In anticipation of the 2021 growing season, spring is the perfect time to plan and plant. From fruit trees and shrubbery to vegetables and flowers to add color and life to your garden, instructive materials are available to help you along the way in cultivating your green thumb.
Sue J. Gwise, consumer horticulture educator and master gardener coordinator, has been with the Cornell Cooperative Extension for 20 years. She said that early spring is a good time to start planning, regardless of what type of gardening you are set to begin. Spring is a good time to draw up a little plan of where you want to put things. The more planning you do ahead of time, the more successful your garden will be.
Mrs. Gwise also noted that growers should pay attention to site conditions, whether the location is shady or sunny, if it’s a wet area, what the soil is like, and more. Once you’ve determined the site conditions, match the plants you select to those conditions so they will be able to thrive.
“There has been a huge uptick in interest,” Mrs. Gwise said. “Mainly food security, because last year at this time a lot of stores were running out of things and we didn’t know where that was going to go.”
To match the uptick in gardening interest amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County put together a packet of information for beginning gardeners, which is available on its website under ‘Gardening During COVID.’ Within the packet, there is information about vegetable gardening, when to plant, what to plant and how to plant, among other things.
As for the benefits of gardening, Mrs. Gwise noted that any activity done outdoors can boost mental health, and for those with health concerns, growing their own organic vegetables to increase nutritional intake is the best way to go, because you’re not going to get anything fresher than walking out into your own garden, picking something fresh and taking it in to your kitchen to prepare it.
“I think for beginners, for people who haven’t gardened before, the biggest tip I can give is to start small, or even start growing in containers,” Mrs. Gwise said. “We [CCE] recommend 20-by-20 feet is all you need. If you’ve never gardened before a 20-by-20 foot plot is perfectly fine, it’s going to give you a lot of vegetables. For a family of four, you’ll have some left over for preservation.”
Another piece of advice from Mrs. Gwise is to keep up with weeding. Weeding is very important, especially early in the season. If you can keep the weeds down early, you’ll prevent a lot of weed development later on. She recommends using mulch, too, because mulches can help keep down weeds.
For those with questions, Mrs. Gwise would recommend they contact their County Cooperative Extension, which offers research-based information for free.
At All Seasons Landscaping & Garden Center in Lowville, currently owned by Ted and Chris Bach along with Wayne and Amanda K. White, they specialize in the growing and maintenance of the plants in All Seasons’ five greenhouses.
Like Mrs. Gwise, Mrs. White recommends people start out small so as to not overwhelm themselves. Then, once they become more comfortable, they can grow and expand from there.
With Pinterest being so popular right now, it’s easy to go on, type in a few words of what you’re interested in and gain all sorts of ideas for growing. Mrs. White explained that there are tons of easy plants for beginners to grow and maintain, including petunias, violas, geraniums and marigolds – all of which they sell at All Seasons.
Mrs. White really got into gardening when she and her husband bought their home 27 years ago. Her mother was an avid gardener, so she taught her most of what she knew, and the rest Mrs. White learned as she went.
“Physically you’re out there, you’re playing in the yard, you’re getting vitamin D with the sunshine and mentally and spiritually it’s just so therapeutic, in my opinion,” she said of gardening. “And you get to see the progress of what you’ve done, it’s a very gratifying activity. If you’re gardening for vegetables, you’ve got the enjoyment of enjoying those vegetables, or if it’s for birds and butterflies, you can sit back relax and watch what you’ve grown and watch them enjoy it as well.”
For All Seasons, and her personal garden, Mrs. White orders plants in the fall for the next planting season. Each garden takes work to make it grow and thrive, so when people come in and say they want a low-maintenance garden, that’s a bit tough because, to a certain degree, you’ll need to take care of any garden.
With perennials, for the first year it’s important to make sure you’re watering. After that first year, the gardens will usually take care of themselves. As far as fertilizing, Mrs. White doesn’t actually fertilize her garden, but she does compost it. She noted that if someone is going to fertilize, she would recommend doing it once a week or so.
“I like to go more natural, try to do better for the environment,” Mrs. White said. “So, coffee grounds, eggshells, stuff that you can immediately throw out in your garden beds after you use them, works really well.”
Places to find gardening supplies in the tri-county area include:
Abel’s Landscaping & Nursery
10857 NY-812, Croghan, NY
All Seasons Landscaping and Garden Center LLC
Zehr’s Flowers & Landscaping
8484 Van Amber Rd, Castorland, NY
6007 NY-12, Glenfield, NY
7151 Markowski Rd, Lowville, NY
Spring Valley Garden Center
22751 Spring Valley Dr, Watertown, NY
867 State St, Watertown, NY
Martin’s Produce & Greenhouse
32299 US-11, Philadelphia, NY
Watertown Garden Center & Landscape Supply
17940 US-11, Watertown, NY