Help us plan a garden and yard's contents!

Klippenwald(5a)October 1, 2011

Location - New Paltz area, NY

Hi all,

We purchased some land by New Paltz and are looking to build a small cozy home there soon. We currently live on a tiny 50x50 plot in the Boston area with no place to grow anything other than a few containers, but we both grew up in rural area with all kinds of good things growing fresh. Neither of us is from the NE/NY area, so we don't know what grows well in the area or what is OK to grow (I heard some currant varieties are not allowed?). We've plenty of space on the new land, so no worries about being short on room. Short on time, maybe... :).

We desire flavor above all else for fruit, etc. and of anyone has flower suggestions, fragrance is primary. We'd also like to see if we can spread blooming across the entire Spring, Summer and as late as possible into the Fall combined with trees and bushes. Native plants are a plus, too!

We're also interested in anything that might be interesting to grow that is flavorful and a little out of the ordinary. We're not talking about the standard yearly garden crops like corn, squash, herbs or tomatoes but plants that will last for years and do well in the area.

What we're considering so far:

Mignonette strawberries

Varieties of red and black currants

Blackberries and raspberries

Mirabelle plums

Peaches (Yellow)

Apples (Pink Lady, Honey Crisp)




Nuts like hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts


Flowers - really we are at a loss here as to what would do well in the area. There are (we think anyway, thorny bushes with white flowers) wild roses everywhere that we'd like to make use of.




Grape Hyacinth


Flowering Dogwood

Tulip trees



Thanks for any thoughts, suggestions and ideas! We look forward to what the community has to say.

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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Hello, Klippenwald. What fun to be at the everything-I-want-to-grow list stage!

Miscellaneous comments:

The USDA Hardiness Zone for New Paltz is 5a.

Are you interested in tree/plant/bulb catalog recommendations?

How much land will you have? The trees will take up quite a bit of room.

Pink Lady and Honey Crisp -- besides being wonderful apples -- are varieties that will pollinate each other.

What kind of walnut are you considering? The black walnut's roots, husks, and decaying leaves are harmful to many kinds of plant life (including apple trees and tomatoes); the same is true of butternuts. Persian walnuts are sometimes grown on black walnut rootstock, so ask about the rootstock before buying. Black walnut roots can extend twice as far as the tree's canopy, so this can be a major consideration unless you have enough room to put the walnuts well away from everything else.

Your thorny bushes with white flowers, if they are roses rather than perhaps blackberries, are likely multifloras, which you do not want: they try to take over, don't offer much in the way of beauty, and in your area are often afflicted with Rose Rosette Disease. The wild roses with pink petals are preferable, though I don't know if they are also likely to be infected with Rose Rosette Disease.
Multiflora rose
Rose Rosette Disease

Unlike many other states, New York does not appear on the list of states that nurseries can't ship currants to, so you can keep currants on your list. [I love dried currants, and wasn't happy that currants are prohibited in my state. But then I found out that dried currants are actually a type of grape (Black Corinth, aka Zante Currant; when sold fresh in the grocery, they're often called "champagne grapes," though not used to make champagne). Unfortunately Black Corinth grapes are very difficult for an amateur to grow, or I'd be growing a ton of them....]

    Bookmark   October 1, 2011 at 6:53PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

If you are trying to learn about local horticultural possibilities, I would say that you should be consulting local resources, either on the internet, on paper, or in person. There may be a forum for that area here on Gardenweb, or maybe there are local garden clubs? A regional gardening magazine? And of course there are the nurseries, again on line or in person - get to know them and see what varieties they stock.

I had to smile at Schneeglockchen for snow drops; are you German?

I'm sure there will be lots of trial and error. I was just going through a stack of old plant labels - yes, I keep them! - which reminded me of the many plants that just did not adapt to life at my address. There will also be trial and success, sometimes too much so. That would be my experience with Schneeglockchen :-) whose persistent foliage after blooming always reduces their charm somewhat.

