Midwest Gardening Tips

May 17, 2019

This is the second post sponsored by RISE. All content and opinions are my own. Check out the first post here!

I’m so eager to start planting some flowers and vegetables in my garden! But due to the chilly spring we’ve been having up here in Wisconsin, I probably won’t end up planting anything until late May or early June. So instead of a garden update, today’s blog post is going to be all about Midwest gardening tips! My friends at RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) were able to hook me up with a master gardener who provided me with some super helpful gardening tips that I thought I’d share with you today!

Gardening Tips

01 | Testing Soil

Understanding your soil type will help you determine nutrient levels and fertilizer recommendations. Knowing this information will also help you develop a solid plan for maximizing plant growth. To get your soil tested here in Wisconsin, you can submit your soil to the University of Wisconsin Extension

02 | Creating Beautiful Window Boxes

One project that I’m excited to do this summer is building a window box! Our living room has a really big window which will be the perfect spot to hang it! Since the window faces east, the master gardener suggested leaning towards annuals that prefer partial shade (4-6 hours). A few options would be impatiens and pansies – both of which I love! They also suggested layering the planters with taller foliage in the middle or back plus something that spills over the edges to add depth.

03 | Using And not or

Having a garden doesn’t come without its problems. Whether you’re struggling with weeds or pests, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to choose between organic and non-organic solutions. Instead, use the AND not OR approach – combine different solutions to solve the problem and don’t let OR limit you.

Discover more tips on RISE’s websiteFacebook, or Twitter

04 | Preventing pests

Speaking of pests, it’s good to know what to do in the event that these critters decide to take up residence in your garden. This is where The AND Approach comes into play. The AND Approach involves three steps: Find + Solve + Prevent.

First, you need to find the source of the problem. For example, last year, we had found bugs chewing on our tomato plants.

Next, you need to solve the issue using a combination of proven solutions. Using our example above, this could be handpicking the insects right off your plants and also using a pest control product to get rid of them. (Remember to read the labels and directions too!)

The last step is to prevent the problem from happening again. In my case, it’d be keeping my garden healthy and planning ahead for these intruders.

05 |Pruning Lilacs

Lilacs are a staple of the Midwest. We currently have three of them in our backyard and I can’t wait to walk outside in the morning, clip off some blooms, and bring them inside. The only problem is that they don’t flower as well as they should because of how overgrown they are. One, in particular, has surpassed the roof line!

For pruning lilacs, it’s important that it’s done a few weeks after the tree has finished flowering – this will probably be early to mid-June up here in northern Wisconsin. If you prune them too much, it can take a couple of years for the lilac to start flowering again. The best method is to keep lilacs with 1/3rd old wood, 1/3rd new growth (aka suckers), and 1/3rd 2-3 year old growth. This is done by thinning each year after flowering and by removing the oldest canes that have been damaged by lilac borers (tiny pests that can kill your lilac trees).

7 colors

Lilacs bloom in seven official colors: white, violet, blue, lavender, pink, magenta, and purple.

Mackinac Island, MI

This island hosts a 10-day lilac festival each June!

35 Days

Most lilacs need about 35 days of cold in order to flower, making the Midwest a perfect spot for them!

Spring Pruning

Lilacs bloom on old wood, so it’s critical to prune in the spring right after they bloom. 

06 |Pruning Hydrangeas

The first step when pruning hydrangeas is figuring out what type of hydrangea it is! There are a ton of varieties and they all have different pruning requirements.

At our house, we have one established hydrangea bush in our front flower garden that the previous owners planted. It has gotten really tall and I’d love to trim it down a bit so that it flowers more. After a bit of research, I determined that it’s a panicle hydrangea.

Panicle hydrangeas bloom on new wood. These types of hydrangeas tend to bloom in late summer so if you prune them at this time, you’ll end up cutting off most of the flowers. It’s best to prune in late winter so that you’re able to see the branch structure and reach into the interior of the shrub when there are no leaves on the plant. Panicle hydrangeas don’t need to be pruned every year however, removing about 1/3 of the oldest branches each year will make for a fuller and healthier shrub!


The colors of the flowers are affected by the aluminum ions in the soil. You can change the color by adjusting the soil’s pH.

Water often

Hydrangeas are exceptionally thirsty flowers.

Before pruning...

determine the species! It’s important for you to know whether it blooms on new wood or old wood.