An avid gardening enthusiast since childhood, William Moss is known for his small-space gardening advice.A teacher for several years, Moss found his true passion after enrolling in the Chicago Master Gardeners course. To further pursue this interest he is currently working on his thesis for a master's degree, with a focus in creating wildlife corridors in urban environments. His expert advice can be found on HGTV's "Dig In" and the CBS Early Show's gardening segments. For further feedback, join in on the discussion on his Facebook page, at facebook.com/williammosstv, or go to greenlandgardener.com. Recently he answered a few questions for New York House about small space gardening, and also about what first inspired him to get into gardening in the first place.
NEW YORK HOUSE: What are the most frequent mistakes you see novice gardeners make?WILLIAM MOSS:
In order: planting too close, forgetting to water, and overfertilizing. New gardeners don’t know how large tomatoes, petunias, or junipers will grow. It’s hard to imagine the ultimate size of a plant if you have never grown it. Planting too close is not just limited to newbies. Many gardeners don’t allow enough air space around their veggies and flowers. Proper air circulation promotes healthy growth and helps thwart diseases.
NYH: Are there any things to keep in mind when working in a climate such as New York's--particularly New York City and the Hudson Valley region?
WM: New Yorkers have a fantastic gardening climate with relatively moderate temps all year and rich, moist soil from an abundance of rainfall and snowfall. You can grow almost anything. I encourage New York gardeners to visit botanic gardens and parks for ideas and inspiration. New York City residents often have small spaces and should think about gardening vertically. Hanging baskets, upside down planters, rail troughs, and wall panels are types of containers that maximize vertical space. A rail trough on a terrace or a Topsy Turvy hanging from a balcony may be the only way for a New Yorker to have home grown herbs or tomatoes. Take advantage of what you got. Use vertical space. Summer heat is one issue for those in the city to keep in mind. Large cities with lots of concrete and asphalt produce a heat island effect. Summer heat is trapped and amplified. otted plants in particular will need more watering and attention.
NYH: What are some deer resistant plants that a gardener can use, or tips for how to keep the animals from eating their gardens?
WM: There are lots of lists of deer resistant plants. Keep in mind that deer cannot read. Starving deer (which describes many suburban deer) will eat almost anything. The best defense against deer is a solid fence at least 6’ high that they cannot see through. ard dogs are also good deterrents, but they can cause as much garden damage as deer. Ornamental grasses, sedges, daffodils, fritillarias, alliums, hellebores, poppies, most euphorbias, most pines, and most herbs (mint family members like sage, marjoram, thyme, Jerusalem sage, etc) are typically the most deer resistant plants. Use them on the perimeter of your gardens to discourage the deer. My best advice to prevent deer damage is to combine solid fencing with smart plant selection and a big loud dog if possible. Rabbits are more difficult to exclude from your garden.I have a rabbit infestation and the only way I can grow peas, beans, lettuce, broccoli, arugula, sweet potato, etc… is in 18” high raised beds. Because of rabbits, the only crops I grow in ground are onions,shallots, potatoes, tomatoes, and pumpkins. There are a variety of repellents available for deer and rabbits. Ask your nearby botanic garden or arboretum to recommend repellents that work on your local pests.
NYH: Why the importance of keeping it organic? What's the harm in chemical fertilizers?
WM: This is a loaded question. If used properly there is little harm to your yard or the environment from chemical fertilizers.The problem is they are often used improperly.And compared to organic fertilizers there are limited benefits.Over fertilization and improper use of fertilizers leads to chemicals leaching into the ground and water.From there they can negatively affect the environment, especially ponds, lakes, and estuaries.Excess chemical fertilizer in the environment leads to eutrophication which leads to hypoxia which leads to marine dead zones. And it’s not just marine wildlife and fisheries that are affected.Drinking and recreational waters are often contaminated too.But I would rather focus on why organic.All fertilizers have the basic plant nutrients. In addition, organic fertilizers have micronutrients and biological compounds that provide a complete meal for plants and beneficial bacteria.Organic fertilizers actually build the soil and create a better environment for plant growth from year to year.Most are not water soluble so they don’t leach away and cause problems in the natural environment.My choice for going organic was purely selfish.I didn’t want my wife and I to ingest unnecessary chemicals, especially toxic ones.If I can’t spray it (fertilizer, pesticide, etc.) on my tomato this morning and then pick that tomato a little bit later for lunch, then I’m not using it.
NYH: What first inspired you to get into gardening?
So definitely, reconnecting with nature as an adult is why I started. But growing food is why I have continued and expanded.Nothing beats growing and harvesting your own food.In an ideal world, I would be a self-sufficient farmer somewhere in the Hudson Valley.
NYH: When is the ideal time to start planting?
NYH: What are some tips to get gardeners started?
WM: Amend your garden soil with lots of compost. When planting in containers use potting soil mixes only. If you are a newbie, start small with only a few plants. If you are experienced, try a new type of veggie or flower.Talk to your neighbors and other people about gardening.Follow directions on seed packets and plant tags, especially for spacing.