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Summer Garden Tips

Spring Preparation yields a Tasty Summer Garden

Article by Genevieve Garruppo

Photography by Genevieve Garruppo

Originally published in Patchogue Lifestyle

As spring approaches, we all have our eyes on the plots of land in our backyards where our gardens will soon grow. But before the last frost, there are a few things we should bear in mind before sowing our seeds. Karl Auwater, the owner of the Bayport Flower Houses, has given some tips to prepare our gardens for the spring. His biggest seed of advice? Wait! Lots of gardeners come in, eager to plant around Mother’s Day, but the best time for most of the fruits and vegetables we enjoy all summer long are best planted closer to Memorial Day. And he highly recommends getting your soil tested with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. They have a horticultural lab in Riverhead which accepts samples year-round. 

  1. Get your soil’s pH tested. Send a sample; for more information on nearly all of your gardening questions, check out 
  2. Don’t rototill! Beneath the 4 to 5 inches of soil that has been tilled over the years lies a hard pan.  Water can’t drain and roots cannot puncture the hard soil, which will ruin your crops. Instead, just mow the garden down, mulch, and then move on to step 3. 
  3. Add limestone and fertilizer. Balancing your soil can help the nutrients be absorbed by the crops. Once you receive the results of your soil’s pH, you will get a recommendation to add limestone.  Additionally, adding a natural fertilizer to the soil will make for happy plants! 
  4. Plant in Phases. Peas, spinach, and radishes can go early. Most crops that grow in the ground can be planted after the frost (late April), then two weeks later do another seeding. A few weeks after that comes the peas, herbs, beans, and cucumbers. Lastly- the nightshade family (eggplants, tomatoes, peppers)- don’t like soil too cold or wet. You’ll be safe after Memorial Day. 



Clover is a legume, which is a nitrogen fixing plant. It takes the nitrogen out of the atmosphere and creates little nodules on its roots and when it dies, it fertilizes the soil naturally. Farmers will actually put a cover crop of alfalfa sprouts in between crops because it’s a green manure. In your lawn you really want the clover. It’s the first up in the springtime and when it blooms, the bees can harvest the pollen which they need as well.

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