Our #GrowInspired series features our innovative and creative garden partners. Whether they’re working with two acres or 200 square feet, we are constantly in awe of their hard work and kick-ass gardens. These are some of our favorite gardens and gardeners who inspire us to get out and play in the dirt.
Martin ‘Marty’ Gottlieb, who owns M. Gottlieb & Assoc., has been in the landscape/garden industry for over 50 years and knows more about it than probably anyone else you’ll meet (seriously). With a degree in horticulture from Cornell University, Marty has used his extensive knowledge of plants as the foundation for a successful career that centers around knowing exactly what gardeners are looking for. We chatted with Marty about his horticulture background, what he grows in his garden in New York State, and his advice for gardeners.
On How Marty Ended Up In The Landscaping Industry
After graduating from college, I got a job with Shemin Nurseries, as Manny Shemin’s assistant. Mr. Shemin, had just opened his first “one-stop’ landscape wholesale supply center in Greenwich, CT. My time there was short lived as the year was 1968, and the Vietnam War was going on. I was about to be drafted so I decided to enlist in the US Army Reserve for a 6-year commitment. Shemin Nurseries is now part of Site One Supply. Manny Shemin, passed away a number of years ago and although my time working for him was brief, he was my mentor, teacher, role model and most importantly, a friend for all those years.
After completing my army active duty, I moved to Las Vegas, where I drove a taxicab and was a member of the Nevada National Guard. I wasn’t there long when I received a letter offering me a position as a NY-Cornell Cooperative Extension Agent, back in Westchester County, where I was originally from. I had interned at that “Extension” office two of my college summers. I joined the “Extension Service”, and over the years moved on from there to join various industry companies gaining much experience while making many life- long friends. Thirty-four years ago, I had an idea that there was a fit for someone who had both horticultural and business development experience. A place to help industry companies develop products and grow their businesses. That’s when I started my consulting firm – helping industry companies develop products and grow their businesses. That’s what I do, and I love it.
Some of Marty’s many achievements in innovating the home/garden industry include expanding the use of Smart Pots, the original, fabric grow bags, to herbaceous plants and home gardening, leading the development for a best-selling, professional growing mix, and having the industry switch to pallets for shipping bales and bags of peat moss, potting mixes and mulches. He’s also currently working with us, Thriving Design, (yay) and Hillside Planters to help our businesses grow.
On Marty’s Garden
I've always been growing at my own home — for the past 40 plus years. It’s a fairly sizable garden but I’ve never actually measured it. I grow just about everything in Smart Pots, from small, round pots to Big Bag Beds and various Smart Pot Long Beds. My garden includes a wide variety of plants, including perennial edibles which a lot of people don’t realize you can grow (and winter over) in containers. Perennial edibles include smaller plants like chives, horseradish, mint, and strawberries, to larger ones like blueberries, blackberries, and even dwarf fruit trees. I also grow ornamental perennials in the Smart Pots as well, including beautiful David Austin Roses, Heuchera, daylilies, Astilbe, and more. As for growing vegetables, I’ve grown literally just about every kind that can be grown in the northeast. In my garden I practice “space saver gardening”, a term I came up with many years ago. It means growing whatever I can vertically to save space and allow additional room for more plants. Cucumbers are a good example. Rather than have them sprawl about on the garden floor I have the vines grow up on either netting or a trellis. Many times, I’ve tried growing large watermelons and sweet potatoes, but I just don’t have the heat or length of season these kind of crops require. Someone even gave me some “seed” peanuts to try but I haven’t gotten to them yet. I like to experiment and there are so many things that I just try growing one time and move on.
This year, I’m into growing several varieties of chili peppers. I enjoy cooking and the chilis go so well with many different dishes. And of course, tomatoes, lots of them. Sadly, the tomato season is about to end. The first frost of the season will be here any day and I’m going to miss them very much. Recently, I was given a beautiful cookbook as a gift. And I had to laugh, because the author’s final words appearing on the book’s last page were, “never buy tomatoes in the winter”.
On Why He Grows Solely In Containers (Besides The Obvious Smart Pot Connection)
There are many sound, practical reasons for container/raised bed growing. First of all, you're creating an ideal environment for plant growth and whether it's in a Smart Pot or any other container or raised bed, it’s much easier to create a controllable environment, one that better suits the plants’ needs. In a recent article, “Underground and Underappreciated”, Dr. John Erwin, professor and chairman of the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at the University of Maryland, said “roots are the underappreciated limiters of growth, shippability and yield….”. This goes back to what I’m saying, give the plants what they need to grow, and they’ll reward you. Also, if you have back problems or issues with scooting around on the ground having an elevated container or bed makes it much easier to garden. I also don’t have any problem wintering over my perennials in the containers here in New York. And depending on how ambitious or lazy I’m feeling in the fall, I mulch them over or I don’t. Which reminds me, fall is garlic planting time. And I am proud of my garlic — all of it grown in containers — and as good as any garlic grown anywhere.
How He Decides What To Grow Each Season
It’s not very organized. I go to the garage around February and see what seeds people have sent me and which of them interests me! But seriously, there are certain things that I always grow and some things I like to try. This year I grew broccoli and it’s going quite well but honestly, I’m not a big broccoli fan. I have some good broccoli recipes but really, how much broccoli can you eat or want to eat? I’m not going to grow it again next year; I’d rather use that space for more tomatoes and cucumbers or potatoes.
On His Past And Future With CBITEs
Jason at Thriving Design sent me a box of C-BITEs five years ago and I used them to help support my tomatoes and peppers. They did a great job. Plus, they’re attractive and easy to see, but that was five years ago and “C-Bites” were the company’s sole products. Next spring I’ll be using the new “Plant Support Kits” in my garden. This is exciting stuff. Jason, put together a number of different plant support configurations with the kits and I’ll duplicate his work in my garden then take photos I can share with the gardening community.
His Sage Gardening Advice
I’m looking around here in my office and I’ve got quite a library of gardening and horticulture books that I’ve collected throughout my lifetime. In my day [when you had a question] you asked someone, or you wrote them a letter, or you went to the library, or you bought books. But people don’t need to do any of that anymore, all of the information they’ll ever need is online. So, if you had to ask, what would my advice be? Continue to learn. Its never been easier or more affordable. All the informational resources you need are literally at your fingertips. But don’t stop there. Share your experiences with others. Get involved. Visit botanic gardens and arboretums. Join a garden club, or volunteer at a community or school garden. The list is endless.
Marty says his garlic "Is as good as any garlic grown in North America."
We are going to follow up this profile next summer to showcase all of the fun structures Marty creates in his garden with CBITEs. You can follow Marty on Instagram @MartysCloud and find him on Linkedin here.