Extending the Vegetable Garden

Great News Project Bloomers!

The Islip Parks Commissioner has approved our plan for extending the fence at the Vegetable garden. This will allow us to add additional garden plots and to move the dedicated children’s section to the corner of the garden nearest to the playground.

Here’s the sketch and explanation of the plan we submitted to the Parks Department:

new_fence_plan

The pink is the existing chain link and the white is the existing picket fence. We want to move the 4 sections of picket fence from the green line, to the new line shown in red, adding in the 6 leftover sections of picket fence. This will allow us to extend the vegetable garden, adding 6 to 7 new garden plots, and to relocate the Kid’s Corner Garden to the front, closest to the playground. We think this is the best use of the remaining fence sections and also the unused section of lawn. The new fence would still allow for easy access to all landscaping equipment to maintain the area.  We would keep the lawn paths in the kids area, to keep it cleaner for play, and we would maintain those paths ourselves.

Since this weather has been so mild, we are hoping to work on moving the fence sections before it gets really cold out and the ground freezes. Right now the forecast is calling for temps in the 50s for the next few weeks. We would like to get started as soon as the town has had the “No-Cuts” guys come and mark out the area. If you are interested in helping out that day, I will send every one a quick email once it’s scheduled.

Thanks to Chris Cacoperdo of the Parks Department for taking the time to review the plan, and visit the site with us, and then visit again with the commissioner. Chris has been a great supporter of Project Bloom.

November Project Bloom Photos

Here’s a photo gallery of the Project Bloom gardens from last month. I am so impressed with the alyssum, snapdragons and gallardia that won’t stop blooming! The Geraniums in the greenhouse are ready for cuttings, and the vegetable beds are all cleaned up for the season. We are glad that the deer ignored the columbine this year, so it will come back as a strong perennial next year.

November Update: Project Bloom

Here is an update for November 2015, for Project Bloom. Lacrosse Players from Dowling College came and volunteered. They helped put down wood chips, fix up one of our beds and they connected two separate beds into one big one. Big thanks to them! The memorial garden is also in full bloom, the Alyssum and Snapdragons look beautiful along the perimeter. If you look closely you can see the water peaking through the trees behind the memorial garden. 

Garden Cleanup by Lacrosse Team Volunteers

Dowling College sports teams have a tradition of supporting the efforts of Keep Islip Clean. This year, our Project Bloom gardens were the lucky benefactors of the efforts of the Dowling Lacrosse team on October 9th 2015. We were told it would be 35 guys, but it seemed like at least 50, and they were all huge!! I will post photos of the guys next week. Thanks to our Project Bloom Volunteers: Ed Q., Bruce L. and Dottie O. for coming out to help Bob and me supervise the work. Thanks to Nancy Cochran of KIC for arranging this volunteer day for us. And a Big Thanks to the Lacrosse Team for all their hard work with the cleanup. Their efforts are truly appreciated!

How to Bring in Plants Without Bugs for the End of the Season

We are planning to bring geraniums into the greenhouse to winter over, and to use for cuttings for next year’s plant giveaway.  If you have plants you would like to bring in, let Kathy know. Before you bring any plants into the greenhouse please try and be sure they are insect-free. Here are some steps you can follow to de-bug your plants:

  1. You can spray foliage with insecticidal soap if you see any signs of critters
  2. Then I would pop the plant out of the pot and inspect around the bottom and outside edge for any hitchhikers.
  3. Flick them off or scrape them off.
  4. Then I dunk the entire plant and pot in a spackle bucket full of water for about 15 minutes to convince all the other insects to make an escape.
  5. If you have a bug problem in the soil (ants or any other burrowing critters) you may have to take the plant down to bare roots get rid of the them. You can rinse the soil off the roots with a hose and repot in fresh soil.
Deers

What the Deer Don’t Eat

We had a lot of deer come through the Project Bloom gardens this season, and we learned the hard way what deer will and won’t eat. We are going to be focusing our seeds for the 2016 season on things the deer don’t eat. Plus we have to grow those great branching sunflowers again, even though the deer nibbled on them, the flowers were amazing all season long.

