AN OUT-OF-THE-BLUE email in April 2020 shook me out of my “new normal” routine. It was an invitation from a “New York Times” editor to create a series of how-to garden articles for their readers who are finding themselves at home, in spring, and maybe could use the kind of information you come to my newsletter and my website and podcast for.
The first installment appeared April 20, 2020. On March 31, 2021, the paper ran a Q&A with me to kick off Year 2 of the series.
The topics I’ve covered so far:
- Where to begin your spring cleanup in a chaotic season.
- Bed-prep using cardboard, newsprint and sometimes plastic sheeting.
- Shopping in your own garden for “free” plants.
- How to make a late-start flower garden of “annuals,” including many to direct-sow.
- Pruning Q&A with Jeff Jabco of Swarthmore’s Scott Arboretum.
- Weeding (which was really popular!).
- Success with tomatoes, with High Mowing Organic Seeds’ Tom Stearns.
- Getting started with native plants (and how to make room).
- What went wrong: when seedlings fail, or bulbs don’t bloom well.
- A 101 guide to composting (with Daryl Beyers).
- Succession sowing of vegetables, for summer-into-fall harvests.
- Take a fragrance inventory of your garden, with Ken Druse.
- Creating a garden that welcomes the birds.
- How and when to harvest garlic–and how to grow it (with Filaree Farm).
- Less familiar hydrangeas (with Dan Hinkley and Adam Wheeler).
- Strategic plant placement: How the right plant shapes spaces and forms (or blocks) views, with Bill Noble.
- Time to shop for flower bulbs (yes!), and how to use them creatively, with Chanticleer Garden.
- Invasive Asian jumping worms are ravaging the soil. What scientists know, and are exploring.
- Chores to do in August for the garden’s longterm benefit, with Untermyer Gardens’ Timothy Tilghman.
- Why, and how, to start saving seeds, with Ken Greene of Hudson Valley Seed and Seedshed.
- Call me the moth gardener: How discovering moths connected me with the after-dark garden.
- Essential natives: asters and goldenrods, with Native Plant Trusts Uli Lorimer.
- Succulents: for pots, centerpieces, even adorning fall pumpkins, with Kathy Tracey, Avant Gardens.
- Houseplants that are real keepers (including easiest orchids), with NYBG’s Marc Hachdourian.
- How to overwinter tropicals and other tender plants, with Dennis Schrader of Landcraft Environments.
- A Cornell vegetable pathologist and a Cornell Lab of Ornithology expert on smarter fall cleanup.
- Birdfeeding: Why, when, what, and how to keep birds safe (and what it means to us), with Julie Zickefoose.
- Botanical Latin: Why a little offseason self-study might make you a better gardener, with Ross Bayton.
- How to grow microgreens indoors, with organic farmer Kate Spring of Good Heart Farmstead.
- Seed-catalog season 2021: How to shop smart, and a list of catalogs to subscribe to.
- Resolutions: Out with invasive groundcovers, and more to-dos for 2021.
- Growing under cover: The tools of season-extending and pest-preventing with Niki Jabbour.
- The smart way to grow roses (as in: without chemicals), with Peter Kukielski.
- Whose garden is it, anyway? Why you need a wildlife camera, with Sally Naser.
- Why to shop at specialty nurseries (with Issima prioprietors Ed Bowen and Taylor Johnston).
- Why to plant oaks, the most powerful plant of all, with Doug Tallamy.
- Those mushrooms and other fungi that pop up? They’re good news (with John Michelotti).
- Science-based companion planting: Why diversity is key in the vegetable garden, with Jessica Walliser.
- Spring garden center shopping? For a better garden, be strategic, not impulsive.
- Spring’s woodland native wildflowers: grow and multiply them, with Carol Gracie.
- Deer! A set of tactics to manage around them, with Ohio State’s Marne Titchenell.
- Poison ivy: the native plants everyone loves to hate, with Dr. Susan Pell.
- Ferns for unexpected uses: for pockets in stone walls, for water gardens, and more, with Mobee Weinstein.
- Can this houseplant be saved? Propagating begonias from leaf cuttings and more, with Darryl Cheng.
- Rain gardens: Use native plans to solve runoff and increase diversity, with North Creek Nurseries’ Carrie Wiles.
- Radicchio! A beautiful diversity to sow now for fall harvest, with Uprising Seeds and Culinary Breeding Network.
- Ticks: How gardeners can stay safer with a vigilant approach, with Rick Ostfeld and Neeta Connally.
