What is the best way to turn a yard full of weeds and rocks in New York City into a garden? Is this possible in a single gardening season?

 Which plants are best for these conditions and NYC's climate? I was lucky enough to find an apartment with a backyard, so I need some info to help me get started :)


Welcome to New York!  I think that you will find that it is a wonderful climate for growing a garden with the drama and reward of the changing seasons.

It is possible to create a garden in a year but you may want to start with a simple plan and then add areas of interest and complexity in the years ahead. Your first orders of business will be assessing your site for the basic elements that allow plants to grow (how much sun, good soil and access to moisture do you have or can you create) and making a simple plan for where you would like to have garden beds, architectural shrubs and trees, lawn, focal points and sitting areas. We have two guides that will help you get started: Simple Garden Design and Site Inventory and Analysis.

You will need to integrate your expectations for the garden with an analysis of its current conditions. You will want to test the pH of the soil and explore the extent of the weed and rock situation. Your plan might involve avoiding the most labor intensive areas for now or stacking the rocks into low walls to make raised beds.

Once you have an outline of what you would like to create, your approach will depend on the time and resources you have available.  There are lots of universal tasks (soil improvement, weed control, rock removal) and then some specific to each garden feature. 

I am going to attach links to several guides that may be of help in selecting the plants that will succeed in your garden: Beautiful Trees and Shrubs for your GardenColor Theory in the Garden, Flower Shapes and How to Use Them, Creating Beautiful Shade Garden, and Winning Plant Combinations. All of these are written with New York area gardens in mind. 

This is a lot to think about and I'm sorry if it seems overwhelming.  Please feel free to contact us at plantinfo@nybg.org with any questions you have.  We wish you lots of luck and joy with your new garden!

Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service

  • Last Updated Jan 10, 2024
  • Views 164
  • Answered By Anita Finkle

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