New to Gardening: clueless

elisa73December 4, 2012


I'm new to the forum and to gardening as well. I just bought a house and so now I have this little but nice piece of backyard that needs my love and care.
I'm more than willing to love it, except I know nothing about gardening and I don't want to do the wrong thing.
I've never had a green thumb, but I want to change that, and I need a little direction from people that know, experts in gardening, especially the kind of gardening that work on the northeast. I'm not sure how much can/should I do now that is December.
Should I wait for Spring?
In any case, in which order and what things should I begin doing?
Is there a "bible" for gardening? Like a great introductory book?
I would like this little backyard to have a couple of different sections, one for toys for my baby, like a swing and a slide (something small), one for a table and some chairs, and then some green and maybe a garden to grow tomatoes and herbs. Can I grow tomatoes and herbs in NY? Can I grow anything in NY?
Thank you,

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MaeT(z5 NL, Canada)

Well I would put clematis vines along that back wall. I have a small yard and have 17 clematis vines, 3 honeysuckle, 1 wisteria blue moon and a variegated porcelain vine. They are amazing and outperforms the perennials that I have and the best thing of all is that they don't take up a lot of space.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 4:49PM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

I don't live in New York,but the last time I visited,there was plant life around.Is that grass and something growing in a container in the picture?If these those are real,then yes,things can grow in NY.
One of the easiest and important things to keep in mind,is to make sure the chosen plants are right for your Zone,temperature wise,which is probably Zone 6.That is the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) rating.Lower numbers are colder during the winter and places like parts of California can be at 10.Most nurseries will have a Zone rating with each plant.It's probably best to stay at 6 or a little lower number for your area.
There are many choices for your area.I suggest either going to a local or online nursery(I believe there are both in NY)and seeing what they have.Fruits,vegetables,flowering plants,vines.They can all grow there.There are plenty of books too.Maybe ask at a local library or do an online word search about growing plants in New York.Hope this helps a little.Brady

This post was edited by Bradybb on Sun, Dec 23, 12 at 11:22

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 1:51AM
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ontnative(5b Can/USDA 4)

My suggestion is to go to your local library or bookstore and check out the garden section. You should see some books that catch your eye about gardening for beginners, etc. Meanwhile you can do some planning over the winter. Take note of the orientation of your property, i.e.where north, south, etc are. Areas facing south and southwest get the most sun. Those facing north and northeast get less sun. Check the various part of your yard to see which areas get the most sun, which areas are shaded by the house or trees, etc. This will help you to plan where to put your veg. garden, your child's play area, etc. Veggies need full sun, but you probably want the play area at least partially shaded. You might want the play area where you can see it from the house windows, depending on the age of your child. I like to see my flowers from the windows too.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 8:44AM
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My thought is that THE most imp. thing when starting a new garden is to prepare the soil. Add TONS of compost and peatmoss. This is the best and easiest time to do this. Then it is done! After that make sure you have enough sun to grow veggies. Herbs grow well for me in Buffalo- oregano, parsley(winters over but can get tough),thyme,sage(winters over)Mint(make sure you put it in a container because it spreads like crazy.Basil grew GREAT! Tons of pesto and froze the rest.Pretty good luck with tomatoes,beets,beans. Hope you don't have woodchucks as they eat it all just when you're ready to pick! Enjoy.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 8:11PM
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this is plant hardiness zone map. Find the number the coordinates with your zone and never forget it.
Plants that only live one season, are call ANNUALS, they are number higher than your zone.
Plants the come back eyery year are called PERENNIALS, they are your zone number or lower.

