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Urban Gardening - Tips To Get You Started

by EM for Masha Halpern

Think gardening is reserved for rural and suburban communities? Well, think again! As long as you have water and light, joining the urban gardening movement is easy. Don’t let city or metropolitan living stop you from experiencing how rewarding gardening can be!

Container Gardening

Want to garden but don’t have soil to plant in or space for raised beds? If so, container gardening is perfect for you. Container gardening, or pot gardening, requires little space, making it ideal for urban environments. While many plants flourish in containers, some types are more suitable than others. Check out this article to find out the best vegetables to grow in containers. Whether your vegetables are grown in the ground or in a container, they need at least six hours of sunlight per day. This may be difficult to achieve in an urban setting, which is why using caddies or casters is recommended. This way, containers can be moved during the day or later in the season as the angle of the sun changes.



Finding the right fertilizer is essential to the growth of plants. When plants are not rooted in the ground, like with container gardening, it’s crucial. Every time you water, nutrients are washed away from the soil, making it very difficult to add the nutrients back. Filling containers with soil from the ground or bagged topsoil are not advised. Instead, fill the containers with a “soilless” potting mix that will absorb moisture and withstand compaction. Then, mix in a liberal amount of granular organic fertilizer. And if you have some, add in a shovelful of compost.


Providing a consistent supply of water is vital to the success of your garden. This is especially relevant in rapidly growing urban areas where water has become a fragile and scarce resource. While hand watering is still a viable option, self-watering planters are a great way to ensure your plants are getting the correct amount of water. Self-watering planters force plants to absorb moisture as they need it, which is a good way to conserve water while also combating the moisture problems that often come with container gardening. Also, consider saving water by harvesting your rain with a rain barrel. Here’s an article that shows you how to make one yourself!

Know your Microclimate Conditions

If you’ve gardened before, you may be familiar with hardiness zones and frost dates. These factors determine when and what to plant according to the general area where you live. While they are extremely helpful, they don’t take how conditions differ within the same zone into consideration. Urban environments can be affected by factors that rarely affect rural or suburban gardens like the number of paved surfaces such as roads and parking lots, buildings, acid rain and more. Because of this, urban areas often deviate from zone predictions, making it vital to know your microclimate conditions.

Hydroponic Gardening

Urban farming is quickly adapting to find innovative ways to grow plants with limited space and resources. For many, the solution is a method of soilless gardening known as hydroponics. In hydroponic gardening, plants absorb their nutrients through water and light through low energy LED lighting. This allows plants to be grown year-round and have significantly higher yields. In addition, it requires less water and labor than traditional gardens. Hydroponic systems can be assembled relatively cheaply and are easy-to-use. Learn to build your own, using these articles.

Community Gardens

With increased access to fresh foods and improved mental and physical health, it’s not hard to understand why community gardens are gaining in popularity. Discover the many benefits for yourself by joining or starting a community garden today. If you’re located in the Durham area, check out Seeds for workshops, volunteer opportunities, summer camps, and after-school activities.

Looking to get involved? Meet farmers and local vendors, search for events, programs and more at Raleigh City Farm’s website!

Basic Lawn Care Tips

by EM for Masha Halpern

Whether you’ve just purchased a home and are in charge of a lawn for the first time or have been maintaining your lawn for the past 30 years, it’s easy to water too much, too often, and the wrong way. Watering the right way can be a challenge, so here’s what you should know to achieve the lush, green lawn you’ve always wanted.

How often?

A common misconception about watering lawns is that they should be watered the same amount as other plants in your garden or plants around your property. In reality, different plants have different watering requirements. Watering grass every day will over-saturate the soil leading to fungus growth and diseases. Watering less often encourages a healthier growing system by allowing the roots to grow stronger and deeper. Clay soils should be watered once a week while sandy soils should be watered every three days.


How much?

The amount of water your lawn needs may even differ from the amount of water your neighbor’s lawn needs. So, how do you know how much water your lawn requires? Easy, all lawns are finished being watered when 6-8 inches of topsoil is wet. This can be determined using a shovel or screwdriver to see how deep the water has soaked. Another way to measure the amount of water is to use tuna cans, which are 1 inch tall. Place the containers on your lawn and see how long it takes 1 inch of water to gather in each can. For every 1 inch of water sprayed on your lawn, the water will move 6-8 inches into the soil. Also, check out this water rate calculator.


What time?

The ideal watering time is between 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. for around 15 minutes. At this time, the morning air is cool and there is little to no wind. Avoid watering during the heat of the day because the water will evaporate too quickly. If watering early is not possible, it’s better to water later in the day than not at all. The best time to do it later is between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. because the grass will have time to dry before nightfall. The later you water, the more likely your lawn will become diseased.


What kind of sprinkler?

With seemingly endless types of sprinkler heads and irrigation systems, choosing the right one for your lawn can be daunting. Hose-end sprinklers are a traditional type of sprinkler ideal for rectangular lawns that are small to medium-sized. In-ground sprinklers and other smart watering systems are the most efficient type of sprinklers. Not only do they minimize the amount of water lost to evaporation, some types connect to smartphones and tablets and use real-time weather data to turn on only when needed. For more information on sprinkler heads check out this helpful article.