- ‘It’s ‘Throw in the Trowel Week” as spring fades. How to get past it and keep the garden looking good and producing.
- What can you do about Japanese beetles? I asked a U. of Kentucky scientist who’s studied them for 40 years.
- Seeing spots? Disfigured fruit (or none at all)? A 101 in Tomato Troubles, with Rutgers University.
- Horticultural vinegar — and how to read an herbicide label, with Montana State University weed scientists.
- Questions about tree care (or any plant, for that matter)? The Morton Arboretum Plant Clinic will answer them free.
- Ecologically sound landscaping, with the longtime master of it, Darrel Morrison.
- Success with bulbs, with Old House Gardens’ Vanessa Elms. Outsmarting animals, great heirlooms, and more.
- Echinacea: Are all the showy new cultivars what bees, butterflies and goldfinches want?
- Why to do your spring planting in fall: Ecological horticulture, with Rebecca McMackin
- How to grow native meadow perennials from seed this fall and winter, with Wild Seed Project’s Heather McCargo.
- In praise of native trees: garden-worthy, garden-size choices that are often overlooked, with Mountain Top Arboretum’s Marc Wolf.
- Some favorite houseplants to tuck in with for company this winter, with Steve’s Leaves tropical plant specialists.
- Growing figs in cold climates (and getting fruit), with Lee Reich.
- What garden-improving tips you can harvest from a fall walk in the yard, with designer David Culp.
- Lichens! Neither plant nor animal, they are fascinating, and beautiful.
- Terrariums: Creating little worlds of moss, tropicals or even carnivorous plants.
- Tools worth waiting for: my professional-quality favorites for most every garden job.
- Newer organic seed companies with a mission: Experimental Farm Network and more.
- Quitting peat: How to reduce use of this non-renewable resource, with Dr. Brian Jackson.
- Tomatoes! How to have an epic crop, with help from Craig LeHoullier and Joe Lamp’l.
- Gravel gardens: Beautiful, water-wise, and resilient, including complete how-to.
- How the garden sustains and transforms us psychologically, with Dr. Sue Stuart-Smith.
- Beyond the same-old kale–plus other unusual greens beyond kale, with Adaptive Seeds.
- How gardeners can help conservation by “birding with a purpose.” The Breeding Bird Atlas.
- Expand your pollinator garden to welcome wasps (and benefit from their pest-control services), with Heather Holm.
- Federal Twist: How James Golden made an exceptional garden on an impossible site.
- How books about nature can provide refuge from a landscape of invasive headlines.
- The power of mulch: How it grows soil when the right material is used right.
- The new public-TV show “GardenFit” offers an Rx for smarter gardening with less aches and pain.
- Trilliums are in trouble. Why, and all about how their ant-supported life history.
- In the face of pests and diseases, the best way to care for your beloved boxwoods.
- The invasive annual called stiltgrass, and understanding (and fighting) its weedy ways.
- Rethinking the great American lawn, one ecological step at a time (with Daniel J. Wilder).
- Those curious aroids, from jack-in-the-pulpit to callas and elephant ears, with Tony Avent.
- Lawn followup: Does mowing less mean more ticks? How to deal with homeowners’ association restrictions. And resources for more info on native alternatives.
- Gardening around trees, and how we need to exert more caution sometimes, with arborist Chris Roddick.
- The critical (and beautiful) role of native annuals, with Alan Branhagen of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.
- Slow down and appreciate nature’s tiny marvels, with Andrew Brand of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.
- Crevice gardening: Rock gardens that are even heavier on the rocks, with Kenton Seth and Paul Spriggs.
- The art of making garden rooms, with Sakonnet Garden’s creators, in coastal Rhode Island.
- The Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University turns 150 years old. What the trees can teach us.
- Creating a fall flower garden with staying power, with Jenny Rose Carey.
- Explore beyond the big, puffy pink and white herbaceous peonies for a month of bloom and cut flowers, with Kathleen Gagan.
- All about spongy moths (the former gypsy moth) and its very hungry caterpillars, with Cornell’s Ann Hajek.
- The fascinating world of leaf mines and galls and the creatures who make them, with Charley Eiseman.
- My beloved Japanese umbrella pine, first plant I ever planted.
- Fall cleanup: a time to critique and plan to improve your garden’s design. With Peter Bevacqua.
- Reading the trees leaves: Why a little dose of botany can help a gardener succeed, and understand.
- Slow birding: Learning about the lives of our most familiar birds by really watching, with Joan Strassmann.
