How To

RING offers you the following links to PDF files that you can download, print and use as “How To” and FYI guides.  Scroll down the page or click on the following titles to view that  specific section:

Composting & Soil          Help with flowers          Help for your lawn          Build it yourself          101 Ways to Celebrate National Garden Month          Gardening Monthly Preparations          Herb Gardens

Composting & soil.

  • An online to composting, courtesy of
  • Everything you want to know about Composting
  • All Soil is not alike.


Help with flowers.


Help for your lawn.


Build it yourself.


 101 Ways to Celebrate National Garden Month


Gardening Monthly Preparations

by Council on the Environment for NYC; Slightly modified for RING from: COUNCIL ON THE ENVIRONMENT OF NEW YORK CITY, 51 CHAMBERS STREET, NEW YORK, NY 10007; PH: (212) 788-7923; EMAIL: CONYC@CENYC.ORG; WEBSITE: WWW.CENYC.ORG

January     February      March     April     September     Fall Season


  •  CLEAN-UP. Continue cleaning up old plant debris which might shelter pests and diseases. If last summer’s dead Morning Glories still adorn the fence, tear them off to make room for new ones. Next spring consider planting perennial twining vines such as Trumpet Vine, Clematis, Wisteria, Akebia, Honeysuckle or a Climbing Rose that will eliminate the annual chore of clearing the fence.
  • FROST. During a mild spell thoroughly inspect all the perennials and newly planted shrubs to detect any that have been heaved out of the ground by the frost; if so, carefully replant them. Continue planting shrubs and trees as long as the ground is not frozen.
  • WINTER MULCH. Now is the time to recycle Christmas trees, the branches of which make an excellent winter mulch for perennials, vines and newly planted material. It is important to distinguish between the Spruces which are worthless as mulch, because the needles drop off, and the more expensive fir and Pine trees which stay green. Pines have long needles, Spruce and Fir needles are short and rather similar, but Spruce needles pulled from a twig leave no mark while Fir needles leave a distinct depressed scar. Always lay down mulch during a frost period as it is then less likely to shelter rodents. If available, a shredder will grind Christmas trees into acid woodchip mulch for broadleaf evergreens. Collecting leaf litter in the neighborhood and laying it on the soil makes good mulch too.
  • SNOW. Snow, of course, makes an excellent mulch, but be careful to remove any snow originating in an adjoining street that may be contaminated with salt. With a broom carefully knock heavy snow off evergreens, especially if it is added to a previous load of frozen rain. In times of heavy snow, children are likely to forget the existence of a garden. Discourage their walking and playing in it. Put up posts with string between to mark garden boundaries; height of string should be such that children cannot go under it.



  •  PLAN YOUR GARDEN SPACE. If this is your first year, schedule your development of the garden area in phases to allow for soil preparation, planting, maintenance, finances and energy. Consider the impact on the community. Work as much as you can, you DO NOT HAVE TO DO IT ALL AT ONCE. Often a flowering Forsythia or Crab Apple will encourage participation and overcome vandalism.

Choose a sunny location for most annual flowers, herbs and vegetables; bulb beds and perennials do best in open sunlight. Roses do best when sheltered on the north and east, where there is sunlight for at least half of the day, and where there is good air circulation all around the plant. The vegetable garden demands very careful attention. Good southern, southeastern or southwestern exposure is preferred. Rows planted from north to south favor even distribution of the sunlight. Your tall crops like corn should be grown at the north so that your shorter plants will not be shaded. Corn also likes to be surrounded by corn and should not be planted unless you can provide enough space for at least four rows. It makes a good communal crop, as do Zucchini and Cabbage. These plants take up a lot of space. Leafy green salad crops will tolerate a somewhat shady location. Asparagus, Rhubarb and Strawberry beds are permanent areas.