One challenge of course will be organizing your property for maximum utility and whatever other qualities matter to you. It might not be a bad idea to hold off of focussing on individual plant varieties until you have actually decided where on the lot the cozy home will be, how you will access it, where you will need shade or wind protection, etc. It's good to know generally what you want to grow so you make sure that you allocate a space for it - say, an orchard - but you might not be noticing the snowdrops too much while the bulldozers are on site - or you might find you have planted your apple trees where your driveway ends up having to be!

Karin L

    Bookmark   October 1, 2011 at 9:32PM
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All good info and keep it coming. Such a breadth of knowledge here!


Yes, it is exciting, but we want to choose wisely and plant well to avoid over extending ourselves. We have 10 acres, so plenty of room to grow.

Recommedndations would be great, I don't know much about the online/catalog plant ordering business. I get a few things from Park Seed as otherwise my options are limited to big-box store selections or expensive nurseries.

I didn't know all that about black walnut, good to know. I guarantee I would have found out the hard way, it is a variety we are considering. Also good to know about the multiflora, they are definitely not blackberries (I grew up with black/raspberry brambles) so we'll keep them in check. Too bad, they aren't completely unattractive. Didn't know that about the apple varieties either, thanks!

@ Karin

You're right, there is a forum here for the Hudson Valley, but it's growing tumbleweeds... I found some local message boards, but the posts deal more with everyday flowers and garden varieties than things like Mirabelles and Currants.

Re: Schneeglockschen; my Mother is from Germany and most of her family came over as well, so it rubbed off on us kids as we spent holidays and summers with them. My other half lived there for 10 years and has family there as well, so there's lots of German influences in our thinking. I'd never seen Snowdrops (I knew the name) but had visited Husum in North Germany in early Spring and there is a "castle" that has tens of thousands of Crocuses covering the grounds mixed with the Schneeglockchen. I learned later that Snowdrops are essentially the same thing. Absolutely beautiful, and an effect I will attempt to reproduce on an albeit smaller scale in NY.

We have the site and drive selected and mostly planned. We are planning trees and the like now so that we know how much to clear or thin beyond these areas. We also have a good idea where the garden and "mini" orchard will be, so that's why I elected to come here. I'd just as likely have bought foolish choices from a catalog or overdone it. Folks here have a good knowledge if what works and what doesn't. None of this is going to be planted until the heavy equipment is gone.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2011 at 11:26PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Ten acres: I won't worry about your not having space for everything. (But I will envy you; I have not quite two acres.)

When you need advice about specific topics, these forums are excellent (and no tumbleweeds): Trees, Conifers, Fruits.

If you plan on growing veggies, try the Vegetables forum. Also the many other edibles forums linked at the top of the Vegetables forum; I don't know which have tumbleweeds. For some unknown reason, the Pumpkins (etc.) forum isn't listed there; it's definitely not busy, but when you gotta know, someone expert will show up and answer your question (that's true of many of the slow forums).

If you ask at the Fruits forum, they can probably suggest good nurseries not too far from you (for when you can't find what you want at the nearby nurseries). When even those nurseries don't have what you want, these are good fruit catalogs: Stark Bro's, Raintree Nursery, Miller Nurseries (I believe Miller is in NY state, but their site won't come up for me this evening; they did send me a catalog this past winter). Fedco Seeds in Maine sells some old fruit varieties; the collection is rather eccentric but they do understand about cold climates; they also have great veggie seeds. Johnny's Selected Seeds and Pinetree Seeds are also in Maine and sell some fruit, IIRC; they're both also recommended for their seeds. I'm sure there are many specialty fruit vendors I don't know about.

More veggie (and sometimes flower) catalogs: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Sand Hill Preservation Center (besides everything else, they specialize in heirloom sweet potato varieties and also sell heirloom fowls), Seed Savers Exchange. Tomato Growers Supply, Marianna's Heirloom Tomatoes.

