Not everyone starts out as a great gardener. Of course, you have to enjoy the outdoors and getting your hands dirty, but educating yourself also is important, according to Elizabeth Morin.
Morin, a Cheshire resident, is a graduate of the School of Professional Horticulture at New York’s Botanical Gardens and a 30-plus-year gardener for the City of Hartford, and Hartford’s senior gardener for the past five years. She is also the city’s tree warden, served as president of the Suburban Garden Club of Cheshire and is a long-standing member of the Connecticut Horticultural Society.
Since a lot of gardening philosophies have changed over the years, Morin cautions that what may have been learned in the past might not hold up today. The old gardening adage, “Plant a 50-cent plant in a five-dollar hole,” was a reminder to gardeners that they needed to add compost and other amendments before planting. The new philosophy, said Morin, is to dig a wide hole and don’t bother with amendments, as the plant won’t adjust well when those run out or its roots grow past the good stuff and struggle to adapt.
The same can be said for planting a tree. Morin said it’s best to dig a hole that is “wider than deep” as opposed to the old way that advised to dig a hole twice as deep as wide. After placing the tree in the hole, Morin then backfills halfway with soil from the hole, waters, and fills the rest of the way. Another change in the approach to planting is in regard to timing.
“Spring starts earlier now. Memorial Day was the rule-of-thumb. Now, it’s early May,” she said.
Generally, the best time to plant is spring and fall when nights are cool and the days are warm, so plants can put their energy into their root systems.
That also extends to weeding. “Be proactive,” said Morin. “Keep an eye on things.” She suggests frequent walks in the garden. If weeds are small, take what is called a long-handled hoe and scrape. When weeds get large, Morin will pull them by hand, lay them upside down to dry out the roots and leave them in the garden.
“If they are bad (invasive) weeds, do not compost them,” she said.
Overall, weeds dry out faster if it’s hot and sunny, but weeds are definitely easier to pull out of the ground after it rains, she said.
When it comes to home gardening, some of the most common mistakes are “jumping in too fast, buying too much and placing plants in the wrong space,” said Morin. It pays to research, get advice, and make a plan.
Morin offers home consultations. I want to help homeowners “buy the right plant for the right place.” She will walk a yard with the owner and make suggestions for plants and placement. That makes it easier for the homeowner, whether they are planting themselves or using a contractor.
“I will even go to the nursery with clients to pick out plants,” she said.