Rustbelt Roots: Seasonal Gardening

We created an email-based seasonal gardening guide for NE Ohio, because living deeply in a place means knowing a bit about the non-human communities and how they interact with each other. The seasonal gardener learns to watch plant communities and wildlife when making decisions about when to do what. Starts January 29. Beets by congerdesign from Pixabay 
You have joined "Rustbelt Roots: Seasonal Gardening" - an online garden resource for the rustbelt region. Rustbelt Roots is a resilience media project started by the Trillium Center. 
Seasonal Gardening: February

With the ground covered in snow and winter temperatures perhaps hitting some seasonal lows, February is actually the perfect time to begin some hands-on garden preparation. Key seasonal indicators, garden tasks, and seed starting suggestions are listed here with more information at the link below. 

Seasonal Indicators

  • Days noticeably longer with about ten hours and twenty minutes of light
  • Nice views of the constellation Orion at nightfall
  • Perhaps the coldest and snowiest conditions of the year
  • Look for winter bird migrants such as snow goose, tundra swan; redhead, canvasback, common goldeneye, and bufflehead ducks; snow bunting, tree sparrow, and dark-eyed junco; snowy owl
  • Wildlife tracks in snow
  • Dropped deer antlers and deer browse on woody plants

Garden Tasks 

  • Get growing area and containers set up
  • Purchase or exchange any additional seeds you may want
  • If you’re into planning, draw out your garden beds so you know how many seeds to start

Seeds to Start Indoors

  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Savory
  • Bulb onions and shallots

Seeds to Stratify

  • Echinacea 
  • Common Milkweed
  • Apple
  • Lavender

Seasonal Indicators
Garden Tasks
Early Seed Starts
Seasonal Gardening: Early March

"Getting the sugar shack ready! We tapped on February 22 and it's time!" ~ Leah Wolfe, Conneaut, OH

For gardeners (and many other people who can’t wait for the end of winter) early March is full of anticipation. Indoor seed starting and care will be ramping up in the next couple months so it’s a good time to get organized before the flurry of garden activities begins. Key seasonal indicators, garden tasks, and seed starting suggestions are listed here with more information at the link below. Our schedule is set up so that we are sending you info at least a week ahead of time so that you actually have time to plan for each step.

Seasonal Indicators
  • Daylength increases quickly, gaining about 2 minutes and 45 seconds everyday 
  • It still feels like winter with cold temperatures and snow
  • Red maple buds are swelling
  • Sap run
  • Skunk cabbage flowers
  • Wood ducks become active; several duck species, such as green winged teal and American wigeon begin migrating through to their nesting areas
  • Continued signs of “starvation diet” for woodland mammals

Garden Tasks 
  • Organize seeds
  • Make a list of plants (or seeds) needed
  • Start sowing seeds in earnest!

Seeds to Start Indoors
  • Slow-growing herbs if you haven’t already started (rosemary, thyme, oregano, savory)
  • Leeks and bunching onions
  • Artichoke and Cardoon
  • Celery

Comments and questions are welcome! Shared observances, experiences, and lessons learned lead to more resilient gardens. Rustbelt Roots hopes that in the long run this will contribute to community resilience!
Seasonal Indicators
Garden Tasks
Seeds to Start Indoors
Seasonal Gardening: Late March

Nothing compares to a few unseasonably warm days in March to build excitement about springtime. Birds are chirping, insects are buzzing and whirring. If you’re excited about getting the garden ready, be sure to avoid doing some things too early, and focus on the tasks that fit the seasonal indicators. Nothing is more disappointing than finding delicate seedlings frozen.  Overzealous seed planting is a sure sign of cabin fever. We are hoping to help you avoid those mistakes with these key seasonal indicators, garden tasks, and seed starting suggestions are listed here with more information at the link below. 

Seasonal Indicators
  • Around 12-hours of daylight 
  • Returning bird migrants: Red-winged blackbirds, turkey vultures, robins, timberdoodle
  • Bird behaviors change
  • Tree buds swelling
  • More wildlife (and human) activity
  • More farm animals out

Garden Tasks 
  • Don’t clean up your garden yet
  • Gather greens
  • Mulch
  • Last chance for tree pruning
  • Spring greens!

Seeds to Start Indoors
  • Peppers
  • Eggplant & maybe Tomatoes
  • Broccoli & other Brassicas
  • Sage
  • Flowers with small seeds like florist’s blue balloon flower, petunia, bee balms, yarrow 

Seeds to Direct Sow (if soil can be worked)
  • Fava beans
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Spring garlic
  • Dill 
  • Arugula
Seasonal Indicators
Garden Tasks
Seasonal Gardening: Early April
Crocus in bloom. Photo by Sarah Brower, March 21, 2021. 

