New Elevated Park in NYC

This past week, a new elevated park opened in New York City. It is called Liberty Park, and opened at the World Trade Center. It has a twenty five foot high vertical garden and also contains a sapling from a tree that grew outside of Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam. The park is located above Liberty Street on the World Trade Center site, it is a smaller scale version of the iconic High Line with a beautiful view of the Freedom Tower. The park contains a three hundred and thirty six foot long vertical garden which is coined as a “living wall.” The wall is built with eight hundred and twenty six panels filled with 22,356 plants of six different varieties. The park is home to the American Response Statue which pays tribute to 9/11 responders.


Thank you to NBC New York for the original information and photos. You can read more here.


Oldest White Oak in the Country

In the quiet town of Basking Ridge NJ, lives a town that is united by the love of one tree. White Oak to be specific. This tree has been part of U.S. history since the beginning, when George Washington decided to picnic in its shade. It also had the honor of having General Jean Baptist de Rochambeau and allied French troops march past it en route to the Battle of Yorktown VA. There is also thirty five Revolutionary War Veterans buried beneath its branches. This tree has been a part of history way before Basking Ridge was even a town!


This tall and strong tree has withstood through six hundred years of storms and droughts. The cause of death for this landmark is unknown. According to the church that was built next to this
massive white oak, it is one hundred feet tall with a spread of one hundred and fifty six feet and a circumference of twenty feet! When the tree didn’t green for the spring last month, experts were consulted. They tested the soil, the roots and even checked for beetles and disease. An ecologist from Rutgers University inspected the tree in mid-June and declared it to be “in a spiral of decline.” The Basking Ridge Church have used cables to support the heavy limbs, and have also pruned it is a specific way so the limbs grow up rather then out. (This protects them from becoming too heavy.) Dave Culver of the Religious Society of Friends (Salem,) says that one limb weighs approximately six thousand pounds! He is also quoted saying “We found that old trees that survive do end up dropping limbs and become smaller so they can support themselves.” The town puts the fallen branches to good use however. When branches fell in 1999, limbs were offered to local artisans to create lovely creations from the wood.

With no timeline of when the white oak will officially die, residents are preparing themselves for the worst. Many talk about the tree’s death as if talking about a family member. “It’s knowing when to let go.” said Pastor Dennis Jones from Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church. Below is a segment CBS News NY ran about the tree.

Thank you to CBS News NY for the video. Thank you to Marie Scaefer, from for the original information. You can read more here.

Islip Historical Society Garden Walk 2016

This weekend on June 25th at noon, the Islip Historical Society will be hosting a garden walk. You can either purchase tickets online or at Caroline’s Flower Shoppe on Main Street (between 11AM and 1PM.) Once you have purchased your ticket(s) you must redeem your Garden Walk Booklet at Caroline’s to know where the gardens are located. Tickets are $15, and are non-refundable. The rain date is set to be June 26th from 12PM-4PM. Project Bloom will have a booth set up at one of the gardens with loads of free plants grown for the garden visitors. Stop in and say hi!

You can buy tickets here!

To see pictures from last year, you can visit Islip Historical Society’s Facebook page! Click here!

KPMG Volunteers

KPMG Accounting celebrated their 50th anniversary by donating time to our Project Bloom garden. It was a gorgeous day out, and they did a tremendous amount of work. We really appreciate their efforts! They dug out a new herb garden for us, added compost and brick edge to the newly created garden, created a new pumpkin patch by cutting into the old grass, pulled weeds, and planted many new seeds! 

Planting Fields

On Tuesday June 21st, we attended the Summer Twilight Tour at Planting Fields Arboretum. It was hosted by LINLA (Long Island Nursery & Landscape Association.) We were taken on a tour of the gardens, with Vincent Simone as our tour guide. After the walk through the beautiful gardens, we were treated to a light dinner and learned how Vincent and his staff are improving the gardens and their own practices to become more sustainable. It was a great way to spend the Summer Solstice with an incredible tour and spend time among fellow garden lovers.

Controlling Snails and Slugs In Your Garden


Egg Cluster

If you live in an area that is damp, you are more then aware of snail and slug damage in your garden. A single snail or slug can successfully get rid of an entire row of seedlings from your garden in no time at all. They can turn pretty green leaves into small slices of swiss cheese overnight. Several times a year, a slug or snail can lay two to three dozen offsprings at a time! Egg clusters look like small white spheres (similar to the size of a ‘BB’.) Eggs will begin to hatch in anywhere from 10 days to three weeks. Newly hatched snails and slugs will eat many leaves and plants as they mature from eggs to adulthood (This can take as little as six weeks!) To eliminate your problem you want to destroy the eggs when you see them. So they don’t have a chance to hatch and eat your garden. However, this isn’t always an option- you realize you have a snail/slug problem once its too late. Here are some methods to help cope with mature snails and slugs in your garden.

