Getting Garden Ready

Houlihan Lawrence reached out to a pair of local experts for some insight on preparing and maintaining a DIY garden.

It’s safe to assume by now that winter has come and gone for Putnam, Westchester and Dutchess counties, and what better way to celebrate the beginning of spring than by dusting off your garden tools and planting a beautiful mix of flowers, plants, vegetables and herbs.

Houlihan Lawrence reached out to two local experts, Sue Allison-Dean and her husband Bob of NatureScapes Landscape Design and Garden Shop in Armonk, for some advice on how to get your gardens into full bloom.

1) Where do I start?
Gardening is a great hobby! For novices just starting out, they may want to start small. For example, start a few vegetables in containers on a deck, plant colorful annuals (plants that last one season) by your mailbox, or create a small perennial (plants that come back every season) bed. Identify how much time and money you want to spend on your garden. All gardens will require watering even if it is only for the first year to get the roots established, so be aware of how you will use water. Identify the sunlight in the area you want to plant (morning sun, sun all day, afternoon sun, or shade.) Consider joining a local gardening club or find a local garden center that you are comfortable with. True gardeners love to share their passion and tips with others!

2) Will this year’s mild winter affect this spring’s growing season?
Yes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rezoned the plant hardiness map, or a guide that illustrates whether or not a plant will thrive in a specific zone. We used to be a zone 5, but now we’re a 6a or 6b. This means if you buy a plant that can tolerate anything from 6 and below, it will be a perennial. This should allow us a greater variety of plants to choose from that will come back every year.

3) Which flowers are partial to the Northeast/Hudson Valley?
That is a very long list! One of the biggest challenges in our area is deer, so a couple of our favorites include nepeta, peonies, and salvia. In the fall, planting daffodil bulbs will create a real spring for years to come.

4) Are there any natural or homemade remedies to get rid of weeds?
We wish we had a good answer for this! However, the best way is to get out there and pull them out. Novices should be cautious with using chemicals they are not familiar with, especially when they have well water.

5) What are some vegetables and herbs that can easily grow in a garden or planter?
Just about all herbs grow well and so do many vegetables in containers as long as they’re big enough to allow root growth. We have clients who create large vegetable gardens on their decks using teak planters (our favorite type of planter for edibles.) Vegetables that require a lot of room to “run” (zuchinni, pumpkins, and some cucumbers) generally prefer a garden.

6) How do you get rid of brown patches of dead grass in the yard?
First, identify why you have brown patches. Pet urine and fungus are among the most common reasons-there are a whole host of other problems. A professional lawn company or the local Cornell Cooperative Extension can help to diagnose the problem and address it accordingly.

7) Organic or regular fertilizer?
Organic for sure! One of the best ways is to make your own compost pile. Stone Barns offers compost classes and sells compost from their farm that is awesome.

What steps do you take to get your garden ready for spring?

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William Demarest May 14, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Any suggestions on plantings that can survive groundhogs? We have an eager, busy groundhog in our yard and he loves to munch on my wife's plants.
Kerry Barger May 14, 2012 at 10:28 PM
William- try some daffodils, peonies, and iris. Animals will eat pretty much anything when they're hungry enough, but they'll usually stay away from these kinds of flowers.


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