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.
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 …