Here are a list of plants that the Deer did not eat:

Agastache, Alyssum (white and purple, and the basket of gold perennial variety), Balloon Flowers, basil, Coleus, Columbine, Coreopsis Threadleaf, Cosmos Sensation, Cosmos Bright Lights, Dainthus (pinks), Epimedium, Forsythia, Foxglove, Gallardia, Geraniums, Helianthus, Lavender, Marigolds, Morning Glories, Painted Daisies, parsley, annual and perennial Poppies, Pulmonaria, Rose of Sharon, Roses, Rosemary, Sedum Autumn Joy, Sedum Creeping, Snapdragons, Spirea shrub, Sweet William, Verbena, Zinnias.

Here is a list of plants that the Deer did eat:

Beets, Coneflowers, Coreopsis Lanceleaf, Daylilies, Hollyhocks, Hosta, Jerusalem Artichokes, Lettuce, Shasta Daisies, Solomons Seal, Squash, Sunflowers, Tomatos

Although written info says the deer don’t eat coneflowers, ours were nibbled a bit…

 

Other plants that are supposed to be safe from deer are generally aromatic, fluffy (with small leaves or cut foliage) and bluish.

Here’s a list of more deer-resistant plants from Susan K:

Perennials: Yarrow, chives, blue start anemone, wormwood, butterfly weed, astilbe, false indigo, bergeia, boltonia, butterfly bush, turtlehead, candytuft, tiger lily, bleeding heart, joe pye weed, mint, beebalm, evening primrose, oregano, ferns, ribbon greass, jacobs ladder, sage, soapwort, scilla, tansy, veronica, vinca and yucca.

Shrubs: barberry, forsythia, beautybush, lilac

Annuals: Ageratum, dusty miller, blue salvia, wax begonia, dahlia, hypoestis, lobelia, four o’clocks, forget me nots

 

You can read more in our other article on what plants discourage deer here. 

Volunteers and hopeful future plans

On the morning of September 19th there was a volunteer group generously helping out at the project bloom garden. The volunteer group was called “NextGen,” this group consisted of young CPAs who wanted to help in the community and give back their time for a greater good. A big thanks to Stephanie Angel, who helped coordinate the volunteers group. Also, a big thanks to KIC’s Executive Director, Nancy Cochran, who supplied water, gloves and other supplies. The group helped with finishing up planting the rose bed, and corner beds along the greenhouse with perennials, spreading woodchips in the memorial garden, and edging the flower beds. They were a big help for the several hours they were in the garden, and got a lot of work done.

I also included photographs of two garden pieces which will hopefully be going into the children’s garden. We are hoping to expand the vegetable bed to the south and create a larger kids garden near the playground. The ceramic clay pot sculpture will look adorable sitting in that garden. And the ladybug/turtle tic-tac-toe pieces will be a sweet game that can be played while the kids are spending time in the garden.

State of the Project Bloom Beds

Here are what the some of the beds look like right now at the Project Bloom Garden at the end of summer 2015. Some deer to caught in the fence while no volunteers were around. Thankfully the landscaper, Gary was there to save the day! Thanks Gary! There is a bunch of flowers in bloom too, they include Gallardia and Aster. Some people have cleaned out their beds, while others have started Lettuce and other vegetables. 

Flowers Growing at Project Bloom!

Come take a look at the flowers that are currently growing in the Project Bloom Garden in September 2015! The flowers growing include White Cosmos, Marigolds, Pink Zinnias, Spirea Hedge, Alyssum, Red Sunflowers, Lupine, Basket of Gold, Painted Daisy Seedlings, Purple Asters, Rose, Chinese Dunce Cap, Gallardia and California Poppy. Everything is so colorful! 

The Vegetables growing in Project Bloom’s Garden!

Here are some photos of the vegetables growing in Project Bloom’s garden! The plants include tomatoes, watermelon, peppers, Swiss chard, tomatillos, eggplant, squash, parsley, sage and thyme. They all are doing fabulously! The garden smells fabulous from all the herbs that are growing as well. The tomatoes and watermelon are growing so large as well! 

Roosters in the Garden!

There are many visitors that come to the Project Bloom garden. One of the most recent and unexpected visitors have been roosters. They decided to come and take a gander around our garden space one day to see what was going on. Here are some photos from their visit. They just took a leisurely walk around the entire Project Bloom Garden area, taking in all the sites. 

