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So excited to welcome Toby Adams, the Director of the Edible Academy for the New York Botanical Garden onto the show to talk all things vegetable gardening!

The NYBG Edible Academy is a state-of-the-art educational facility featuring hands-on activities and innovative programs that help children, families, teachers, and the general public learn about growing and preparing vegetables, fruit, and herbs while encouraging a lifelong interest in gardening, nutrition awareness, and environmental stewardship. Toby has worked at the NYBG for almost 20 years, and has a passion for helping people understand how to grow food- as you’ll see in our interview.

We don't talk a lot of about herbs because I've already done an Herb Garden 101 episode with a horticulturalist from NYBG on another episode! If you are interested in growing herbs check out Episode 22: Windowsill Herb Gardening 101

I’ve been taking a lot of online courses in this time of isolation and spending a lot of time focusing on what I will grow on my tiny balcony garden this spring and summer. The New York Botanical Garden has an unbelievable array of online courses and even have a Horticulture Certificate degree you can complete! I've taken several NYBG courses and am totally hooked! The first course I took was Fundamentals of Gardening and I’m currently enrolled in the virtual Soil Science 101 class. Plant friends… I am loving these classes so much, as I’m finding they are teaching me the underlying reasons behind so many basic plant care techniques I know.

Learn with me! I’ll be taking Intro to Plant Science with the NYBG  starting April 23rd and I’d love for you to join me! I cannot WAIT to dive into the scientific processes our plants go through that I don’t quite understand and would love to have you in class with me!

In case this episode gets you excited and you want to learn more about vegetable gardening, they also have four virtual courses focusing on vegetable gardening coming up!

  • Rooftop Gardening (Starts April 22)
  • Mastering the Art of Tomato Gardening (April 23)
  • Vegetable Gardening Saturday (April 25)
  • Super Small Space Veggie Gardening (Starts April 28)

In this episode we learn:

  • Maria's overview of the main takeaways she took from her Fundamentals of Gardening Class
  • Annual vs Perennial
  • Compost vs Mulch
  • Basic Garden Design Strategies
  • What is the Edible Academy at NYBG and how is it reconnect kids with food
  • What are the Fundamentals of Vegetable Gardening
    • Understanding what you want to grow
    • Understanding what you CAN grow
    • Understanding your growing conditions
  • The pluses and minuses to container gardening vs bed gardening
  • Best soil to use for vegetables and herbs
  • How to assess your garden sunlight
  • General fertilizing guidelines
  • Easy to grow Spring edibles: Lettuce, Radishes, Sugar Snap Peas
  • Easy to grow Summer edibles: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, beans
  • What not to grow (and why)
  • Why everyone should try vegetable gardening this year

Mentioned in the episode:

Take the Plant Parent Personality Test!:  Unlock your Plant Parent Potential by taking the test below and get curated recommendations for plants, projects and resources inspired by your lifestyle.

NYBG Online Courses

  • Intro to Plant Science (Starts April 23 and I'll be taking it!)
  • Rooftop Gardening (Starts April 22)
  • Mastering the Art of Tomato Gardening (April 23)
  • Vegetable Gardening Saturday (April 25)
  • Super Small Space Veggie Gardening (Starts April 28)

All of NYBG's virtual content, including a link to online classes, can be accessed through NYBG at Home

USDA Hardiness Zones: enter your zip code in the map here to find yours!

Soil Testing: find your local cooperative agent for testing guidelines

Here are my notes from the Fundamentals of Gardening Class that I reviewed:

Key takeaways and definitions that I learned in my Fundamentals of Gardening course wth NYBG. There are terms that I would hear all the time but wasn’t quite sure what they meant and found that this course really solidified them for me.

  • Soil is made up of 25% air, 25% water, 45% mineral particles and 5% organic matter. I’ll cover this more in an upcoming episode where I review what I learned in my Soil Science course with my teacher- but this concept of so much air and water being part of soil really blew my mind and drove home the importance of aeration in our soil.
  • Plant Nutrients are broken up into Macro and Micronutrients.
    1. The main Macronutrients we need to know about are the famous NPK:
      1. Nitrogen (N):
      2. Phosphorus (P)
      3. Potassium (K).
      4. NPK comes from the 5% of organic matter in our soil, which is why it’s important to use compost when you garden outside
  • Some basic guidelines for garden design:
    1. In any garden bed, the tallest plant should be about half of the width of the bed
    2. Put your tallest plants in the back of your bed, so they don't block sun (unless you have an island bed, then put them in the middle)
    3. A “specimen plant” is the focal point of a garden
    4. A great garden has a mix of evergreens, perennials and annuals to have something in bloom all year long
    5. Annuals: are planted once and are used for longer lasting color in your garden.
      1. Three types for arranging containers: Thrillers, Fillers, Spillers
    6. Perennials: come back more year after year
  • Compost vs Mulch
    1. Compost is the decaying organic matter that is used to fertilize the plant (the 5% mentioned above)
    2. Mulch is what you put to sit on top of a bed and helps with water preservation, temperature control and preventing weeds
  • “Roots are made to be broken”
    1. scoring or breaking roots that are “root bound” and growing in a circle is important to instigate growth outside of that pattern it’s become used to growing in.
  • Spring Garden Tasks
    1. Clean up any winter debris
    2. Divide perennials
    3. Transplant perennials and shrubs
    4. Top dress plants with compost
    5. Prune plants while leaves are off plants
      1. When plants are dormant and without leaves it helps see the plant and what needs to be pruned
    6. Fix any broken landscape features like fences or trellis

Thank you to this week's episode sponsors!

For more information on Modern Sprout's amazing *NEW* line of indoor grow lights and adorable and innovative hydroponic grow kits, seed starter kits, seed pops, planty accessories and more visit and use code “15BLOOM” at checkout for 15% off.

For responsibly made, fabulous indoor and outdoor organic soils, fertilizers, pest control sprays and more visit to find your local dealer or check out my amazon storefront of my favorite Espoma products here.

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