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Waiting to garden

08/11/03 12:00AM By Charlie Nardozzi
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(Host) A new home means a new garden. And for commentator Charlie Nardozzi, a new garden means a clean slate.


(Nardozzi) I've recently moved to a new home without any established gardens. After 15 years I now have the opportunity to practice what I've been preaching about how to establish a new garden. Although the itch to garden has been bugging me all summer, I've resisted. I'm watching and waiting this year in my garden.

You might ask, "what am I watching and waiting for?" Well, a number of things. First, I'd like to get a sense of the site, the sun exposure, soil, and the existing plantings. Gardening isn't something you rush into, but a process done over time.

My first task is to watch the sun. Moving in around the summer solstice (June 21), I was able to see what parts of the yard received the most midsummer sun during which parts of the day. The sunniest locations will be where the vegetable garden and those sun-loving annual and perennial flowers will thrive. The light levels change though as the season progresses.

Luckily, I don't have to wait a whole year to understand the amount of sunshine and shading I'll be getting in spring. The sun's place in the sky in May is equal to where it is in July, April is equal to that in August, and March equal to September. By watching the light levels over the next few months, I'll be able to see what areas are still receiving full sun in April and May.

It's also important to note whether an area is receiving morning or afternoon sun. Morning sun is gentle on plants, so shade loving shrubs such as rhododendron and azaleas will grow fine there. Afternoon sun is stronger, so full sun loving plants such as roses and lilacs thrive under these conditions. Also, plants that tend to get lots of foliar diseases such as phlox, will enjoy the morning sun that dries up those leaves before the disease gets started.

Another weather feature I'm watching is the wind. In the front yard I have an open western exposure and plenty of wind. This is where the tough rugosa roses, viburnums, and potentillas will reside. In the backyard the East and North sides are protected by mature maples and a neighbor's cedar hedge. With the house blocking the West winds this creates a perfect backyard microclimate. I'll plant the tender shrubs such as blue hydrangea, fruits such as grapes, and flowers such as delphiniums that need extra protection in this spot.

The last feature I'm watching is the soil. I've done a few test digs to determine the type of soil I have (clay), where any ledge is located (everywhere), and where is stays moist longest (the backyard).

This fall I'll sketch all this information on a map and begin building the soil where the beds will be. Just by watching and waiting, I'm able to make the best decisions for my plants and ultimately for me, since I'm the one who'll be caring for them.

This is Charlie Nardozzi in Shelburne.

Charlie Nardozzi is an all-around gardening expert with a special fondness for tomatoes and roses.


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