Squash Lady Beetle

Attention! Our garden is under attack! While wandering through the garden one day, I noticed that the leaves and stems of our cucurbit plants were damaged. Upon closer inspection it looked as if they were being chewed on and were seriously damaging the growth of the plants. I noticed a small lady bug-like insect on one of the plants and also a small yellow spiny insect as well. I could not figure what they were because I have never seen them before.

After a little research, I found that they are a part of the Lady Beetle family, and are called Squash Lady Beetle’s (Epilachna borealis.) Unlike their siblings, the Squash Lady Beetle feeds on cucurbit crops instead of pests. They use their mouths to bore into stems to consume the liquids found inside. The larvae are a bright yellow color and have black spines on them. The larvae feed on the leaves of the plants. They show up in the mid-summer to reek havoc. In large enough numbers, this bug can seriously damage your summer crop. They are one of the largest Lady Beetles in Eastern North America where they originate. Keep a mindful eye on your summer cucurbits for these little insects. Below are pictures of the pests in our garden.

But how do I get rid of them? There are many options to remove the bugs from your garden. Some ways include rotating your crops each year, removing plant litter (because that is where they live in the winter,) scraping away the eggs from beneath the leaves, or making an organic insecticide. A recommendation from a professor at North Dakota State University is to use garlic, onions, one spicy pepper like jalapeno or habanero, water and a little dish soap in a sprayer and coat the leaves when you see the insects.

New Fence for Project Bloom!

Great News!!  Islip Parks Department came through for us, and delivered a white painted wooden picket fence for around the vegetable garden. And the drain at the greenhouse got fixed too!

Please join us on Saturday, August 1st from 9AM to 11AM at Brookwood Hall to help install the new fence! Don’t forget to wear a hat and use sunscreen!

Project Bloom Birdhouses and other Projects

All the seed packets were painted and are now complete! They will hang around the fence to discourage the deer from eating our veggies. Our volunteers Denise, Dottie, Nora and Janice helped us paint the 138 seed packets, so thank you so much! We had a purpose in using blue so much on the packets. Deer see colors in the ultraviolet spectrum (meaning they see in shades of blues and violets), so we used a bright blue color that could be seen by the animals to help keep them from entering the garden. We also mounted the birdhouses onto stakes in the garden. The large birdhouses were put on top of large metal poles, so now the birds have a place to go! Small ones were put on sticks in the cosmos bed.

Project Bloom Painting Projects

This Saturday July 25th, from 9:30 to 11:30, we will be finishing the painting projects for Project Bloom. We will be installing the birdhouses Bob built onto metal poles. They will be mounted behind the small birdhouses on stakes which were placed in the “cosmos garden” behind the curly willow fence. We will also be installing the fence/photo board sign facing the playground in the corner by the vegetable garden. We will plant snapdragons in front of it. Check out the photo of Bob V. and Kathy C. posing in front of the sign by the kid’s garden.

With a public garden there can be some unwelcome visitors and the deer have become a real nuisance eating our vegetables. To help with the deer problem we will be hanging blocks painted like seed packets from a wire around the perimeter of the garden. I located some simple drawings of vegetables that could be painted onto the plastic blocks. Bob cut 138 “seed packet” blocks from leftover Trex plastic lumber. I painted 16 really quickly with one brush and a small pallette. Then we outlined in black and added the lettering with a sharpie. We screwed metal straps to the back, and hung them from the wire that Bob had installed on 2×2 posts around the garden fence. We will need to paint about 8 more of each one to fill up around the fencing.

We also made and mounted new signs for the greenhouse, the vegetable garden and the memorial garden. The church volunteers did a great job cleaning up the new Stehling Rose Bed area. We have perennials that will be planted here, alongside the pathway of pavers with daisies on them.

Please come down on Saturday morning and help us finish up these fun projects.

Project Bloom Visitors!

We have lots of people that come and visit the gardens for Project Bloom. We even have some non-human visitors! Here are some photos of deer, and turtles that enjoy our garden. The types of turtles are Red Eared Sliders and Box Turtles. While the deer are nice and cute to look at, they are doing some damage to the garden so we will have to implement ways to keep them away. 

Church Volunteers on July 18th

This past weekend we had many volunteers that came from the Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints to volunteer at Project Bloom. They were very helpful, and we loved spending the morning with them! They came with little kids and seniors and we also want to thank our volunteer Bruce who came to help.