- Standout annual flowers and how to grow them like a pro from seeds, with Andrew Schuyler of Untermyer Gardens.
- Southern seed-grown favorites, and the “godmother” of some traditional varieties, Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed.
- Houseplants needn’t be boring to be durable: exceptional varieties and how to care for them, with Longwood’s Karl Gercens.
- Showy tropicals that are also edibles: gingers, turmerics, lemongrass and more, with Marianne Willburn.
- Save work, defeat weeds, support the soil: No-dig gardening, with Charles Dowding.
- Is it a cucumber or a melon? It’s a cucumber melon, ancient Cucurbits you’ll want to grow.
- The wild edibles you can grow (not forage): ramps, fiddleheads and more, with Wild Ridge Plants’ Jared Rosenbaum.
- Container gardens: design inspirations and practical tips from Bob Hyland of Contained Exuberance.
- No flower has captured the heart of ceramic artist Frances Palmer more than the dahlia (and she grows hundreds).
- Going wilder, or maybe making a meadow? Two new books show us the way.
- “Compost happens:” Common-sense advice to make your composting easier and more productive.
- Naturalistic, but not nature: Artful, wildish gardens with designer Piet Oudolf.
- Quiet, please: Can we stop disrupting nature by gardening more gently? With Nancy Lawson.
- The garden as a place of not just work, but worship, and mindfulness, with author Marc Hamer.
I WAS FLATTERED to be asked, of course, but most of all, I’m pleased that a media outlet as widely read as “The New York Times” understood that the garden is a place of refuge—but can also be a little daunting!—and committed to offer their readers support in these dystopian times since the pandemic began.
The more happy garden moments that happen around the nation, and world, the better, I figure.
I’m also pleased that I get to write again for the place of my start as a journalist all those years ago. A mini-homecoming.
Go say hello; if you are a “New York Times” subscriber or haven’t used your quota of free articles this month, you should be able to click through. Comments are open to subscribers, who are even invited to ask questions. Uh-oh, I guess I know what I’ll be doing even more of than ever …
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Please tell me how to ask an important gardening question
Do you have kindly invited us to do this but I don’t know how thank you kindly
Please offer advise on gardening on a balconey. In terra-cotta pots and plastic balconey rail pots and those cloth bags
So many folks have balconies in metropolitan areas..mine faces east south east…last year I grew 2 tomato.varieties, basil & petunias..my 1st effort
Wow, Margaret! Everything we need to know right now in one post!!! And more! Thanks ever so much. You rock!
How do I open one of your NYT columns listed? I’d like to read the one on compost.
Do you realize that we who read your newsletter and would like to read your column cannot access them via the links? Unless you have a subscription to NYTimes they are unavailable. Perhaps you could include them in the newsletter?
I agree with you Kris. As I once was a subscriber to the NYT, but once it became soooo Liberally one-sided, that ended me getting the Times.
I would like to know from Margaret, however, that if her gardening articles appear on a completely regular basis, and on what day, like back-when they did with Joan Lee Faust, I just might go to the paper store on that particular day-of-the-week, and buy that one issue.
I am a little old fashion and would love to have a book of your NY times articles. Any chance you are thinking of putting them in book form? I totally have enjoyed the journey with you through this interesting year. Thanks for you information and comfort.
Hi, Debbie. The rights to do that would be in the hands of the paper…and I don’t that that’s their kind of thing. : )
I once bought a book by Thomas Friedman and was disappointed to discover that it was a collation of articles he had written and I had already read. So, it’s worth finding out. Perhaps it depends on the contract you have with the newspaper.
This is so useful, thanks Margaret. We’ve just started a new garden project and your post about the easier way to make a garden bed was very inspiring. We use old recycled railway sleepers which work really well for raised beds.
re seed catalogs: dont forget to promote Baker Creek in missouri, family-run and
No Postage . wonderful heirloom varieties in many plants
I love your American notes having had an obsession with all things natural and American all my life. Reading the works of Ernest Thompson Seton and the photos of Elliot Porter, Peterson, H.K Job and W. J. Longs wonderful illustrated books changed my life.
I recently discovered your podcast, “A Way to Garden”, and have been enjoying those. Now I have some of your articles to read! We do have at least one thing in common and that is the battle with Houttuynia cordata. It was here when I bought my house 20 years ago and has been a continuing battle. I wondered if you had tried solarization and if it worked. It is a cruel thing that as late as last year, I found it for sale at a local garden center with a weak warning that it “may become invasive”.
I’m disappointed to say I cannot access your NYT articles via your website. I have not used my quota of NYT articles. Is there a special way to read them that I am not aware of ?
