10 Simple Tips for How to Garden in Small SpacesIf you live in an urban area, don’t want the maintenance of a big garden, or simply don’t have the space for very many plants, your green thumb might need a little help growing the garden of your dreams in the space that you have. With the right design and the proper planning, however, you can do a lot with small space gardening. Here are some helpful tips to get you growing:
1. Decide what to grow
Choose appropriate plants for where you are going to plant them. Some plants must be planted side by side, while others, such as climbing vines, can be planted vertically, giving you color and texture and saving space at the same time.
2. Decide where to grow
If you live in a city apartment, you may only be able to grow plants on your porch or balcony, but if you have a small yard, you may be able to plant directly in the ground. Growing can be successful in either place but location does affect what varieties of plants you can grow.
3. Watering considerations
All plants need water so determine where you will get it from before you plant. Ideally, choose a growing place that is close to an outside water source or not too far from your door if you have to water with a watering can.
4. Decide how to grow
Some plants take a long time to produce either flowers or fruit, while others take less. Decide ahead of time whether you want to plant something that will grow and produce all season, or whether you want to rotate crops. This is true for both flowers and vegetables.
5. Planting budget
Determine how much you want to spend and then find the best price. Sales around holidays such as Memorial Day, Father’s Day, or July 4th are great for saving you a little money.
6. Time and maintenance
If you’re short on time as well as space, choose plants that require less for daily maintenance, are drought and disease tolerant, and can be planted in pots where weeding will be less of a concern.
7. Function or beauty
Before shopping, decide whether you want plants that provide function, beauty, or both. For example, some lilies are beautiful to look at but can also be put on top of salads so you get two-for-one in the same space.
8. Plan for sunshine or shade
Pay close attention to how much sun your chosen garden spot gets every day and at what time of day it gets it. This will help you choose whether you need to buy full-sun plants or ones that are shade tolerant.
9. Use existing structures
Look at how you can add to or enhance existing landscape features. Planting vines that grow up a wall or annuals around an existing lawn statue can provide more color and texture without taking up a lot of space.
10. Have fun
Gardening should be enjoyable so have fun with it! Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time- evaluate what works and what doesn’t and soon you’ll be gardening like a pro!Now, it’s time to get to work! Following these simple tips will get you growing in the right direction but if you still need a little help, give us a call or stop in to the garden center.
Basic Rules of PruningEarly spring is by far the best time to prune your shrubs and trees. Dormant pruning (shortly before the spring growth starts) minimizes the amount of time fresh wounds are exposed. Also, pruning before there are leaves allows you to make better decisions because the structure of the plant is not obscured by leaves. However, trees and shrubs that bloom early in the growing season on last year’s growth should be pruned immediately after they finish blooming. Some examples include azalea, chokeberry, forsythia, magnolia, or early blooming spirea. Shrubs grown primarily for their foliage should be pruned prior to when their spring growth begins and some examples include barberry, burning bush, and honeysuckle. Some trees such as maples, butternuts, walnuts, and birch trees have free flowing sap in the late winter or early spring. While this is generally not a major concern, unless you are into syrup making, pruning of these species can be done in late spring or early summer to avoid the loss of sap.
Rules for Pruning TreesAccording to the Arbor Day Foundation, you should follow these steps when pruning your trees.
- Begin visual inspection at the top of the tree and work downward.
- Use The ⅓ and ¼ Rules of Pruning
- Never remove more than ¼ of a tree’s crown in a season
- Ideally, main side branches should be at least ⅓ smaller than the diameter of the trunk.
- For most deciduous (broadleaf) trees, don’t prune up from the bottom any more than ⅓ of the tree’s total height.
- Where possible, try to encourage side branches that form angles that are ⅓ off vertical that form “10 o’clock” or “2 o’clock” angles with the trunk.
- For most species, the tree should have a single trunk. Identify the best leader and lateral branches before you begin pruning and remove defective parts before pruning for form.
- Don’t worry about protecting pruning cuts. For aesthetics, you may feel better painting large wounds but it doesn’t prevent or reduce decay.
- Keep tools sharp. One-hand pruning shears with curved blades work best on young trees.
- For high branches use a pole pruner. A major job on a big tree should be done by a professional arborist.
- For larger branches, cut outside the branch bark and ridge collar (swollen area). Do not leave a protruding stub. If the limb is too small to have formed a collar cut close.
- When simply shortening a small branch, make the cut at a lateral bud or another lateral branch. Favor a bud that will produce a branch that will grow in desired direction (usually outward). The cut should be sharp and clean and made at a slight angle about ¼ inch beyond the bud.
