Please welcome The Dirt, a new gardening column by Brownstoner commenter and Brooklyn garden designer Marie-Helene Attwood of Edible Petals. The monthly column will explore gardening in Brooklyn by season as well as other topics relevant to Brooklyn such as design in narrow city plots and gardening in the shade. Each month, she will answer any questions about Brooklyn gardening over the following weekend.
The first task after this long and cold winter is a simple assessment and clean-up. Are any pots broken? Trees or shrubs or branches bent or dead? If you are like me, you left the seed pods of your echinacea and hyssop and your grasses long for winter interest. Now is the time to cut all of these plants short, to make room for the new growth to come.
It’s also a good time to cut your roses and raspberry canes, and in general remove all dead stalks. If you see any early weeds, remove them now before they grow and spread.
The next step is to feed the soil. You can add some compost and/or worm castings near the root of your plants, and specific fertilizer for your acid-loving shrubs. Rhododendrons and azaleas do best with regular feedings, to replicate their native humus-rich forests. If you have a kitchen garden, adding some blood- and bonemeal now to the soil will help you grow tasty fruits and vegetables this summer.
Now that temperatures are finally rising, you will be able to start sowing greens: Kale, beets, radishes, arugula, mesclun mix, dill and Swiss chard. On the flower side: echinacea, hyssop, sweet peas, cosmos, coreopsis and zinnias. All are very easy to grow from seeds sown directly in the ground — no need to start seedlings indoors first. I am also partial to the large seed packets that are premixed by soil type and sun exposure, to start a flower meadow with a theme.
Don’t worry if it is still cold at night. In fact, all the seeds I mentioned do very well if sown with the last rain of the winter, when overnight temperatures are still in the 30s.
The photo above shows part of my garden at the end of April last year. Click through to the jump to see the first crocus of this year.
Feel free to post questions in the comments, if you have a plant I have not mentioned here, or have any other gardening question. I will do my best to answer everyone over the weekend. (more…)