Gradually move houseplants outside to protected areas when temperatures begin staying above 40 degrees. Prevent any damage to the plants by gradually acclimating them to the sun and outside growing conditions.
Start by putting them in a shaded location outside on warmer days and bring them inside when nights are predicted to be cold. Increase the time outside and exposure to sun over a period of ten days or so. Large houseplants in plastic pots should be slipped into larger, heavier pots to prevent them from falling over in the wind.
• Practice integrated pest management in your garden to reduce the need to use pesticides. Begin by choosing the proper plant for your site and using good planting practices, such as amending the soil with compost and planting at the proper depth.
When possible, select plants that are resistant to common diseases and give them the appropriate care to minimize problems. Monitor all plants carefully for insects and diseases.
If trouble arises, identify the problem and use the least toxic control measure when damage is not tolerable. Timing is also important -- apply controls when pests and disease are most susceptible.
Never spray just because you see insects, as some of them might be beneficial or harmless. When you use an insecticide, you kill the good insects along with the bad ones.
• When using power equipment such as a weed whip in the garden, wear protective glasses and earplugs. The plastic line can kick up debris that could injure your eyes or sting your legs if you are wearing shorts.
The line can also injure the bark of trees. Some equipment can be loud, making ear protection especially important if you are using it for an extended period of time.
I use ear muffs when mowing the lawn and whenever I use a leaf blower.
• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden, chicagobotanic.org.