Trees and shrubs should be chosen with care to their function in the garden for shade, ornament, specimen, evergreen, windscreen, wildlife, etc. Important questions to ask might include: do you want a fast growing tree for an interim project? Do you have an adequate soil depth? How much air pollution is there? Few Evergreens can tolerate our urban environment. Be sure you have good drainage. Check varieties carefully for height and growth rates, as well as tolerance to wind, pollution and drought. For shady locations you can try planting shade-tolerant annuals, perennials and bulbs that flower in the spring and fall when the trees are not in leaf. Whatever you decide, put your plan on paper, study it and keep in mind that a garden is an evolutionary project.

Take account of your vertical growing space potential – cyclone and other fences, brick walls and raised beds or trellis plantings. You may want to just dig in and get started and see what happens. Whatever your plan, the perimeter should be cleared of rubble first. Get your debris to the center and/or mound it and cover it with soil and plant it when you can.

  • ORDER or arrange to obtain those trees, shrubs, evergreens and roses you need and CAN PLANT BEFORE MAY 10th.
  • INDOORS. Start those seeds in February that you will be able to plant outdoors in six weeks. Check seed packets for best starting time. To start seeds indoors you will need to purchase the ingredients for a sterile soil-less mix (vermiculite, peat moss and charcoal, sand or perlite). Pre-mix and moisten the ingredients before you put it in the seedling container or seed flat. You can use regular garden soil if you prefer but the sterile growing medium is a deterrent to a fungus disease called damping off which causes early seedling rot.

You need 3 inches of soil-mix depth to start your seedlings. Old foil bread tins, milk cartons or juice cans can be used for this purpose after a thorough washing and sterilization providing you punch holes in the bottom for drainage. RULE: Check the seed packet for any special planting requirements the seed might have like, soaking in water overnight before planting or scoring with a file or even exposure to an open fire (in the broiler). ALWAYS PLANT THE SEED THREE TIMES THE DIAMETER OF ITS NARROWEST PART IN DEPTH.

If you have a garden to plant this spring you can start these seeds by the end of February: Anise, Basil, Marjoram, Thyme, Sage as well as Cabbage and related plants in the cabbage family like Collards, Kale, etc. If you cannot maintain even temperatures, consider the purchase of a soil heating cable for your larger flats. Until your seeds germinate keep your flats covered with a plastic bag or a pane of plastic or glass to help conserve moisture. Label all the seeds you plant, including eventual height, special soil requirements and last possible germination date so you will know something is amiss if the seeds do not sprout.

If the seeds have come up you will need to fertilize your growing medium with a liquid fertilizer to provide nutrients. Plants grown in a sterile soil-less mix without fertilizer will be weak and spindly. Keep your seedlings watered. Transplant to plastic pots when the seedling has its first set of true leaves. The first leaf-like set is called the cotyledon and serves the function of supplying the seedling with nutrients. If using electric lights keep the lights close to the growing tops of the seedlings and raise lights as the seedlings grow. When the light is not intense enough the seedling will be leggy and weak. Continue to keep them moist.

  • DIFFERENT PLANTING METHODS. Raised Bed planting is sometimes the only option on no-soil, all rubble vacant lots. Advantages include better drainage, neatness, speeded-up spring planting and less soil compaction. People with bad backs or confined to wheelchairs can enjoy gardening in a 30″ high raised bed. Crop Rotation is difficult in a small garden. Nevertheless insects and disease will have a harder time finding those favorite squash and tomato plants if they are in a different area year after year. Your soil will benefit as well because certain plants like corn require large amounts of nitrogen and other plants such as soybeans, replaces nitrogen. Marker Cropping consists of planting quick-sprouting seeds like radishes with slower sprouting seeds like carrots or parsnips.



  • INDOORS. Reseed those rows that have not germinated in your seedling flats. Fertilize those flats that have germinated and place them in a moist, warm sunny location. The environment you are trying to create is that of a New York City spring. If you wish to grow midget melons, now is the time to start them from seed. Other warm/hot species that should get a head start now include: Asters, Phlox, Nicotiana

Flowers you may want to start now include Ageratum, Chinese Asters, Calendulas, Dahlias, Balloon Vines and Cleome (Spider flower). You want to be sure to give your seedlings enough light once they have germinated; otherwise you get tall, weak, leggy stems that will have a hard time in the wind once transplanted outdoors.