Many homeowners are leery of pruning around their yard and we understand! It can be scary to cut something back and hope you did it right and aren’t killing your tree or bush. However, pruning is vital for maintaining healthy growth. If you are unsure, feel free to give us a call and our Landscape Maintenance team would be more than happy to come out and take care of the pruning for you.
How to Attract Birds in the WinterHave you ever spent any time trying to attract birds to your garden? It’s an entertaining pastime, and can even be quite rewarding, to tally up the various species that visit the feeders and bird friendly landscaping in the garden. While many homeowners look for their birds during the spring and summer months, there is actually a great need to help our fine feathered friends during the long cold days of winter. During the winter months, birds spend most of their time and energy seeking out food, water and shelter. It can be a desperate time for them, especially here in Upstate New York when the temperatures plummet and snow blankets most of their feeding grounds. With a little bit of planning, however, you can transform your garden into a prime location for birds to find both shelter and sustenance. The selection of trees, plants and shrubs you choose for your landscaping can offer birds both the food and shelter they need to survive. Not only will you be providing a refuge for them, you will be able to enjoy seeing and hearing them all year long. You will also be providing some much-needed color and contrast into your winter landscape as well!
Plant in LayersSome birds prefer higher trees for shelter and food, while others prefer to be closer to the grounds. So when you look around your yard, consider the differing layers – a canopy of tall trees, an under-canopy of smaller trees, a shrub layer, and various ground covers and/or vines. The more variety your offer, the greater the variety of birds you’re likely to attract.
Provide Adequate Food SourcesFood is the single most important thing you can provide for your feathered friends. Food can be rather scarce during the winter months and trying to find enough food consumes most of their time. By providing a source of seed and nut bearing trees to your yard, you make their hunt much easier. Consider adding evergreens, junipers, firs, hemlock and spruces to your yard, which will provide both shelter and food. These trees provide a great food source for birds such as chickadees, woodpeckers and grosbeaks. Trees such as oaks, walnuts and hickories won’t necessarily provide much in the way of shelter, but the nuts they provide are an excellent source of food for many different birds. Don’t forget about fruit-bearing trees and shrubs as well. There are varieties that hold onto their fruit throughout the winter months. Winterberry, holly, bayberry, viburnum and photinia will provide food all winter long. Flowering crabapple trees and dogwoods are also a winter favorite of birds. As an added bonus, they all provide some amazing color and interest in your garden as well.
Go WILD with your LandscapeWhat we mean by this is don’t immediately cut everything back in the fall. Sure, it will look nice and give you that well-manicured look, but you will be taking away a fantastic source of food and shelter. Native grasses that emerge later in the season will provide flower seeds for your birds to feast on as well as good coverage for them. Many of them also put on a beautiful show of color during the fall and winter months as well. Hair grass, switch glass and bluestem are all great choices. You can also leave your perennials as is throughout the winter months. Just like the native grasses, perennial flowers produce seeds that provide much needed nutrients. If you can refrain from snipping their seed heads back until springtime, the birds will thank you! Birds love Coneflowers, sunflowers, Black-eyed Susans and Coreopsis for their abundant seeds.
Offer Plenty of WaterIt might seem like birds would have plenty of access to water during the winter, but they really don’t. Having access to a clean source of water is critical for survival during the winter. Make sure your birdbath is still accessible during the winter months and that the water doesn’t stay frozen. There are portable warming devices you can utilize that will de-ice your birdbath during the cold months. You might also want to consider investing in a heated birdbath. As long as they have access to fresh water daily they have a much greater chance of survival. Even the smallest changes in your landscaping can make a huge impact for the birds in your area. By just adding a few bird friendly shrubs or trees, your garden will soon become a valuable resource for your feathered friends.
Growing Apricots in New York
January is Apple and Apricot Month, the perfect time to enjoy healthy alternatives to all of the sweets and splurges we went for this past holiday season. But the New Year is also a perfect time to put some healthy foods on the table for your family and although somewhat unique, apricots are a delicious fruit to add to your diet, and one that you can grow right here in Upstate New York.
Cherries, peaches, plums and apricots are known as “stone fruits” because they all have similar hard “pits” or stone‐like seeds. Interestingly enough, wild plums and cherries were gathered by the Iroquois and Algonquins, and the other common stone fruits mentioned above have been grown for more than 300 years here in New York State, although today they are a small part of our fruit industry.
