I’m by no means a seasoned gardener, but if you follow me over on Instagram then you might remember the watermelons I grew here in the Bronx this past summer! Over the past few years, I’ve managed to grow corn, pumpkin, lettuce, and more in a tiny patch of dirt in front of my apartment. I’ve always been one to make the best of the small outdoor space I have access to, and I was happy to see so many more people in the Bronx do the same during this pandemic. Whether it be a backyard, a small patio, or even a windowsill, there are all kinds of things you can grow right here in the Bronx. We recently spoke with Daryl Beyers, the Gardening Program Coordinator in NYBG’s Adult Education program and the author of The New Gardener’s Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Grow a Beautiful and Bountiful Garden to get some tips on gardening in the Bronx.
First things first
Daryl says the first thing to consider is the amount of sunlight your space gets throughout the day. Tall buildings in the city can block sunlight, so be sure to plan accordingly.
Join a Bronx Gardening Group on Facebook
There’s also a great group on Facebook for Bronx gardeners called The Bronx New York Gardening Group. It’s a fun group to see what fellow Bronxites are growing and to ask questions. The best part is when members offer cuttings or free plants!
An obvious option are herbs. Chives and mint are great ideas- just remember to keep mint in a pot because it will take over if not. Thyme and oregano are also great options.
If you’re working with a small space or windowsill, leafy greens are a great idea. They take less energy and need less sunlight. Some good options are spring greens, lettuce, and kale. You can harvest these several times, making them a great idea for windowsills. The box should be at least 8 inches deep.
Rather than waiting for someone to buy you pretty flowers for your kitchen table, why not try a cutting garden this summer? Buy smaller vases and unique glasses for displaying single flower stems in different rooms of your home. Daryl recommends perennials such as Russian sage, beardtongues, and coneflowers for cutting gardens:
Always wanted a cutting garden but no backyard? That’s okay, Daryl says you can even create a mini cutting garden on your windowsill or balcony. Just remember to keep the pots at least 8-12 inches deep. Daryl recommends annuals like zinnias, dahlias, sweet peas, and snapdragons.
Daryl recommends starting from seed whenever possible early in the season. If you’re unable to do so in time, buying plants from a local farmers market is also a good idea. Starting from seed too late might prevent your fruits or vegetables from growing in time.
In the Bronx, Daryl suggests trying your hand at:
Who says that tiny patio can’t feature NYBG worthy landscaping? There are some great shade loving plants that still bring beauty to any space. Daryl recommends plants like barrenwort, native ginger, and ferns such as cinnamon and ostrich.
If you’re starting a new outdoor garden, Daryl does recommend having your soil tested. It’s important to know about pollutants like arsenic and heavy metals in your soil. Cornell University offers testing kit options where you can mail samples to. Daryl also says potting mix is the way to go when planting herbs- not soil. He recommends Coast of Maine, Frey Soils, and Bradfield brands- no Miracle Grow! Learning about soil building and composting are also great for beginner gardeners.
If you’re interested in learning the basics of gardening in a class setting, check out Daryl’s Fundamentals of Gardening Course at the New York Botanical Garden, which are currently all virtual. Students will learn the essentials like pruning and weed control. Daryl’s book, The New Gardener’s Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Grow a Beautiful and Bountiful Garden was actually written for this class. The book can be purchased online or in the NYBG gift shop.
Their are also a plethora of other adult gardening classes at NYBG including Fragrant Indoor Gardening, Raised Bed Gardening, and more. To learn more about adult gardening classes, visit www.nybg.org/learn/adult-education/gardening-classes.
Follow Daryl over on Instagram at @thenewgardenershandbook.