Does it mean that to read your New York Times articles you have to pay?
Please give me advice on how to deal with a garden that has contracted a fungus disease. I have 200 sf of sedum recently installed. Half has crown rot. I have beauty berry, bush daisy, sage, Chinese fringe, agapanthus and African iris that have stem rot and/or died off completely. My professional landscaper is stumped. Help.
I would love to read your articles but I don’t want to subscribe to the newspaper. Is there another way? Thanks Margaret for everything! I’ve loved all your topics.
Hi, Luanne. The Times, like virtually every paper and magazine, has a “paywall,” and you get 5 free views per month before they put that up, preventing seeing more. I can’t reprint the articles here or anything, and have no other way to grant access beyond subscribing (which I do since it was my “home” paper since forever). They often have a $1 a week offer going that can be canceled at anytime, or so other people have mentioned to me.
Any chance you can share any of these articles without having to go through The NY Times? I really don’t want a subscription and that’s the only way it will let me open the article. I’m interested in the article about growing figs in colder climates. I’ve been nurturing two Chicago Hardy trees for four years now and they’ve yet to produce fruit.
What day does the garden article
appear in the New York Times?
Hi, Mitzi. It usually goes live digitally on Weds. or Thursday, and then is in the print paper the Sunday a few days later. However that is the print paper in teh NY Edition, and in the national edition it’s not always in the same day or in at all. You can always look for new ones at this link where all past columns are rounded up. In winter do we do them every couple or few weeks, then in March sometime through early October it’s weekly.
Is there a way to read the New York Times articles without subscribing to them?
Is there a way to read the New York Times articles without subscribing to them? When I click your link the New York Times covers it up and say I have to pay to read it.
On which PBS stations will Garden Fit appear? Will it be on one in the Boston area?
Hi, Debby. As mentioned in the links in the story, go to pbs.org/gardenfit and you can stream it there, or you can check with your local affiliate to see if it is on their schedule. Stations tend to pick up shows on different timetables and so it is not consistent…but it is already there for streaming on the PBS website (the first episode).
Disappointed to find that one must subscribe to the NYT to access your articles. They claim that I have used my quota despite not having read any articles there before. Very sorry!
Judy, I have the same problem! I haven’t been able to access them for months!
If you can’t access Margaret’s Times articles directly, check with your local public library. Many libraries provide online access to the NYTimes. Depending on the type of service your library subscribes to, you might be able to get a free account for the Times. Or access could be through a database of many different newspapers, often you just get the text, no photos.
The New York Public Library also provides free library accounts to all NY state residents. Such a great service. Access to tons of online research resources, including the NYTimes (and tons of ebooks and magazines!)
Would you please write a NYT article about “green mulch”—the benefits and how to? I have discovered that traditional mulching, as described in your recent article, hampers the kind of dense native planting that Thomas Rainer, Piet Oudolf and others practice. For example, the stolons of two natives (dune sunflower, river sage) I’m growing in my Florida garden can’t root through the mulch; the stolons dry up and the plants don’t spread as I wish. I am a fan of your column and would appreciate info on using more plants in lieu of much.
Generally, my fall clean-up is more of a dusting;) This year, it’s my winter reading list that’s changed: focus on xeriscape.
I read your article on How to Read the Tree Leaves. Another angle on why some trees hold on to their leaves comes from the cooperative, rather than competitive, aspect of Nature. I, too, wondered why some trees hold onto their leaves until spring. After a winter storm, I watched a squirrel collect leaves from a tree to reinforce its nest. Nature supports life. I wondered, too, about how we reflect and respond to the different seasons and their purpose. Do signs of the four seasons show no matter the climate? Is a period of dormancy just as important to us for life and health as it is for trees? What would “dormancy” look like for humans? The answers require going beyond literal definitions and solely scientific approaches..
Thanks for saying hello, Barbara. All good thoughts and provocative questions!
Good morning, i just listened to your great podcast where you were chatting with Ulli Lorimer about pruning trees sort of roughly – not just lopping off a branch. In order to increase opportunities for bugs and wildlife. So fascinating! I do work with children, helping them reimagine their outdoor spaces, and helping them understand that they have the right to share these opinions.
I am working on a school ground in Toronto where there is an old standing dead tree that has just been lopped off! wondering if there is any more info on this interesting practice.
thanks so much, love your podcast and the articles!
In the transcript of that podcast at this link there is a link to coronet cuts I believe for more info.
Where can I get seeds for ramps?