Spring 2024

At Home with Hurwitz -- Beginner's Guide to Growing a Garden

By Lauren Hurwitz

In honor of the spring season, we connected with some of notable nurseries to learn top tips on what you can plant at home this spring! 

Gardening 101: Once the frost has lifted and the soil is workable, you have the green light to grow according to Sal Bulfamante, one of the owners of Domenick Bulfamante & Sons Nursery in New Rochelle, (photo below) which is family owned and operated since 1977. With a bit of insight in your back pocket, he says it’s easy to start growing by making sure you pick a site that is flooded with sunlight, with well-drained soil. You can prepare the garden site by turning over the soil and adding soil amendments such as compost, garden manure, and lime. Then, you have to think if you want to begin with seeds or plants. If you choose seeds, the process begins indoors which takes more time and requires greater attention. If you choose seedlings, you can begin the process outdoors because the plant has established roots.  It’s a personal preference, but for new gardeners, seedlings are recommended. 
Bulfamante knows what’s on local minds when it comes to planting and is often asked three things: how often to water, how often to fertilize, and what does partial vs full sun actually mean? 
1) Plants should be watered at least every other day depending on the tempera-ture. Once the temperature rises in the summer months, it is recommended to water daily preferably in the early morning. Evening watering can result in fungal development.
2) Plants should be fertilized using a slow-release fertilizer. Typically, two appli-cations in the growing season are adequate. The first application takes place when you plant, and the second application should be done two months later. 
3) Partial sunlight means your garden gets less than 4 hours of sunlight per day. Full sun means your garden gets between 6-8 hours of sun per day. 
When planting a new garden, there are a few rookie mistakes Bulfamante says you can avoid: 
1) Oftentimes, new gardeners think they need to stake everything they put in the ground. Bulfamante says you do NOT need to do this to every single new tree. If the trunk of the tree is straight and strong, it typically does not need to be staked. If a tree has compromised roots and its trunk is not strong and straight, you may opt to stake it. 
2) The more the merrier – when it comes to water. It is important to keep your plants well-watered. It’s always best to water the roots, not the leaves. Re-member the best time of day is early morning and not during the hot midday hours. How do you know how much water your plants need? Your plants will show you signs. If you notice the plant is wilting, additional water is necessary. Do you water it with as much water and as frequently when you first plant the garden as you do throughout the entire season? When you first plant, you should drench the surrounding soil to allow it to settle around the root system and to avoid air pockets. 
3) Water the right part of the plant. Don’t focus on watering the leaves but rather the roots of the plant. Why do you need to water the roots and not the leaves? The roots supply all the nutrients necessary to help plants thrive. You risk damaging the plant if you water the leaves since the heat and water can damage the overall health of the plant. 
 Of course, not all gardens are created equally. Bulfamante says to make sure the land where you plant gets at least six hours of sunlight per day in spring and summer, has good soil depth, and be sure to refer to the hardiness zone chart when selecting plants that would be best suited for your area.  If you’re missing one of these steps, it might be worth picking a different area. Then of course you need to consider that every plant has different growing seasons. For example, tulips bloom in the spring, annuals bloom during the summer months, and certain perennials flower in the fall. 
Another pro tip for maintaining a key garden is to mix in compost. Bulfamante says to look for a compost that contains all organic matter.  These ingredients will benefit the garden by providing the most nutrients. But of course, your garden will only grow as good as the soil it’s planted on. 
Last but not least, make sure you invest in the proper tools to prepare your garden. Bulfamante suggests a hand or pruning shears, garden shovel, hose, gloves, and hand trowel.  The total cost of these supplies should be anywhere between $25-$100 – a small investment that will bring you countless smiles over the course of the year as you enjoy your newly planted garden. 
Hummingbirds Welcome Here: According to its manager, Heather O’Connor, Rose Hill Nursery, which dates back to 1862, is the oldest business in New Rochelle. O’Connor loves planting and says her favorite garden is a hummingbird garden. To begin, she suggests finding a sunny area on your property and prepping the soil by removing weeds and debris. Next, you simply add new garden soil and mix it in with existing soil. “Hummingbirds love a variety of annuals and perennials that thrive here in Westchester County. In my years of experience, I would recommend some of the following annuals starting mid-May forward: black and blue salvia, tobacco plant, lantana, cleome, red mandevilla, and calibrachoa. As far as perennials, the following are some hummingbird favorites and be planted year-round so long as the ground is not frozen: Pineapple sage, red bee balm, honeysuckle, columbine, butterfly weed, spring camellias, and Perfecto Mundo azaleas.”
O’Connor says one of the biggest factors when creating this type of garden is proper spacing. She reminds first-timers not to overcrowd the garden as “each plant needs space to grow.” In addition, watering and weeding the garden will “help maintain its ability to be beautiful and thrive. You will feel true joy when you experience the magical beauty of the hummingbird!” according to O’Connor. “The hummingbird will return yearly once they discover you have a garden for them to eat nectar and get the energy they need for their unbelievable metabolism,” she adds.
Lauren Hurwitz is a Licensed Real Estate Salesperson and Founder/CEO of MediaHouse. 2024, 2023 Best of Westchester Award Recipient + Compass-Approved Agent Coach. Featured in The Wall Street Journal, Westchester Magazine, The Real Deal, Insider, Westchester Women Magazine, Realtor Magazine, and more.