Gardeners share tips for healthy gardens

With warm weather around the corner, seasoned gardeners and novices will be looking for ways to spruce up their gardens.


Gardening organizations like Bronx Green-Up and the New York Botanical Garden can help by connecting gardeners with managers of local gardens with plots that need tending.


But what if you’re a gardener hoping to work in a garden where available plots are scarce?


According to Mario Martinez of United We Stand Garden in Mott Haven, the key to obtaining a plot in an in-demand garden is simply to show up.


The people on the list, you never see them,” said Martinez. “Either that or they’re always waiting, waiting, but they never show up to the garden and do any effort.”


Gardens require a lot more than just planting in order to make them look presentable, and would-be gardeners should be ready to do a little of everything to help in the garden’s upkeep, Martinez and others say.


One key to keeping a garden beautiful is having enough volunteers.


Everybody’s not a gardener, but to make a garden a whole green space, you should involve artists, craftspeople,” said Stephen Kidd, 62, a Harlem community gardener.


Genuinely gifted gardeners, however, are in demand.


You need to go through a dozen people to find one that’s really good,” Kidd said.


Six out of eight new plots planned for Padre Plaza in Mott Haven will be wheelchair accessible.


Right now most of our plots are two feet from the ground.” said Michael Young who manages Padre Plaza, explaining the plots will be wide enough to attract wheelchair-bound gardeners.


Planting early can be a challenge, but one that can be overcome. By using boxes with transparent lids, known in gardening parlance as cold frames, gardeners can start planting up to a month early, rather than starting indoors and transplanting.


The earlier you can get it out there the better,” said Bronx Green-Up Community Horticulturist Sara Katz, who recently led a cold frame building workshop at River Garden on E. 180th St. in the Bronx.


Your cold hardy greens will grow earlier into the season,” Katz said. “Kale, collard greens, things like that.”


The transparent top part of the cold frame can be made from found materials, such as windows or thick plastic.


Cold frames should face south to maximize light, and should be vented on warm days.


Garden experts also advise gardeners to pay particular attention to pruning. Certain plants require more pruning than others.


George Clardy, 83, attended a pruning workshop at Daly Avenue Community Garden, where volunteers cut away more than half of a grape vine.


Roses, given a chance, they’ll grow wild on you,” said Clardy, who grows roses at Townsend Community Garden, adding he cuts them “back to the ground” so “they always come back beautiful.”

For tips on gardening from the New York Botanical Garden, visit