How to Break Ground in a Garden

If the gardener’s tasks seem endlessly tedious, it might help to organize them into three categories. There are those necessary for keeping the garden healthy, those that could wait until spring, and those essential to protecting the ecology of their park.

Living Walls

Biophilia has spurred a new market for walls made out of preserved moss, foliage, bark, or even charred timber walls. Innerspace created two-dimensional tree trunks for day care centers’ interior doorways in one garden by Innerspace; for another apartment building in Manhattan by Future Green Studio, they coaxed ferns and horsetail to grow along their facade, like miniature terrariums; these wall gardens create an immersive horticultural theater where plants are revealed over time rather than overwhelming visitors with an all-at-once buffet approach – giving visitors calm meditative environments!

Vertical Gardens

Growing on surfaces other than soil is becoming an increasing trend: from green roofs and walls to crevice walls – some gardeners are taking it further by planting without soil on such structures.

Crevice gardens are inspired by dramatic and remote places like alpine ridges, windswept seacoasts, and sun-baked deserts, yet they can also be found closer to home: for instance, a single dandelion clinging to a cracked sidewalk or the elegant presence of saxifraga and silene in any fissure of rugged terrain – these environments make a perfect match for plants that do not enjoy rich soil environments that most gardeners employ in their landscapes.

Patrick Blanc, a French botanist who pioneered this form of vertical gardening, refers to these systems as ecological systems. They differ from traditional terrace boxes in that they don’t feature bottoms but instead consist of metal or PVC frames containing sphagnum peat moss, often lined with nonbiodegradable felt and finished off with gravel layers to prevent erosion.

Custom systems can be designed and constructed specifically for your site, while off-the-rack models offer prefabricated sections in various heights for convenient assembly. Depending on plants and light, each wall may require different specifications; consult your local nursery or green-roof specialist for advice. Typically, most people water three times daily for eight minutes with additional fertilizers added as necessary.

Even experienced gardeners can sometimes encounter difficulty when planting their first living wall. When Martha Desbiens, co-owner of VertNY landscape design firm in New York, installed sedums as vertical gardens on terraces, she attributes this drying out to not receiving snow cover on roof gardens.

Before committing to create a living wall, it’s a good idea to consult a carpenter or your landlord to ensure it can support it. Once this has been determined, think carefully about what type of plant will eventually grow on it and its size; after all, no one wants a holly that grows into a tree blocking their view or sage that chokes off all light on their patio!


Beginning gardeners often start their efforts with perennial plants like peonies, irises, and daylilies – known for their long life span and needing regular division. But novice gardeners must understand that even these long-lived beauties require care to continue blooming throughout their Northeast lives. These beautiful plants could eventually perish without your proper attention as their caretakers!

Perennials tend to offer a more naturalistic appearance than annuals and are less susceptible to being damaged by deer, rabbits, and other wildlife, providing wildlife food sources and dropping seeds that keep gardens growing through autumn and winter. Furthermore, their deeper roots help manage stormwater runoff more effectively than most annuals can.

Perennials require more care and attention than annuals, however. Regular weeding and cultivation are necessary to prevent early flowering species from overshadowing later bloomers or tall perennials from towering over shorter ones, and it’s up to the gardener to monitor and remove fading blooms as quickly as possible.

Shobha Vanchiswar of Chappaqua, New York, has an early winter maintenance routine in place to take care of her quarter-acre gardens surrounding her 1915 home and take advantage of any early frosts to preserve delicate perennial plants such as Meyer lemon trees, boxwoods, and hibiscuses. Her tender perennials, such as Meyer lemon trees, boxwoods, and hibiscus flowers, will be transported into a small greenhouse for winter protection.

As soon as she has some free time, she focuses on reworking the perennial beds with a sharp spade to achieve thick and lush blooms like those at Giverny Claude Monet’s garden in France.

Only just before planting can an established perennial bed be thoroughly prepared when the soil is empty and ready to be enhanced with organic matter and fertilizers. After that, most gardeners focus only on small areas when digging up specific plants to divide or replace.

Perennials are also susceptible to the same diseases that affect annuals, so regular monitoring and an efficacious fungicide program are vitally important. Furthermore, gardeners must remember that some perennial flowers will quickly fade without regular deadheading, while others may need trimming as the season disappears or even killed off by frost.

Container Gardens

Vegetable gardens don’t necessarily require acres of ground space; vegetables can grow even in containers as small as steps on a porch, roof deck, or balcony, provided soil quality is acceptable. Mr. Hyland suggests an inch or two of pebbles, shards, or screening will cover any drainage holes at the bottom of a container and help keep soil in its place, according to Mr. Hyland.