Bob built birdhouses out of some scrap lumber and leftover paint. He cut out flowers, bees, butterflies and little birdhouses for the children to paint. It poured with thunder and lightning as soon as they arrived, so we piled into the greenhouse and painted. There were about 3 dozen church members painting, and everything came out so cute and colorful! We are so grateful for their help and they have offered to come back at some point to help again, maybe in September. Keep Islip Clean (KIC) gave us water and granola bars for the volunteers, and also donated cans of paint and brushes for the project.

In the first photo of the stuff piled up on the porch beforehand, you can see two birdhouses made to look like the Islip Train Station and a Barn. They will be mounted in the Kid’s Garden. Bob also built a sign/fence that kids can pose behind that will be installed facing the playground.

Once the rain broke, the church volunteers descended on the weeds in the vegetable garden and did an amazing job. The area along the greenhouse will be planted up as the Stehling Rose Garden. The area behind it, next to the Kid’s Corner has been planted up as a shade garden in honor of Marge O’Connor. We also painted signs for the greenhouse and the garden fence.

Project Bloom Gardens Late June

Here are some before and after photos at the Project Bloom Community Garden. It is coming along beautifully, and I am so proud of our progress. We also received a brand new sign for the garden from KIC! There are many plants in bloom at the moment as well. Check out how pretty the roses along the Greenhouse wall are! 

Project Bloom Update Late May 2015

These photos were taken on May 20th at Project Bloom’s gardens at Brookwood Hall, in East Islip. The vegetable beds are nearly completed and most are planted for the season. We’ve added a Kid’s Garden and a fun fence from reclaimed wood. Once the vegetable garden is done, our focus will be the memorial garden. We will continue to meet throughout the summer on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings at 9:30 to plant perennials and to maintain our new garden beds.

Vegetable Bed Cleanup Progress

We are still hoping to complete this Vegetable garden cleanup by Earth Day, so that the gardeners can get started planting vegetables. Bob and Ed Quinn have been making great progress in the community Garden. The two of them have been working alone to clear out the old wood and debris in the beds. They are trying to get it in better shape before the KIC junior commissioners come for the clean up day on Sunday April 19th. We are so happy to have these high school students adopt our spot for their community volunteer effort this spring. Two of the largest beds have been rebuilt and placed into their new positions. We are still searching for cedar to rebuild the remaining 25 beds if anyone knows of a source….

 

Renovate Memorial Garden

Project Bloom is renovating a memorial garden located on the Northwest corner of the parking lot. It was placed in honor of Gail, a fellow Project Bloom gardener.  In the center of the garden, there is a Weeping Cherry Tree. There is also two stone benches and stepping stones that says “This Garden is Dedicated To Gail Pulaski Tedor, Whose Light Continues To Shine In Beauty For All of Us Who Loved Her To See.” 

 

Inside the Greenhouse

The 2015 Project Bloom Greenhouse Season is off to a good start. We have over 6000 plants started already. Bob built us new riser shelves for the Northeast and Southeast corners to give us more real estate for flats. So far we have Alyssum, Zinnia, Lupines, Coreopsis, Coleus and Sunflowers starting. We hope to cover the Project Bloom gardens with flowers this year! 

Spirea Hedgerow and Curb

We installed some 6×6 timbers to act as a curb for the gravel roadway and planted a run of Bridal wreath spires. The wood was donated by one of Project Bloom’s members, Steve. Thank you Steve!   Along the curb we will plant a line of Spirea hedges. Project Bloom Renovation is in full effect, and we can’t wait for the end result! It will be a great community space for gardening! 

 

Compost Area Cleanup

KIC arranged to have compost and wood chips delivered to the site for use by the community vegetable gardeners. The area was full of tall weeds, but we were able to clear a large area for the delivery and we are very happy to have our first load of compost to start the season. Later, we will try and hide the area from view a little by planting a beautiful Forsythia hedge in front of the pile.

 

Community Vegetable Garden Renovation

The Grounds of Brookwood Hall, used to be the home of a historic orphanage. Now the grounds are used for many things, including the Project Bloom community garden beds. The beds are hard to get to with equipment like wheelbarrows, so many of them have become overgrown and full of weeds. Our plan is to  re-divide the beds and renovate the space to beautify the area.

