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A Note from Rick | It’s that time of year again for garden planning

February 18, 2020

By Rick Bogusch

There's always something to do!

It’s that time of year again. Time to toss out last year’s seed catalogs and replace them with this year’s editions. It’s also time to place those plant and seed orders. Are you thinking of getting new garden tools, work gloves, or maybe a new wheelbarrow? Order it soon - you’ll be glad you did.

Outside, the wisteria is undergoing its annual pruning, along with other small trees and shrubs. If you have apple or pear trees, now’s the time to prune these fruit trees. At the moment, we only have one apple, but we’ll be planting a small orchard of apples and pears this spring near our community gardens, so there is more winter pruning in our future. The season has been so mild, it’s possible to do just about anything outdoors: from mulching to digging out compost beds and applying it to vegetable gardens, to weeding and edging. Speaking of composting, be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming workshop on creating this important additive to the garden, scheduled for later this spring.

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It’s also time to finish plans for any new plantings. I’m looking forward to more parking lot plantings this year, and have already made a list of trees and shrubs to look for this spring at local nurseries. Last year, we planted trees and shrubs, all native to Long Island, including oak, eastern red cedar, winterberry holly and bayberry, as well as native grasses, little bluestem and eastern bottlebrush. Look for additions of inkberry, American holly, ninebark, witch hazel, goldenrod and other wildflowers to be planted later this season.

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It won’t be long now before it’s time to sow the first seeds of the season. For me, that’s artichokes and anything in the cabbage family. And soon, if the weather keeps up like this, we can sow early crops like arugula, spinach, kale and Asian greens directly into the garden. These seeds will germinate well before the last frost, so as soon as the ground is thawed enough to work the soil, get your seeds in. You can make successive plantings about every 2 weeks until around mid-to-late May. I can’t wait for the first harvest of the spinach I planted last September and covered with a frost blanket for winter. This year may be an earlier harvest than the usual late March.

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It may be hard to believe, but there are plants that bloom in wintertime. Here at Bridge Gardens we’re enjoying our snowdrops, witch hazels and winter jasmine. I really enjoy walking near the witch hazel trees, planted near the community garden plots, as their scent startles you with its crisp, clean aroma. And seeing snowdrops blooming is a sure sign that spring will be here soon.

In the meantime, now is a good time of year to appreciate evergreens for the lushness and structure they provide during the winter months. Favorites of mine at Bridge Gardens are American holly and the hybrid, ‘Yule Berry’ holly, along with our groves of eastern red cedar, the dwarf, shrubby variety of the same name called ‘Gray Owl’, and of course, all our white pines. When designing your garden, plan to install a few focal trees to serve as the foundation for planting beds. These can often help inform the design of your hardscape too.

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If you haven’t visited recently, you may enjoy seeing our beech hedge in its winter form. This specimen hedge is unusual, and probably unique to the East End. It’s comprised of 40 European beech trees that I estimate being more than 40 years old. Normally 50 feet or more in height, these beech trees are kept in check here at Bridge Gardens by trimming twice per year. What I find interesting about this hedge — and beech trees in general — is that it retains its russet brown leaves during winter and continue to make a good hedge even at that time of year. Once warmer weather comes in May, new leaves will emerge and push off the old brown leaves to begin the new cycle.

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