Look around your area and see what is already growing there that you like. ASK what it is. Write it down. Look it up. Most plants come in more than one size/color/shape. You may like another one better. Check its zone before you buy.
Plants in pots do not usually survive the winter unless you do something to insure their survival (look up overwintering container plants).
Resist the urge to buy at garage sales. 'I have plenty" often means 'its invasive' and thats never good.
Honeysuckle is an easy choice for a fence, however they can have issues, 'Major Wheeler' is nearly carefree and a good choice, hummingbirds adore it.
Check your municipality for free compost. Do not use free mulch, it may contained the wood from diseased trees. Do not use Cypress Mulch it may contain insects not native to your area.
I moved to Wisc. from Calif and had to relearn gardening for the Northern climates. Buy a good book, expect happy mistakes. Look for seeds that sprout fast, and engage your child.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 4:58PM
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If I may add to all these suggestions...

Before you even plunk down a single cent on any plants, do your garden planning first. (There are tons of plants that are suitable in your zone). Try to plot out on paper what you'd like to do first.

Determine what sun this area gets. Are you facing north, south, west, east? - if it's full sun, then we can work on tons of good flowering plants. if it's a shady garden, then we'll work on shade plants. If it's somewhere in between, there are many more plants you can add.

Locate where you'd like a patio. Set your seats around the area.. then see if you'd like some 'privacy'. You can 'block' your neighbor's from seeing you by setting a tree, posts (with climbing plants) in that particular area... It's all about good planning.

A good tool for doing all these is your camera. Take photos of your yard, print them out on paper and draw directly on the photos. Say a tree here, a shrub there.. all that. so you get a feel on what you need to do.

Once you make this determination.. then we can advise you on what plants to use.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 11:17AM
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Hello again,

thank you again for helping back then, I have been doing sooo much reading and I definitely know a bit more now. I've ordered and planted vegetables, even got some nice broccoli plants sprouted from seeds (I know, I read they're pretty easy)... I will have some pictures for you soon.
I've learned that I prefer veggies to flowers, because the whole frailty and quickness a flower comes and goes it's a bit annoying, a vegetable instead engages you for months, and hopefully I will see some results at harvesting time.
That plant in the picture, on the left, it's a rosemary plant, left by the previous owner. I had no idea and we left it out during the winter, and it snowed on it and it was freezing cold. And last month, my aunt was in my backyard and told me "oh, you have a rosemary plant" and I felt so bad for it because I totally thought it was a shrub or something. But the thing made it through ok, and it's still in great shape, I'm amazed.
Anyway, some pictures will come soon. Thanks again,

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 1:05AM
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Hi Elisa, I have enjoyed this thread, I look forward to seeing some pics as your garden begins... I too pored over books and websites to see first off, what appealed to me, then checked zones which is really important. I guess my only advice to you is to try to go a bit slowly... I get overenthusiastic, I buy too many plants at one time, and then don't have the energy to do all the digging I have to do to get them into the ground before they start suffering in their pots...Good luck... I'm learning about gardening in the Maritimes, ( Nova Scotia) which is a change for me, but a nice challenge too.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 6:28AM
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Dear elisa73

I'm a native New Yorker and yes you can certainly grow tomatoes in New York. However, because of the short growing season, you must start your tomato seedlings indoors around mid March and transplant them into the garden end of May. They need at least 6 hours of direct sun each day, consistent watering and rich fertile soil. You'll also need to stake them so they don't touch the ground. You can also grow all kinds of other things

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 8:34PM
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Also, there is no reason you can't have both, flowers and veggies. The flowers will bring in the bees that will happily pollinate your veggies for you. What I've done is plant different things so as the daffodils are fading, the tulips are just coming into bloom, then the roses have their turn, then the cone flowers, etc. It's fun to see your garden change colors all summer long. Then my red sunset maple flames orange and red before everything goes to sleep for winter.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 8:50PM
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When I have questions about what to plant in a new area I always go pop into my local gardening store or nursery. The employees there usually have either experienced or have heard about all the quirks of your area. And gardeners are usually pretty friendly too! I also like to plant whatever I like to eat! Even if it does not work out the first year, or the second, or the third, you'll learn something along the way!
PS. Wildflower mixes designed for your area are a great way to attract pollinators are site seekers to your garden.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 2:16PM
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