This week we caught up with Jeff Keiter, our resident landscape architecture guru, who previously chatted with us about winter trends for your yard. Today we are talking spring gardening, the best tools and the chair every yard needs.
On getting in touch with nature: I want to get people to look at their plants. This time of year especially, to really get people to look at the buds on their plants. And if they look at the buds, especially on the woody plants, that’s how you start to see how these plants live and wake back up in the spring. It’s a way that you can identify plants, it’s a way to tell if that plant survived the winter. There’s just this sort of life and color that you can see even though the leaves and flowers aren’t out yet, and I think that gives a real sort of other level of awareness of plant life and the landscape around you.
Photo: Jeff Keiter
Right now: The gardening work you should be doing this time of year is to clean up the beds and remove some of the dead leaves and mulch to see what’s still alive and what’s going to come up that you have already planted. And to locate spots where you can put in new plants.
Composting and mulching: I like to encourage people to experiment with composting and mulching, to find an aesthetic they like. If you like to work with the dead leaves and use that as a mulch, if you like to compost it’s a good time to get your finished compost and then spread it around. I really believe people can be creative with this kind of stuff. You can really dedicate yourself to using all of your food scraps and that’s a certain look. My advice is for people to think through what their aesthetic is. If you want it to look really natural and garden-y then you have to do a combo of really letting things break down or keep things that take longer to break down — like eggshells and citrus peels — in a separate stream.
(Keiter recommends this bamboo composter for its size and aesthetic.)
For wannabe gardeners: I think container gardening is a really good way to go for the first-time gardener. It just means you’re planting in soil in some kind of box, bucket or bag. It is a great way to get your gardening groove down and figure out what you like about it. Container gardening is just reality adaptable to so many locations and lifestyles.
Plants for first-timers: Tomatoes are really good. And versatile in the kitchen. Peppers are good. Herbs — oregano, lavender, sage, thyme, rosemary and cilantro are a great way to elevate a meal or cocktail. Or just brush them with your hands and smell them and enjoy them.
Keiter’s must-have tools:
The hori hori is a Japanese tool which means “dig dig.” It’s between a knife and shovel and it’s good if you’re down on the ground or working in a container to dig in or quickly chop through little roots and things.
Lightweight anvil loppers. When I was doing a lot of urban gardening these were great because it’s just about 15-18-inches long, super light and I could just put it in my backpack and take it on the train.
The battery-operated pole saw has been my other great discovery of the past couple years. Versus a manual pull saw, it’s a big labor saver. And for people who are frankly afraid of [gas-powered] chainsaws … these battery powered chainsaws are really great. For a lot of people who are like ‘oh no I won’t operate a chainsaw’ think about this one, because it really is an effective tool.
This season’s outdoor accessory: Recycled plastic folding Adirondack chairs (preferably in red). The Adirondack chair is supposed to be kind of rugged meets outdoor leisure. The idea here is that a heavy recycled plastic is a sort of sustainable path versus the wood that they are traditionally made out of.