  • Keep all decaying matter from your beds. While leaves make a good mulch once they have died, they also become a good home and food source for snails and slugs. This also means, keeping out leaves from underneath shrubs that are near to the ground.
  • Cultivate your soil regularly, to keep clods of dirt from building up (This also unearths slugs which have burrowed under the surface!)
  • Keep shaded areas beneath decks clean (i.e. remove weeds and litter.)
  • Anything that can be used as a home for these pests should be kept out of the garden. These include boards, large rocks, pots ect.
  • Keep edges of your lawn trimmed. Slugs are known to congregate under the shade of unkept grass.
  • You can keep slug pokers around your garden, so when you come to face your nemesis you have the upper hand.
  • There is the option to fill a small bowl with stale beer and keep it in areas where slugs are active. They are attracted to the drink, and when they climb in they drown. Besides beer, you can make a mix of yeast, honey and water or even use plain old grape juice!
  • An old fashioned method heard from everyone is to take an early morning walk around the garden and shake some salt on the suckers (this is not always the most humane way however.)
  • Enlisting animals even works! Snakes, ducks, geese, toads, and Rhode Island Reds enjoy dining on slugs.
  • You can set a pile of slightly dampened dry dog kibble in a busy area, and check every morning with slug poker in hand.
  • Natural Barriers can work, and they include:
    • Cedar bark or gravel chips around your plants will irritate and dehydrate slugs.
    • Putting crushed eggshell around plants will also help by not only cutting and killing slugs, but by adding necessary calcium to your soil!
    • Certain herbs will repel slugs. They are rosemary, lemon balm, wormwood, mints, tansy, oak leaves, needles from conifers and seaweed.
    • Oat bran will kill slugs if ingested, so you can sprinkle some of that down. Natural barriers do exist, and work they include
  • Traps can also be helpful. You can create a slug trap by using a simple plastic bottle. Heres how!
    • Cut a plastic bottle in half and then invert the top part of the bottle into the bottom part to create a no escape entryway. The slug bait can be placed inside the bottle and will draw the slugs in where they will die.


      Slug Trap

Thank you to The Garden Helper for the original information. You can read more here.

New and Unusual Plants To Grow!

Here is a list of new and unusual plants (Annual and Perennial) that will not only do well, but look fabulous in your garden this summer!


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Thank you Jessica Damiano for the original information. You can read more here.

Great Long Island Tomato Challenge


2014 Winner, Gary Schaffer (69) of Lindenhurst

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Long Island Tomato Challenge! Give your tomato plants lots of TLC all season long, then bring your biggest, and heaviest fruit to the event to

be judged by Garden Columnist Jessica Damiano. It will be held at Newsday Headquarters (235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, at the Ruland Road entrance) at 7PM on August 12th. Rain date will be August 19th. There are a couple of rules for this challenge and they are:

  • Tomatoes must be homegrown, fresh and not previously frozen.
  • They don’t need to be ripe, but stems should be removed before weighing.

Tomatoes will be judged in 6 categories. The heaviest, the smallest (measured and not weighed,) Ugliest, And three youth categories split into the age groups of 6 and younger, 7-12, and 13-17. There is no need to RSVP to this challenge, just come on down and have some fun! To be featured in an upcoming issue of Newsday, send a photo of yourself with your tomato plants along with growing techniques and the varieties you planted to, then look back every Sunday in the Newsday Gardening section to follow the competition!

Thank you Jessica Damiano for the original information. You can read more here.

Late Blight? What to do now!


Infected Potato Plant Leaves

One of the worst problems that could happen in your garden isn’t pests- its a late blight. Late blight is a destructive fungal disease, and did we mention it is highly contagious? Tomato and Potato plants are the most susceptible to this disease. Action is needed to be taken immediately to prevent the destruction of your harvest. The epidemic of this diseases that occurred between 2009 and 2011 was started with just a few infected plants. There are many steps that can be taken to prevent Late Blight, here is a list to help you.

  • Select plant varieties that have resistance to late blight. One type of tomato that is resistant is the Jasper Tomato.
  • When planting potatoes, Do not plant from last years garden or even from the grocery store. There is a higher chance for the late blight pathogen (Phytophthora infestins) to be in “table-stock” potatoes.
  • Get rid of any potatoes that have grown as “volunteers” in compost piles or from un-harvested potatoes from last year.
  • You always want to inspect your tomato seedlings carefully for blight symptoms before purchase. Seedlings will only become infected by growing near other infected plants. The seeds do not carry the disease within.
  • Learn the different symptoms of Late Blight and its imitators. Also monitor the occurrence of Late Blight in the United States by visiting
  • Inspect your tomato and potato plants at least once weekly. Happy planting!