Shady Lawns

For the most part, grass growing in the shade requires less water than sunny areas. Grass growing beneath trees, however, require more watering since it’s competing with tree roots for moisture. Additionally, shady lawns benefit from a higher mowing height. Longer grass blades mean more surface area for carrying out photosynthesis, which is important in the low-light environment of a shady lawn.


Don’t be Wasteful

Between the amount of water used, chemicals sprayed, and CO2 emitted, achieving a golf course quality turf can come at a cost. However, there are many eco-conscious decisions you can make to cut down on the negative impacts. To save water, consider using an irrigation timer. Don’t forget to adjust the timer setting every month because the amount of water your lawn needs can change in that short of a time span. Also, be cognizant of where your water system is spraying. If water is puddling on the lawn or hitting any surfaces like sidewalks or driveways adjust your nozzles or irrigation duration. Check out more eco-friendly lawn care tips here!


Follow these basic lawn care tips to enjoy a beautiful and healthy lawn!

Need help in the garden? Here's some great tips!

by EM for Masha Halpern

There may be no greater satisfaction to a gardener than watching a spring garden bloom. Whether you are planning your first garden or are a seasoned expert, these six tips will help get your garden growing!

Map Your Garden

Good planning is key to a successful garden and mapping is a helpful way to do this. Making it as informal or formal as you like, start by drawing the existing structures in your space. While designing and adding features, think about what plants grow well together, the distance between each plant, the amount of sunlight the location gets, the soil’s moisture, and the region you live in so you can choose the right plant for the right place. The more detailed your map, the more time, effort, and money you will save. Here are some online templates and softwares to get you inspired!

Start Seeding Indoors

Not only is starting indoors a cheaper option than buying starter plants, it also brings an earlier harvest and greater yield. Fortunately, this process is fairly simple and is begun by filling containers with a potting mix and moistening the soil with water. After that, poke holes in the soil and sprinkle 2-3 seeds over. Lastly, cover the seeds with soil, spritz the surface with water, and place them in a warm location that receives 12-16 hours of light a day. When the seedlings get too large for their containers, be prepared to move them into individual pots!

Get Your Soil Ready

Soil becomes depleted of nutrients over the course of a growing season, so preparing your soil for the upcoming season is vital to the overall performance of the garden. The process of revitalizing soil involves adding materials to enhance or repair the soil’s components and should begin two to four weeks before planting. Soil kits from local home improvement stores are readily available and test the type and pH of the soil. This determines what kind of modifications your soil needs and leads to much healthier soil and plants.


Plant as Soon After the Last Frost Date as Possible

North Carolina has a great climate for growing. The cool springs, warm summers, and mild winters allow you to grow a wide variety of plants while taking advantage of the moderate temperatures for working. It also means you can plant and receive a harvest earlier. In North Carolina, the last frost date falls between the end of March and the beginning of May depending on the location in the state. Check out this handy planting guide to find out when to plant in your location!


Prune Shrubs and Trees

Pruning helps stimulate plant growth and improves the overall appearance of the tree or shrub. Pruning at the incorrect time, however, can cause irreparable damage so be careful to do it properly. In the spring, be mindful to only prune plants that have bloomed on new growth. Plants are still dormant in late winter and early spring so pruning them will not diminish their surge of spring energy. Plants that bloom on last year’s growth should be cut once their last flowering is over.

Add Mulch

Adding several inches of mulch around garden beds can save yourself a lot of time in the long run. Mulch has the important task of reducing weeds, mitigating disease, saving water, and moderating soil temperatures. Pine bark and straw are popular choices given the abundance of pine trees in North Carolina, but there are many other types to choose from. Pick a mulch that fits your specific landscape and preference the best. Here’s an easy-to-use guide to help. Lastly, don’t forget to water the soil before and after the mulch is spread and to keep the mulch a few inches away from plant stems.

Following these spring gardening tips will help ensure your growing season is a success!

For gardening workshops and classes in the Piedmont area, check out the North Carolina Botanical Garden and Hillsborough Garden Club events!



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Contact Information

Photo of Masha Halpern - Boutique Real Estate Real Estate
Masha Halpern - Boutique Real Estate
Keller Williams Realty
101 Cosgrove Avenue, Suite 200
Chapel Hill NC 27514
Direct 919-951-1780
Toll Free 877-478-4669
Fax: 919-928-9030

Masha Halpern of Keller Williams Realty provides real estate services in the Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Durham, North Carolina area including real estate services for buyer, sellers and those relocating to the surrounding areas of Apex, Bahama,Cary, Efland, Hillsborough, Holly Springs, Mebane, Raleigh, and Wake Forest. Search for homes in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham or the surrounding communities.  Request a market analysis for your North Carolina property.  I list and sell residential real estate, investment property, vacant land, lots for sale in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Durham, North Carolina area.

Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Durham, North Carolina real estate and homes for sale in North Carolina - Masha Halpern & The Smart Move Team