  • Seedlings: In preparation for transplanting you will want to harden off the seedlings. This is accomplished by watering less for a week prior to the time you have planned to start exposing them to outside conditions. The seedlings need to adjust slowly to wind, cooler temperatures and air pollution. It is a good idea to set the seedling flat in a wind-protected place outside when the temperatures are above 50 degrees. Cool-weather plants/crops can tolerate exposure to lower temperatures. Watch the weather carefully while your plants are adjusting outside. A sudden downpour could flatten your seedlings, gusty winds and flying litter could break the stems, and a sudden hot spell could dry out your rooting medium. Worst of all you could lose all your seedlings to a sudden frost. Be prepared to either whisk your seedlings indoors, cover them with hot caps or prepare and have handy a frost cover like a cardboard box with a breathing hole or two. Depending on the weather, you may harden off by gradually exposing the seedling to more and more hours outside. If you do use peat pots or Jiffy-7’s remove the plastic mesh or peat before planting in the ground. You will find that seedlings in these containers may dry out faster and thus need more frequent watering. Experiment with transplant containers for your seedlings. Again, keep records for next year so that you will know what worked well.
  • OUTDOORS. When the ground can be worked prepare pits for any woody plant material that want to plant. This is usually best done when the plants are dormant (not growing leaves or flowers). Examples of woody plant material include trees, shrubs, evergreens and roses. You should have a plan of the site and a good idea of what you want to do with the perimeter or border. If you expect to have your project for a couple of years then the expense of ornamental, flowering trees and some carefully chosen evergreen material may be justified. What is really important is getting all the things together and having you needed to plant. The soil should ideally be conditioned in advance. Appropriate tools such as a pickaxe, spade, pruning shears, and a watering can and wrench for the hydrant or water source should be assembled. Other materials you may need include fertilizers like bone meal, rotted manure, compost or peat moss, and possible sprays or powders for the prevention or control of insects or disease. This is the time of year to use a miscible spray on “woolly aphids” and scale, which seem to like Crab Apple and Cherry trees so much. This should be done before the trees leaf out and on a day when the temperature is, and is expected to stay, at above 45 degrees for three days in a row. Once planted, your new plant material should be protected as much as possible from wind, sun and heavy rains. It is a good idea to wrap your tree trunks with burlap or tree wrap paper to prevent sunscald. You may need to stake and guy wire the larger material. There are three basic ways the plant can arrive: B&B (balled and bur lapped), packed or planted in a container, and barefoot. Barefoot transplants should be cut back, both roots and top growth, with pruning shears that have been dipped in alcohol to insure sterility.

You can try sowing directly into the prepared soil the following cool weather crops: Bachelor Buttons, and Dianthus. Again, if there is a sudden or severe frost and you are unable to provide protection (hot caps, etc.) you may have to re-seed. Always mark your rows with the date planted and the last possible germination date. Careful seeding in straight lines will help you determine which are the planted seedlings and which are the weeds.

Start lining up the materials you will need to get a compost heap going. Arrange for manure transportation. Request waste from local fruit stores. Ask your neighbors to contribute their organic kitchen wastes.

Flowering perennials such as Chrysanthemums should be divided now into new plants from each sturdy shoot. They benefit from a planting distance of 2 to 3 feet apart. Usually, only the fall-flowering perennials should be divided now. You may have the energy to build a cold frame for protecting your seedlings. Or you may wish to attract birds to your garden by building a birdhouse and providing seeds and suet.

If you have just acquired your site – schedule your clean up as soon as possible. Line up all the sources and costs of the soil conditioning ingredients you will need, as well as the neighborhood support, energy and organization that will help your garden area work. Try planning a sharing or “pick-me” garden for neighbors and those who may want to join later on in the season.