Experts agree that both skill and a bit of luck are needed to harvest a good crop of these fruits in New York, but are perfect for the skilled gardener looking to take on a small challenge. Because we are on the Northern edge of their optimal climate region, it can be risky but worthwhile to grow these stone fruits. Nonetheless, many people enjoy the fruits of their labor and are rewarded with plenty of healthy fruits to create preserves, jams, sauces and much more from. In this region, winter and spring cold injury to the flowers, buds, roots and trunks is common. As with other crops, there are several diseases and insects likely to damage the trees and fruit and should be known before planting begins. For those who think the risks are worth the rewards of home grown fruit, here are our suggestions to improve your chances of success.
Stone fruits are prone to frost injury during bloomtime because they flower a few weeks earlier than other fruits like apples. Most stone fruits like apricots ripen during mid to late‐summer and there is usually a long post‐harvest period when you can actually let weeds grow and the soil to dry out. This will in turn “harden off” trees.
Pest management is also important when growing apricots. Many birds, mammals, insects, frogs, and even bacteria and fungi can ruin the growing process. The two most serious diseases of all stone fruits are brown rot and perennial cankers.
Furthermore, it is important to understand how to prune apricot trees. The wood of stone fruits is quite flexible and can break when trees are cropped very heavily. Limb breakage can be reduced by spreading branches and adding branch weights to spread from the trunk or base. The optimal time to work on the branches is during the first few years of the tree so that the whole tree has an open center. This tree shape will improve light and air circulation inside the canopy, minimizing brown rot and perennial canker problems. Apricots actually require little pruning. The most work typically includes thinning out the dense inner branches or removing old, damaged branches. Expert gardeners and horticulturists recommend making your cuts “parallel to the branch base”, close but not into the raised “collar” of bark callus which circles the base of each branch.
Although growing apricots in New York takes patience and knowledge, many home gardeners consider it worthwhile. They are attractive little trees with big flavored results. Come see us and let us know what else we can do to help you make the most out of your apricot‐growing adventure!
Easy Apple Growing
After a busy holiday season full of eating cookies, cakes, pies, and everything else unhealthy, January brings us Apple and Apricot Month, a chance to celebrate fruits that we can put out for the whole family to enjoy. Apples are what New York is known for. New York is a major contender in the production of apples here in the United States and in many ways our soil and climate is perfect for growing this hardy fruit. We produce an average of 25 million bushels of apples annually, making it #2 in the country. Without the proper knowledge, however, apples can be difficult to grow successfully in the Northeast because of insects and fungal pests. Home gardeners can grow apples with little pruning or pesticide spraying and some folks even enjoy watching diverse wildlife feeding on the fruit they grow or save the remainder to make juice and preserves. According to experts, apple trees can bear fruit for half a century or more with minimal care, but they require considerably more attention and management if regular harvests of fruit without major pest damage are desired.
April is the time to prepare for spring planting. The average tree will bear fruit in three years, with full production coming in 8‐10 years. Even in New York State, hundreds of apple varieties are available from nurseries, but some are especially suitable for home gardeners. Disease resistance is a major factor to consider because common store‐bought varieties require numerous fungicide sprays to control apple diseases. Even better, apples are very adaptable to different soils and climates, and usually don’t require fertilizer in home gardens. Gardeners instead can focus on how to control insect pests from creating diseases rather than how sensitive the trees are in this environment. As always, if you should choose to use pesticides on your apple trees, remember to choose an insecticide that is least toxic to people, your pets, and other species of birds and insects which could be helping to control the undesirable bug population in your area.
When it comes to pruning apple trees, they tend to require periodic pruning to remove any weak, diseased or heavily shaded branches. Limbs must be tied up or weighted down to spread the young tree into the perfect shape. On the other hand, excessive pruning has been known to delay the onset of flowering and fruit production in young trees, and causes too much vegetative growth and shade in mature trees. If desired, right before bud break is the perfect time to fertilize your fruit trees. If you miss the moment and the trees have begun to bloom, you can still fertilize until June.
Harvest time for apples is determined by variety, weather conditions during the growing season, and intended uses for fruit. Different varieties mature and ripen from early August to mid‐November. As they progress through the maturation process, apples can increase in size, change color, and develop unique characteristics. There are many changes in our environment that can determine exactly when the apples are ready for harvest.
When it comes to growing your own apples, there is a lot of information you need to know on how to plant trees, prune them, and feed them. Come visit us and learn more about what it takes to grow your own apples ‐ a healthy food available right at your fingertips.