Project Bloom History

History of Project Bloom

Project Bloom was created in 1992 with the cooperation of Keep Islip Clean and the Cornell Cooperative Extension. Project Bloom has been used as a creative outlet for gardeners to give back to the community. The volunteers who give their time to Project Bloom, help grow flowers that get spread throughout the community. Currently there are about 16 volunteers. This year, volunteers planted roughly 6,000 plants and flowers throughout the local area. All of which were grown in the greenhouse at Brookwood Hall. IMG_4244IMG_4243Project Bloom gives a sense of unity amongst the volunteers.  Groups of all ages work with Project Bloom in the beautification of Islip Hamlet.

The Project Bloom Process

marge.jpgThe general plan is basically the same for each year that we have Project Bloom. The process starts in January and the season ends in May. In either July or August we tour the garden beds. In December we bring in cuttings of geraniums to start plants for the next spring. This is an overview of the process.

January

Plan out seeds for the year and place the seed order online.

Make sure the greenhouse is sound. All the glass is intact, the heater is working, etc.

Ask the town to order supplies.

200 sets of 6 cell packs, 300 flats with holes, 50 clear lids, and 12 bales of potting soil, 500 4″ pots, disposable gloves (2 boxes of 100), 2000 marker sticks, and 5 sharpies.

Make sure that we have a working hose and spray head. Also hand soap and paper towels.

Take cuttings of geraniums and other annuals.

Dip cuttings in water, then rooting hormone, then place in hole in wet sand or soil, and pack in.

February

Clean greenhouse, and put a plastic tablecloth or tarp beneath the soil area.

Separate 6 packs and fill with moistened mix. Put in flats with holes in the bottom.

Plant seeds according to packet instructions.

Label with sticks and sharpies. Keep text near top of sticks. Include varieties on tags.

Keep track of flats planted, germination dates, and other results on spreadsheet. Maintain weekly updates.

Water flats and keep covered with clear tops until they germinate.

Thin to one seedling per cell when large enough to handle.

Keep fresh transplants out of direct sun.

Water well on Tuesday, Thursday and stop by to check on Sat or Sun.

Spray Dawn on ants (sprayer bottle of water, with 1T of Dawn.)

March and April

Keep planting seeds until about the 3rd week of March, when all seeds should be in.

Keep thinning to one plant per cell. Make sure all 6 packs have labels.

Pinch tall plants after 3rd set of leaves to encourage bushy strong plants.

Fertilize after 2nd set of leaves, and once every 2 weeks. Use about 1/2 strength.

Put large annuals or perennials into 4″ pots to encourage root growth.

Keep sun lovers on top racks. Turn lower rack flats to promote even growth.

Test to see if geraniums have roots and plant in 4″ pots.

Take inventory and plan for giveaway, get estimates of donated perennials.

Mid April: Contact KIC with plant counts for forms.

Water well on Tuesday, Thursday and by stop to check on Sat or Sun.

Clean up and maintain outside area.

Plant any cuttings in water with roots.

May

Bring in unwanted perennials from home gardens: Daylilies, Hostas, Siberian Iris, etc.

Split perennials and wrap in newsprint. Stack in rolled bundles outside and keep moist.

Get sheets back from KIC and separate all plants into groups for orders.

Provide volunteers with some “thank you” plants for their gardens.

Create and print detailed planting instruction sheets to give to people who pick up orders.

Plant annuals around greenhouse beds.

Maintain beds around greenhouse.

June

Get together to celebrate our project and visit a member’s garden.

Maintain beds around greenhouse

July or August

Meet to take a tour of our gardens throughout the community.

Map a road trip from one spot to the next and caravan to view our efforts.

Maintain beds around greenhouse

December

Bring in geranium cuttings to root for next season.

Daffodil Bulbs from White Flower Farms

Daffodil Bulbs from White Flower Farms

We received Daffodil bulb donations from White Flower Farms for the Keep Islip Clean group named Project Bloom. White Flower Farms is a Torrington Connecticut nursery, that offers a wide variety of annuals, perennials, shrubs, bulbs, and houseplants shipped throughout the United States. We received a bag of 100 bulbs, (that seemed like 200 when we planted them!) All the bulbs were planted along the fence.