Bulb catalogs (these are better than some others; the Bulb forum could tell you the details, but I don't remember if they have tumbleweeds): Brent and Becky's Bulbs, Colorblends, David Burdick Daffodils, Fedco Seeds (the fall catalog has the bulbs), Odyssey Bulbs, Old House Gardens Heirloom Flower Bulbs, John Scheepers (Van Engelen is the wholesaler); there are others that are good, but not what I'm interested in.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 12:58AM
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Wow. Those are a lot of sites and catalogs to sift through. Time to get to work. Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 9:58AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Start by becoming best friends with the people at Catskill Native Nursery in Kerhonkson. They deal with native plants, edible landscaping and all that kind of stuff and are right next door to New Paltz. You can also read things by Lee Reich. He has also been known to give edible landscaping classes for local Continuing Education classes. Ulster Co. Cooperative Extension gives classes in Stone Ridge.

If you want a local forum, believe it or not, that is the New England forum. The edible people will come out of the woodwork if you ask for them. There is also the Fruit forum. Pay particular attention to posts from a regular called Harvestman.

Realize that while space may not be an issue, time may very well be. Apples are common as dirt around here, though you may have to drive here, a half hour north from New Paltz, to find the ultra-fancy heirlooms. That and what Harvestman will tell you may make you think twice about the apples. Same for peaches.

Get a soil test done, particularly for pH, before falling in love with the idea of blueberries. My pH is very high for the east, and it is nothing compared to the serious New Paltz caliche.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 10:29PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Just wanted to say a few words about initial care, especially watering. During their first year, trees, shrubs, perennials can need to be watered while settling in. If mother nature doesn't cooperate with your planting schedule, or you have several weeks with no rain, it would be a shame to lose things because you didn't have the time (or enough hoses/spigots) to keep everything from drying out. "Unlikely" isn't good enough if you are going to spend a ton of dough.

I also like to tell people putting in edibles trees to investigate various espalier/tree sculpting techniques to see if it something in which they have an interest in, time for working on it, and if the trees are those (mostly smaller types) which would do well with these treatments. If you can reach all of the food on your tree, it's so much nicer.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 12:04PM
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Another thing to consider while you're in the planning stages - protecting your investment from the kind of wildlife you might not see much of where you are currently.

Particularly in the winter months, rabbits, etc. will girdle trees and the herds of white tailed deer will chew them to the ground if not provided with the appropriate wrapping, caging, and/or fencing. And in the summer you've got raccoons, bears, even more deer, chipmunks, moles, voles, birds all having a field day in your fruit trees, berries, and vegetables, etc.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 4:00PM
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Thanks for the advice, Kerhonkson and the Catskill nursery are just the other side of the ridge for us, probably about 15 minutes away. Will definitely check out the NE forums and have the soil checked for ph. We'll still have blueberries regardless, but the amount of effort needed to get the soil right will dictate whether we have 1 bush or several.


Good to know. Lots of rain in our area, but that doesn't mean we can count on it continuously.


Lots of wildlife. Fencing/plant protection is definitely part of the plan!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 11:50AM
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I really liked the note about thinking what you can find locally much easier and planning around that to some extent, focusing on higher "quality of life" crops. Apples was the example, since they may be available and have relatively long keeping times compared to other fruits and vegetables. Of course personal preference prevails and you should grow apples if you wish!
But it's a neat way to look at planning the edible landscape, along with growing conditions, of course. It might move your focus to various berries, which are high-priced and fragile in the store, or to a favorite fruit that is so often shipped very green and has no flavor (peaches I think take a fair amount of work but I expect the flavor can't be beat).

I haven't grown any fruits so far but have currants and blueberries on my list as things I might be able to manage. For other edibles, I found it worthwhile to use a fair amount of my space for salad greens and related items (tomatoes and cukes), cooking greens, and herbs since these are so much fun to use immediately from the garden, can be used in small quantities during the week. If you are a "canner" however, you may prefer getting large harvests in a short time.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 1:12PM
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