio, and Brussels sprouts plants. Be sure to “harden them off” first.

Enjoy an earlier growing season by four weeks by setting out Season Starter plant protectors in April. You can set tomatoes and pepper plants inside them ten days after initial setup of your Season Starter. The setup period allows the soil beneath the solar shelters to warm to a temperature suitable for plant growth.

If you are having trouble growing plants in your gardens, have your soil tested. We can test your soil for nutrient deficiencies for a nominal fee. We can let you know what to do to improve your soil for more flowers and vegetables.

Vegetable gardens benefit from watering at ground level, instead of watering overhead. Watering with soaker hoses helps to prevent many diseases and insects.  

Remember to rotate your vegetable crop plantings each year. Plant each variety of vegetable in a different part of your garden than you did last year. This will minimize repeated problems with disease and insects.

Plant your fast growing crops in two-week intervals to prolong the availability of lettuce, spinach, peas, and radishes. When the weather gets too hot for these vegetables, plant some in the shade of taller plants, like pole beans and corn. This system is also good for gardeners with limited space.

By placing a floating row cover over your carrot, lettuce, and spinach seed, your seeds will germinate quicker, and the birds won’t make a meal of them. Floating row covers also eliminate cabbage loopers on cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.  Keep your cover handy in case there is a cold snap for any newly planted vegetables and flowers.

Use soaker hoses in your vegetable garden and flower beds. You can either lay the hose on top of the soil next to the plant or bury it to get water directly to the roots. Soaker hoses can also be used to water trees and shrubs.


Early April is the best time to start fertilizing your lawn. By using a fertilizer with pre-emergent (weed and grass preventer), you will be able to eliminate a lot of annual grass and weed seeds by keeping them from germinating.

April is a good time to seed or overseed lawns. Use a good grass seed and apply New Lawn Starter fertilizer after the seed is sown. Keep the area moist even after germination. Do not apply a pre-emergent crabgrass control before or after seeding, as this will prevent grass seed germination.

Core aerate your lawn before fertilizing this month. Not only does this help the lawn’s vigor and health, it also reduces maintenance and water usage. Be sure your lawn is well watered a day or two before aeration.

Keep your mower blade sharp. Dull blades can invite lawn diseases to enter grass blades. Bring your rotary mower blades into Echter’s for sharpening. You can bring them in on or off the mower.

Use a rain gauge to measure the amount of water you are putting on your lawn. Apply 3/4” to 1” slowly enough to evenly soak the lawn without running off the area.

Inspect your irrigation system regularly. Be sure sprinkler heads are not plugged and are properly adjusted for the radius and the level of spray needed. As surrounding plants grow, you will need to modify your system. Especially check for leaks in the sprinkler lines.


On a nice warm day, take your houseplants outside and give them a shower, or use your bathroom shower. The plants will appreciate a good cleaning after being inside all winter.


It’s spring cleaning season even for birds. If you haven’t cleaned your bird houses this year, clean them out and then spray them with a bird feeder cleaner before the new birds arrive.

Continue feeding the birds at your feeders. Seed-producing plants are just beginning to grow and there are now more birds competing for the depleted wild seed supply. Give them a supply of water also.

More on Feeding Birds in Colorado

March Green Thumb Tips

“A light exists in spring, not present in the year, at any other period, when March is scarcely here.”

~ Emily Dickinson

Echter’s Plant Doctors are available during store hours seven days a week to answer your gardening questions. For accurate diagnosis, it helps to bring in a sample.

Flower Gardens

Plant begonias, dahlias and cannas in pots inside to give them a head start. Leave them inside until mid-May. You will have flowers much earlier.

Plant sweet pea seeds now, using an inoculant for better germination and flowering.

Perennials, Roses, and Vines

Lift and divide crowded perennials late this month if new growth is evident.  Proper soil preparation is essential for good growth after replanting.

Lily bulbs can be planted outdoors as soon as the ground can be worked for blooms in late June through September.

Cut back old stalks from your perennials, so you can enjoy the new foliage and flowers. Cut back ornamental grasses as low as possible so the old foliage won’t detract from the new growth.

Trees and Shrubs

Early March is the best time to prune deciduous trees and shrubs. You can see the branching structure. (Some exceptions are birch, maple, walnut, and elm. These should be pruned mid-summer.) Remove dead, dying, or unsightly parts of the tree. Remove branches that are crossed against each other. Use a pole pruner to reach branches up to about 15′ off the ground. Pruning paints and wound dressings are NOT recommended on the pruning cuts.

Prune fruit trees before they leaf out. There is less danger of spreading disease. Pruning assures good air circulation for better fruit production. Examine apple, pear, hawthorn, crabapple trees and cotoneasters for evidence of fire blight. The leaves remain on the branches and the branches will look scorched. Prune out infected branches and sterilize your pruners, loppers or saws between every cut. While these plants are in flower prevent this disease by spraying Ferti-lome Fire Blight Spray.