Tree Planting Instructions1.Be sure to locate all under ground utilities prior to digging the hole. 2. Avoid planting trees around or under power and telephone lines. 3. Trees and shrubs should be planted within 24 hours of purchase. Plants must be watered daily and placed in a shady location if they cannot be installed right away. 4. Balled and Burlapped Plants: Peel back the burlap and carefully remove only enough soil to expose the trunk flare. Containerized Plants: In general containerized grown plants can be planted to the depth of the soil in the can. 5. Find the trunk flare (This is where the trunk of the tree meets the large roots.) and measure distance from the bottom of the root ball to the trunk flare. 6. Subtract 2-3 inches from the measurement; this is how deep you are going to dig the hole for the plant. 7. The width of the hole should be 2-3 times as wide as the root ball. 8. Working from the center of the hole, create sloping sides much like a saucer. 9. Place the root ball in the hole. The base of the root flare should be level or slightly higher than the ground outside the hole. 10.When positioning your tree, be sure the tree is straight and have the best face of the plant aiming in a desirable direction. 11. Place some soil around the base of the tree to stabilize the root ball. This is also a great opportunity to apply some organic fertilizers and mychoriza products to the soils. 12. Containerized Plants: Distress the root system in order to minimize encircling roots. Balled and Burlapped Plants: Remove the first 8 to 16″ of wire basket and burlap but only when the tree is well positioned. Do not be concerned about the burlap and wire basket on the very bottom of the root ball. 13.Back-fill the hole using quality soil and compost. When full create a basin or curb of soil around the plant to retain water. 14. Place a hose in the basin and allow the water to trickle in for 30-60 minutes. This will insure that the bottom roots are well hydrated. 15. Mulch should be placed in a wide band approximately 3 times the diameter of the root ball, over the root zone and no more than 2-3″ deep tapering to, but not piled up against the trunk of the plant. 16. In general, apply 3-5 gallons of water per inch of the tree trunk caliper. 17.Water your plants 2-3 times a week for a 6 week period or as needed, until the plant is established. Under drought conditions watering regimes may need to be extended.
Garden Planning in Upstate New YorkGardening can be a means to produce food for your family, produce to sell, or a personal hobby that you just enjoy. No matter what your purpose, gardening takes planning in order to experience success. There are not many homeowners out there who have the perfect garden location or all of the necessary knowledge to perfect the art of gardening, but we have put together some of the most critical information to help you make the most out of your plants and enjoy the many benefits that growing vegetables and feeding your family with healthy foods can bring. The perfect location is not always possible, but there are a few important things to remember when planning the area you will use.
- Sunlight is important and your garden will do best if it gets full sun
- 6 hours a day of direct sun is the minimum needed by most vegetable plants for optimum growth
- Leafy crops like lettuce and spinach produce reasonably well in a partly shaded location
- Root crops such as carrots and beets need more light than leafy vegetables, but may do well in a garden that receives only morning sun
- Fruiting plants such as peppers, tomatoes, and beans are sun worshipers and will yield poorly, if at all, with less than 6 hours of direct sun
- If your garden is shaded, experiment with the more shade‐tolerant vegetables to see which do best and put the full‐sun plants in containers that can be placed in a sunny area of your yard.
Companion Planting Chart for Vegetables
|Onions, garlic, gladiolus, chives|
|Beans, bush||Potatoes, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, celery, summer savory||Onions|
|Beans, pole||Corn, summer savory, sunflower||Onions, beets, kohlrabi, cabbage|
|Beets||Onions, Kohlrabi||Pole beans|
|Cabbage family (cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, broccoli)||Aromatic plants, potatoes, celery, dill, hyssop, chamomile, sage, peppermint, rosemary, beets, onions||Strawberries, tomatoes, pole beans|
|Celery||Leeks, tomatoes, bush beans, cauliflower,cabbage|
|Chives||Carrots, tomatoes||Peas, beans|
|Corn||Potatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, squash||Tomato|
|Cucumbers||Beans, corn, peas, radishes, sunflowers, lettuce||Potatoes, aromatic herbs|
|Eggplant||Beans, potatoes, spinach|
|Leeks||Onions, celery, carrots|
|Lettuce||Carrots and radishes (lettuce, carrots, and radishes make a strong team grown together), strawberries, cucumbers, onions|
|Melons||Corn, Nasturtium, Radish|
|Onions(garlic)||Beets, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, summer savory, leeks, chamomile (sparsely), pepper||Peas, beans|
|Peas||Carrots, turnips, radishes, cucumbers, corn, beans, most vegetables and herbs||onions, garlic, gladiolus, potatoes, chives|
|Potatoes||Beans, corn, cabbage, horseradish (should be planted at the corners of the patch), marigolds, eggplant (as a lure for the Colorado potato beetle)||Pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, sunflowers, tomatoes, raspberries|
|Radishes||Peas, nasturtiums, lettuce, melons, cucumbers||Hyssop|
|Soybeans||Grows with anything, helps everything|
|Strawberries||Bush beans, spinach, borage, lettuce (as a border), onions||Cabbage|
|Tomatoes||Chives, onions, parsley, asparagus, marigolds, nasturtiums, carrots||Corn, Kohlrabi|
- Grow vigorous, healthy plants.