It’s spring! A very warm and dry spring. It’s finally spring, and while our recent weather feels more like late spring or even early summer, seasonal indicators show we’re just coming out of winter. Red and silver maple trees have been blooming for a couple weeks now, and catkins (flowers) have emerged from quaking aspen, big tooth aspen, and some willows. Honey bees have been active on crocus blooms. Some daffodils are already blooming and other spring bulbs like hyacinth and puschkinia are shooting up and about ready to bloom. Many edible backyard weeds are up and some are flowering already. Look for purple dead nettle, ground ivy, yellow rocket, black medic, curly dock, and broad leaved dock. Hairy bittercress is already going to seed! Key seasonal indicators, garden tasks, and seed starting suggestions are listed here with more information at the link below. 

Seasonal Indicators

  • Trees are blooming: red and silver maples, hazelnuts, willow family trees
  • Spring bulbs coming up or flowering: crocus, daffodil, tulip, hyacinth, puschkinia, Star of Bethlehem 
  • Weeds - purple dead nettle, ground ivy, yellow rocket, hairy bittercress, black medic, docks, dandelion 
  • Wood frogs and spring peepers
  • Birds are staking out territories and nesting. House wren is back, chimney swifts and swallows; water/shore birds: greater and lesser yellow legs, green herons, black-crowned night herons; first warblers: yellow-rumped, palm, yellow, common yellowthroat

Garden Tasks 

  • Start hardening off seed starts
  • Spread compost
  • Mulch
  • Set up trellises and structures for climbing plants
  • Early weeding

Seeds to Start Indoors
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Brassicas: kale, collards, cabbage, etc.
  • Calendula, marigolds, Mexican mint marigold
  • Other larger seeded flowers like borage, nasturtiums, zinnias, love-in-a-mist, nicotiana, coreopsis, daisies 

Seeds/Propagules to Direct Sow

  • Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Brassicas
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Onion sets
  • Spinach
  • Cilantro
  • Arugula
  • Radish
Seasonal Indicators
Garden Tasks
Seeds to Start
Seasonal Gardening: Late April
Plants and trees are exploding with growth now. Trees are well on their way to being leafed out and several species are in full bloom. Spring ephemeral wildflowers have been blooming in the woods and it’s already time to harvest several garden crops. Plants seem to be a bit ahead of schedule this year, and hopefully it won’t cause problems for orchards and fruit growers since it wouldn’t be northeast Ohio without some late April snow and frost. Key seasonal indicators, garden tasks, and seed starting suggestions are listed here with more information at the link below.
Magnolia and cherry trees in bloom. April 14, 2021. Sarah Brower.

Seasonal Indicators

  • Trees/shrubs are blooming: forsythia, cherries, peach, plums, magnolias, pear; apples look ready to bloom very soon 
  • Forest trees are partially leafed out
  • Woodland spring ephemeral wildflowers: ramps, spring beauties, trout lily, cut-leaf toothwort, mayapples
  • Weeds - cool season grasses, dandelions flowering on sunny days, violets, lambs quarters sprouted 
  • Gray tree frogs have started singing
  • Birds arrivals: white-throated sparrow, chipping sparrow, eastern phoebe, osprey
  • Turkey breeding

Garden Tasks 

  • Transplant cold-weather crops started in February and March: artichokes, celery, onions, cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower
  • Continue to harden off frost-sensitive plants
  • Harvest greens, asparagus, brassica flower heads, green onions, chives
  • Early weeding and bed preparation

Seeds to Start Indoors

  • Indoor seed sowing is mostly finished, but it can still be worthwhile to start perennials

Seeds to Direct Sow

  • Peas
  • Brussels sprouts and cabbage
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Arugula
  • Radish
Seasonal Indicators
Garden Tasks
Seeds Starting
Seasonal Gardening: May
Late season snow and cold temperatures made for a slow start to the month of May, but it appears that the danger of frost has passed. All but the latest bloomers of trees are just about fully leafed out. It’s a peak time for watching and hearing backyard and woodland songbirds. Emergence of mayflies near bodies of water signals the start of insect season, which this year includes the emergence of the extremely numerous 17-year cicada in nearby areas. This all means that it’s one of the busiest times in the garden for transplanting plant starts and direct sowing warm weather crops. Key seasonal indicators, garden tasks, and seed starting suggestions are listed here with more information at the link below.
Chive flowers with blue flax, bok choy, kale, and purple deadnettle flowers in the background. May 17, 2021.  Sarah Brower.