Prune new shrubs and trees very little for the first two years. Your plants need to establish a good root zone, and the more top growth (leaves and branches) the plant has the more the plant can produce its own food to grow. Look for these three things when pruning – dead branches, broken branches and branches that cross over and rub on others.

If your lilacs, honeysuckle or any other shrubs are really overgrown, prune out two or three of the oldest, largest stems using a lopper or a pruning saw. This will rejuvenate these plants.

Trees, shrubs, vines and roses have deeper root systems and should be watered for a longer period of time and less frequently than shallower rooted plants such as perennials and annuals. Do not water if the ground is frozen.

Suffocate overwintering insects, like aphids, spider mites and scale on trees and shrubs by spraying dormant oil.

Don’t be in a hurry to remove the mulch around roses and in perennial beds. We could still have some harsh weather.

Vegetable Gardens

Remember to rotate your vegetable crops each year. Plant each variety of vegetable in a different part of your garden than you did last year

Plant spinach, peas, Swiss chard, radishes, turnips, parsnips, carrots, kale, lettuce, leeks, rutabaga, onion seed and sets, bare root strawberries, asparagus, and potatoes directly into the garden if soil temperature is at least 40 degrees

Now is the time to start broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi, onion, alyssum, lobelia and pansy and geranium seeds inside for planting out later in the spring. Start tomatoes and peppers inside now to be planted out in late May.

When starting flower and vegetable seeds indoors, use clean new containers and a good seed-starting mix in order to prevent disease problems.

Give asparagus beds a good layer of compost or cow manure. You will have much larger and better production.

Prune out raspberry canes which produced fruit last year. (They will have a papery gray bark and traces of where the fruit attached.) Leave the canes which didn’t bear for this year’s crop.

If you saved seeds from previous years, plant a few seeds in small pots. Label and test to see if they will sprout.

Plan to grow one new vegetable you haven’t tried before. It will create renewed interest in your garden, and you might find a new favorite.

Rototill or turn over your gardens when the soil is fairly dry. Add organic matter like Canadian sphagnum peat moss and/or compost to your gardens before rototilling.

Although earthworms can be a nuisance for some, they are of great value in keeping soil aerated.  Earthworms take organic matter from the surface and drag it down into the soil, thus making them great little composters.


Core aerate your lawn before you fertilize in the middle of April. This helps to promote deep root growth by providing oxygen and moisture to the roots. You can leave the plugs on the lawn as they will compost back into the soil.

Overseeding a thin lawn can begin as March warms up. Rake areas to be seeded to expose the soil. Seed these areas with a good quality grass seed and keep moist until well germinated.

We do not normally recommend power raking, but hand thatching is very beneficial for the lawn. It allows good air circulation and can prevent many diseases of the grass.

If you had disease problems in your lawn last year, apply Ferti-lome F-Stop when grass greens up as a preventive measure.

Once snow has melted off your lawn, check the turf in shaded areas for snow mold, a fungus that is white to pink in color and grows on the surface of the grass blades. If you see snow mold, lightly rake the affected areas and dispose of the debris. Exposure to light and air will normally dissipate the snow mold.  The grass will grow out from the crown of the plant as spring progresses. If the turf becomes patchy, you can overseed the area. There is no effective chemical control.

Indoor Plants

March is a great time to transplant houseplants into the next-sized larger pot. Use a good well-drained houseplant potting mix.

 Prune back leggy houseplants now before the spring flush of growth.

 As days grow longer, houseplants resume active growth and benefit from applications of fertilizer like Jack’s Classic Houseplant Special.

 Start an indoor herb garden. Plant several kinds of herbs together in a pot, or grow them individually in small pots. Chives, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, tarragon and thyme are good choices for a sunny kitchen windowsill. Snip and use herbs during their indoor stay. In spring set the pots outdoors or transplant them into your garden.


You can help birds with their nests by providing a mesh bag near bird activity areas outside, filled with pieces of thread, string, yarn or lint from your dryer. Also leave small piles of twigs to help them in their nesting process. Remember to clean out and sterilize last year’s houses.

Put up birdhouses this month in preparation for new arrivals this spring. Birds are very specific about the size of the entry hole. Be sure you have the right-sized entry hole for the birds you want to attract.

Put up a woodpecker house under the eaves or near your home. This may deter other flickers from beating on your house. Woodpeckers and flickers are territorial and will keep others away.


Now’s a great time to inspect your old patio furniture and replace it if necessary. Special orders placed now will usually arrive in time for the outdoor season.

Make sure your tools are clean and sharpened. For a nominal fee Echter’s will sharpen your pruners, shovels, hoes, hedge and grass clippers. 

Bring smaller twigs of crabapple, cherry, forsythia, quince and pussy willow into the house. Place them in a vase of water and you will have spring flowers in a few days.

Has your compost pile stopped “cooking”? Reactivate the microbes this month with a prepared compost maker product and get that decomposition started again.

 Clean leaves and debris from your gutters for more efficient water runoff from your roof.