- Rotate crops.
- Choose varieties carefully.
- Use proper sanitation practices.
- Check over transplants.
- Time your plantings carefully according to season and growing patterns.
- Pick out pests and remove by hand when possible.
- Use barriers.
- Consider the use of row covers.
- Mulch with aluminum foil for small area.
- Take advantage of natural enemies.
- Consider natural pesticides when all else fails.
- 1 plant per square: Tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, corn, melon, squash
- 4 plants per square: Lettuce, garlic, Swiss chard
- 8 plants per square: Pole beans, peas, spinach
- 16 plants per square: Beets, carrots, radishes, onions
New York State Pride in Apple GrowingHere in New York State, we have a lot to be proud of, and our apple growing is just one. We produce approximately one-fifth of the total United States production, growing different varieties at the same time as quantity. Apples are essential to good health and are rewarding to grow. According to Cornell University, “Apples are a very significant part of the diet and are one of the best sources of antioxidant phenolic compounds in the Western world.” They have also identified a dozen compounds, called triterpenoids, in apple peels that inhibited cancer cells from growing in other studies. We have put together a list of the most popular NY apple varieties and some information and qualities for each type.
- Empire apples – It’s a sweet-tart combination that’s great for everything. It is said to be the perfect blend of sweet and tart, and is juicy and crisp, with a tender white flesh. Great for eating and salads. Also good for sauce, baking, pies, and freezing. The New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva introduced this variety whose parent varieties are McIntosh and Red Delicious in 1966.
- McIntosh apples – People have enjoyed this apple since 1811 when John McIntosh discovered the first seedling. McIntosh apples grow particularly well in New York’s cool climate! They are sweet with a tart tang, very juicy, and have a tender white flesh. They are excellent for eating, sauce, salads, and pies.
- Red delicious apples – Red Delicious have the slight tartness so characteristic of apples from New York. They are sweet, juicy, and have a crisp yellow flesh. They are excellent for eating and salads.
- Cortland apples – This great all-purpose apple was developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva in 1898. They are sweet with a hint of tartness, juicy, and have a tender white flesh. They are good for freezing, eating, salads, baking, and pies.
- Golden delicious apples – These apples have a mildly sweet flavor, are juicy, and have a crisp light yellow flesh. They are excellent for eating, salads, sauce, baking, pies, and freezing. You can cut down the sugar in pies and sauces made from Golden Delicious apples.
- Red Rome apple – This old time variety originated in Ohio in 1816, but is widely grown in New York State. They are mildly tart and have a firm, greenish white flesh. Excellent for sauce, baking, pies, salad, and freezing.
- Gala apples – This is a new variety developed in New Zealand. It is said to have the mild flavor that “picky eaters” prefer and a bright yellow-red color that is visually appealing. They have a mild, sweet flavor, are juicy, and have a crisp, creamy yellow finish. Excellent for eating and salads.
- Honeycrisp apples – They have a “honey-sweet” taste, a complex sweet-tart flavor, are juicy, and have a super yellow crisp finish. They are excellent for eating, salads, baking, pies, and sauce.
- Braeburn apples – Great for snacks and salads, this type of apple is a great choice. It has a sweet and tangy flavor, is aromatic and juicy, and has a super crisp texture with yellow flesh. It is also excellent for snacking, cooking, salads, and sauce.
- Macoun apples – This apple is the perfect way to satisfy your sweet tooth! Macouns are extra sweet and aromatic, very juicy, and are excellent for eating fresh, sauces, and salads.
- Fuji apples – Fujis are great snacking apples. Super sweet, super juicy, and super crisp. Excellent in salads, eating fresh, and making sauce.
- Jonagold apples – Jonagold is the perfect baking apple. It has a honey-sweet flavor with a hint of tartness. The crisp, creamy yellow flesh is juicy and is good for pies and freezing. They make great fried apples! Simply sauté in a little butter with a little cinnamon. No sugar needed!