Not everyone starts out as a great gardener. Of course, you have to enjoy nature and get your hands dirty, but education is also 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 horticulturist for the City of Hartford for over 30 years and has been a senior horticulturist at Hartford for the past five years. She is also the town’s arborist, served as president of the Suburban Garden Club of Cheshire, and is a longtime member of the Connecticut Horticultural Society.
Because many gardening philosophies have changed over the years, Morin warns that what was learned in the past may no longer hold up today. The old gardening adage “plant a 50 cent plant in a five dollar hole” reminded gardeners to add compost and other supplements before planting. The new philosophy, Morin said, is to dig a big hole and not bother with changes as the plant won’t adapt well if those run out or if its roots outgrow the good stuff and struggle to adapt.
The same goes for planting a tree. Morin said it was best to dig a hole that was “wider than it was deep,” as opposed to the old method that suggested digging a hole twice as deep as it was wide. After putting the tree in the hole, Morin then fills half of the hole with soil, watering, and filling the rest of the way. Another change in the approach to planting concerns timing.
“Spring starts earlier now. Memorial Day was the rule of thumb. It’s the beginning of May now, ”she said.
In general, the best time to plant is spring and fall, when the nights are cool and the days are warm, so that the plants can put their energy into their root systems.
This also applies to weeding. “Be proactive,” said Morin. “Keep an eye on things.” She suggests frequent walks in the garden. If the weeds are small, take something called a long handled hoe and scrape it off. When the weeds grow large, Morin pulls them by hand, places them upside down to dry out the roots, and leaves them in the garden.
“If it’s bad (invasive) weeds, don’t compost it,” she said.
Overall, weeds dry out faster when it’s hot and sunny, but weeds are definitely easier to pull out of the ground after rain, she said.
When it comes to home gardening, some of the most common mistakes are “jumping in too fast, buying too much, and putting plants in the wrong place,” Morin said. It pays to do your research, get advice and come up with a plan.
Morin offers home counseling. I want to help homeowners “buy the right plant for the right place”. She will walk a garden with the owner and make suggestions for plants and placement. This makes it easier for the home owner, whether he is planting himself or hiring a contractor.
“I’ll even go to the nursery with customers to pick out plants,” she said.