  1. Plant hardy annuals like snapdragons and larkspur in front of and between your spring bulbs. The colorful annual flowers will help hide the fading foliage of tulips and daffodils.
  2. The longer days and cool soil of spring are ideal for root growth. Plant perennials and shrubs early in the season to give them the best chance of settling in before the summer heat.
  3. Plan a day trip to see the wildflowers bursting from every forest and field. Throughout America spring is a time of profuse bloom: bluebells in Virginia, trilliums in New York, trout lilies in Illinois, bluebonnets in Texas, and poppies in California, to name a few. Pack a lunch and spend the day at a state or national park reveling in nature’s celebration of spring.



  • Fall is the time to plant. There are two distinct growing seasons here in the northeast, spring and fall. Fall is the most desirable season of the year to get out and plant your garden, terrace or backyard. This is not a ploy to get you into our NEW GARDEN CENTER in Red Hook Brooklyn adjacent to the Fairway market; which opened in late April of this year. Fall really is the best time to plant, why? Because the ground is warm, temperatures are moderating, and we still have many weeks of agreeable weather which is ideal for plant growth. Cool nights and warm days will stimulate root growth and enable plants to take firm root for the winter months ahead.
  • Summer drought damage.  This summer has been particularly harsh on plant material due to drought and extreme heat. If proper watering was not given to your plantings, losses ensued. There was lots of wilt, foliage damage and outright plant demise due to moisture loss. Replace dead or unfavorable plants now rather than waiting until spring. Believe it or not more landscape contract work is specified to be done in the fall rather than spring because of more ideal planting conditions. Our NEW GARDEN CENTER is fully stocked with a wide assortment of trees, shrubs, evergreens and fall flowering plants to make your selection that much more rewarding. We are a year round nursery, with garden plants to choose from at any season of the year. By the way, you can take the water taxi to Red Hook and enjoy New York Harbor on your way to Chelsea Garden Center Red Hook.
  • Green house opens. We have opened a beautiful 66’ greenhouse in Red Hook opposite the Fairway Market Filled with fully acclimated loft size tropical specimens and one of a kind tropical plants, feast your eyes on our wide selection of pottery and plants.
  • Insects & disease. This summer also saw infestations of many different kinds of insects. Inspect your plantings carefully and treat accordingly. Now’s the time to bring your houseplants indoors before the heat in your house is turned on and the outside air temperatures fall to low. Inspect all plants in pots for critters that might have crawled in to make a new home; you do want to invite them in to your house do you?
  • Fall color Mums are already available; we stock many different cultivars with assorted petal shapes and a wide range of colors and sizes. Fall asters offer deep purples, pink and whites and are gaining in popularity with avid gardeners. Fall pansy’s are also now available and are winter hardy. Planted now, they will reappear in early spring and continue to delight. Look for our spring bulbs from Holland arriving the second week of this month. It’s time to start planning your spring bulb flower garden.
  • Garden Design. Now is an excellent time to call one of our garden designers. There is still plenty of good weather ahead to enjoy outdoor living at home. Allow us to create a new garden for you or refurbish an existing one. Consider a new patio or retaining wall to enhance your garden. Reach us in the design studio 212.727.3434. Please see our design portfolio for some of our completed projects.
  • Plants.  Rose lovers, be patient, you will see an abundant bloom this fall, add Bone Meal or Rose Tone fertilizer now, keep a watchful eye out for insects and disease and treat accordingly. Trees, shrubs and evergreens had a rough summer with heat and drought. First and foremost adjust your watering habits for next summer, if need be gently prune back plants that suffered dye back, make sure to cutback and prune to green bark, do not leave dead branches on plants. If you decide to replace lost plantings now, consider that your plants can be attractive in all four seasons. Think fall foliage, winter bark texture, bloom time, shape and ultimate size. Make sure you select the right plant for the right location; ask our expert nursery staff for help. Now is also the time to plant perennials, divide them and fertilize as well. Think fall! Fertilize your plants now with Hollytone for acid loving plants and evergreens, Plant Tone for trees and shrubs. Fertilizing now will help strengthen your plants for the tough winter months and at the same time add the needed nutrients for improved spring blooms.



Here are some great ideas for everything you need to be doing in your garden over the Fall months.