Seasonal Indicators

  • Days are really long with about 15 hours of light
  • Most trees are just about fully leafed out
  • Night time temperatures are now consistently above 50°F
  • Bird activity: Baltimore and orchard orioles at backyard feeders; peak time to see over 20 species of warblers; new bird songs in the woods and backyard: gray catbird, wood peewee, wood thrush, red-eyed vireo
  • Deer fawns are out foraging
  • Mayfly emergence and associated bird activity  
  • Green frogs and bull frogs have added their songs to the chorus of gray tree frogs
  • Rhododendrons, azaleas, hawthorns, and lilacs flowering
  • Weeds - annual ragweed, daisy fleabane, lambs quarters, wood sorrel, sheep’s sorrel, red clover
  • Overwintered kale, bok choy, arugula, mustards, bunching onions, and chives flowering
  • Strawberries are flowering and buds swollen on blackberries and raspberries
  • Buds on roses, peonies, 

Garden Tasks 

  • Transplant plant seedlings!
  • Petal-fall applications of neem and kaolin clay to fruit trees
  • Water 1st-year trees and garden plants through dry spells

Seeds to Direct Sow

  • Bush and pole beans
  • Cucurbits: cucumbers, squashes, zucchini, melons, etc.
  • Corn
  • Basil
  • Sunflowers
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Cilantro and dill
Seasonal Indicators
Garden Tasks
Seeds to Direct Sow
Seasonal Gardening: Late Summer
Now that I am bushwhacking through the weeds to find and pick my first tomatoes (which are also out of control), I realize that this is the time when I start planting my fall garden. As I pull weeds (setting some aside to put in the dehydrator, like wild amaranth and lambs quarters, other weeds are used as mulch around vegetables as long as they haven't gone to seed), I plant seeds in the freshly turned soil. Last year's Brassicas, such as kale, broccoli, and collard greens, have gone to seed. I may have mentioned that I'm a lazy gardener, so I just let the brassicas and other plants like red amaranth and calendula self-seed right where they are. As the potatoes come out, seed potatoes go right back in. The rest of this lesson was written by Sarah, because I admit that my life has been filled with my new job as the interim executive director at the Conneaut Arts Center. Between that and the garden, I have time for little else. But planning such things as the Loch Erie Monster Show and an interactive gallery to map the historic Port District in Conneaut has been fun and challenging. So stay tuned for more emails on planting a fall garden, learning more about overwintering plants, and maybe a little on planning for the spring. Oh, and if you're interested in the Loch Erie Monster Show, check it out at

Leah Wolfe
Herbalist & Community Educator *

Seasonal Gardening Intro to Late Summer

These are the dog days of summer and the dog days of gardening season too.  The weather is sultry, bugs and pests abound, and everything seems overgrown.  Day length is slowly decreasing, hardly noticeable yet, but marks a key time to prepare the fall garden.  Seasonal indicators, garden tasks, and seed starting suggestions are listed here with more information at the link below.

Being observant during the peak of insect season will be rewarded with some beautiful and bizarre discoveries such as these Poecilochirus mites that are riding a grapevine beetle to a new food source.  Photo by Sarah Brower.

Seasonal Indicators

  • Day length is less than 15 hours and will drop below 14 hours before the second week of August
  • Daytime humidity very high and hot temperatures (when it’s not raining) 
  • Huge diversity and abundance of insects in yards, gardens, natural areas, indoors
  • Unmowed areas are high, and weedy wildflowers are blooming: chicory, Queen Anne’s lace, buttercups, yarrow, thistles, daisies, milkweeds, St. John’s wort
  • In less disturbed fields or restored prairies many species blooming: black-eyed Susans, purple and green-headed coneflowers, compass plant, coreopsis, bee balm and wild bergamot, blazing star
  • Insectivorous birds very active: swallows, chimney swifts, kingbirds, flycatchers
  • Male deer antlers almost full size
  • Time for ripe blackberries, blueberries, peaches

Chicory and Queen Anne’s lace, a common sight along roadsides this time of year.  Photo by Kenneth Spencer <>

Garden Tasks 

  • Harvest!
  • Collect and clean seeds
  • Weed and mulch
  • Fertilizing heavy feeders
  • Continue pruning and training tomatoes
  • Sow fall crops
  • Water during dry spells

Seeds to Direct Sow

  • Bush and pole beans, it’s not too late!
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Beets
  • Turnips
  • Bunching onions
  • Fall radish: daikon, watermelon
  • Cool season herbs: dill, cilantro, fennel

Read on for some seasonal gardening tips!
Seasonal Indicators
Garden Tasks
Seeds to Direct Sow