  • Get planting: Fall is a great time to plant, because the soil is still warm and moist even if the air is starting to cool and fall plantings require less watering. Add trees or shrubs to your yard, and remember to keep them well watered until the first frost sets in.

It’s also an ideal time to plant spring-flowering bulbs. Choose bulbs suited to your area. The trick to growing large, healthy flowering bulbs is to prepare the soil well at planting.

  • Mulch much: Cover garden beds and the bases of trees with a layer of mulch to give them an extra blanket of protection for winter. This will help to prevent soil erosion and retain moisture. Check out our great selection of mulch in-store.
  • Healthy hacking: Prune your trees and shrubs after the leaves turn to enhance your garden view and encourage healthy spring growth. When to prune, and how much depends on the type of tree or shrub, particularly for flowering trees and shrubs. It’s also a good idea to lop off damaged, diseased and dead branches before the problem spreads. The Home Depot has a great selection of loppers in-store.
  • Extend vegetable season: While fall is harvest time in the vegetable garden, the growing season can be extended by a couple of weeks with the use of protective covers on frosty nights. This lightweight fabric allows light and water to come through, but raises the temperature slightly.
  • Create a compost pile: Fall is the perfect time to start a compost pile because decaying vines, vegetables, leaves and grass clippings contain nutrients that break down over time to recharge soil with nitrogen for spring planting.
  • Perk up flowerbeds: Add organic compost to your soil to prepare it for next year. Don’t neglect your weeding, as this is the time they set seed and store energy for the cooler months. Cut back anything that’s dry, withered or mushy and fill in gaps with colorful fall bloomers such as chrysanthemums and pansies.
  • Use leftover leaves: Collect your scattered leaves in a yard bag. Leave any extra ones in your flower beds. As they break down, leaves help insulate plants and provide them with valuable nutrients.

Clean, cover and repair

  •  Clean off your patio furniture to remove dirt and grime and get rid of any food residue on your grill.
  •  Protect your patio furniture and grills from dust and moisture.
  •  Repair any damaged garden equipment, including your lawn mower. Sharpen and adjust mower blades and oil garden tools.


Herb Gardens

Summer is the perfect time to grow fresh herbs. Turn a simple dish into a memorable, aromatic meal with a pinch of thyme or a snip of chives. Here are some tips to help you get your herb garden off the ground.

Types of herbs Like all garden plants, herbs can be classified as annual, perennial or biennial. Annual herbs need to be re-planted each season because they bloom one season and then die. Examples of annual herbs include:

* Basil           * Chamomile          * Cilantro      * Cumin           * Dill

Perennial herbs come back every year surviving the winter to bloom each season once established. Examples of perennials include:

* Chives        * Mint        * Oregano         * Rosemary          * Sage      * Thyme

Biennial herbs just live for two seasons and bloom during the second season only. Biennial herb examples include:    * Caraway    * Parsley

 Position well Herbs need six hours of full midday sun for the best flavor and the most growth. They are versatile, so plant in garden or containers or on windowsills. If possible, place near the kitchen, so it’s convenient to dash out and pick a few leaves while cooking.

Follow directions Not all herbs are created equal. Make sure you follow the growing directions for the herbs you choose, especially if you’re starting from seeds. If you’ve planted your potted herb garden in one large pot, group herbs with similar growing instructions together for more efficient plant care.

Soil savvy Many herbs have a reputation for growing well in very poor soils, but an average garden vegetable soil with good drainage suits all species. For your indoor herb garden, choose a light potting soil with a high sand content to ensure good drainage.

Watering basics Most herbs need to be kept damp but not wet, so don’t overwater. Water with small amounts only, and encourage proper drainage by watering your potted herbs early in the morning or late at night.

Add an inch or two of mulch Mulch will curb the growth of weeds, help keep your herbs clean, and protect the soil from the sun baking around the roots.

Harvest time The best time to harvest herbs is just before they flower, first thing in the morning. This is because the oils have settled into the leaves and flowers overnight and are at their highest level. If you are planning one big harvest, wait until you see flower stalks beginning to form. Each time you harvest a sprig, pinch the stem back to a set of leaves to promote leaf production.