What to do when late blight symptoms are found: Immediately call our Horticulture Diagnostic Lab at our hot line at 631-727-4126 from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday. Alice Raimondo and Sandra Vultaggio, our Horticulture Consultants, can help determine whether you do, indeed, have late blight, and answer questions about proper handling of an outbreak.

Thank you Cornell University for the original information. You can read more here. 

May Blooms 2016

Here are the spring bulbs and perennials growing around our yard for the month of May. Flowers include Johnny Jump Up’s, Yellow Tulips, Red Double Tulips, Flowering Quince, Thyme (in our Thyme Pathway), Callery Pear Tree, Daffodils, Purple Tulips, Weeping Cherry Tree, Orange Frittalaria, Japanese Andromeda, Creeping Phlox and Bleeding Hearts. All the colors are so nice to look at.

Shrubs around the Yard

Here are some beautiful photos of the assorted shrubs and plants growing in our yard at the moment. Plants growing include Service Berry, Pussy Willow, Spice Bush, Lenten Rose, Mohican Viburnum, Leather Leaf Viburnum, Plum Tree, Forsythia (I just love the color!), Pieris Andromeda, Spirea, Eastern Red Bud and our Magnolia Flower is starting to bloom as well!  

Project Bloom Presentation

Here is the display board we made for a presentation done at Project Bloom. It showcases everything Project Bloom stands for and shows photos of our gardens, greenhouse, and all of our lovely volunteers. We use it for the Spring Gardening School and also use it for lectures. We also showcase the history of Project Bloom and of Brookwood Hall as well. 

Greenhouse Seedlings

Here are some photos of the seedlings currently growing at the Greenhouse for Project Bloom. We are starting Tomatoes, Shallots, Mint, Rosemary, Painted Daisies and Hostas that got overwintered at my house. We housed many seedlings for the Greenhouse at our house in our personal greenhouse. This is going to be one successful growing season! 

Identifying Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac

Here on Long Island, we have many varieties of fauna. Some are beautiful, some are edible, and some are even poisonous. We have three varieties that are irritating to our skin when touched, they include Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac. Here are some ways that you can differentiate these plants in the outdoors from each other and other plants during the summer months.

Poison Ivy

We have all heard the rhyme “Leaves of three, leave them be.” This is a great way to identify the leaves of Poison Ivy. This strand of Ivy can grow almost anywhere on the East Coast. But lets start with visual identification. When young, Ivy leaves
are small and red, while older leaves are large and bright green. It has been seen that with increased levels of CO2, leaves are getting larger and rashes are becoming more prominent from the stronger irritant. Poison Ivy can mimic other plants, it can have deep notches which make it look like Oak leaves to the unsuspecting. Poison Ivy will never have thorns on ts stem. They will also never have scalloped or sharp and pointy edges. They tend to draw left and then right, never directly across from each other on the stem. On the east coast, Poison Ivy can grow well near salt water, when living in these conditions the leaves take on a curly waxy appearance. However, Poison Ivy can live in wet or dry conditions. Poison Ivy can grow into shrubs, and overtake the area. They climb up the trunk of a small tree or bush and then “explode” in every direction trying to get every leaf in the sunshine. The Ivy can even grow up into tall tree lines, so watch your head when walking through a canopied area. Poison Ivy can even be found living along the side of the road (which is common), or even on the rocks.

Posion Sumac

Poison Sumac is a less common variety in the Poison Ivy family. However, it can still be found growing in wetland type areas. Sumac loves living in ankle deep water and mud. Like Poison Ivy, Poison Sumac can cause an irritating rash much like Ivy. Sumac grows as a tree. Its leaves are wider at the bottom and come to a point at the top, they have smooth edges. The stems on these plants are a bright red. Unlike Poison Ivy, Sumac grows directly across from each other on the vine. Some varietals of Suma
c grow tightly bunched berries that hang down from the stem.



Posion Oak 

Poison Oak is used almost interchangeably with Posion Ivy, however they have two major differences.Poison Oak only grows in dry sandy areas. The shape of Poison Oak is also different, the leaves have more of a wavy look to it rather then smooth and pointy. The leaves of Poison Oak are just as irritating to human skin as Posion Ivy. They also grow in sets of three and left then right like Ivy. Some strands of Posion Oak can grow berries, that look green and fuzzy.



Thank you to for the original information and photos. You can read more here. 

Prescription Gardening?

Its no surprise that people who get down in their gardens, lead a healthy lifestyle. One report entitled Gardens and Health claim that gardening should be prescribed by doctors for patients that show early signs of dementia and heart disease. Many authors cite reports on the health benefits of gardening and say it brings many important benefits for a healthy life.

Gardening has been shown to reduce the rate of heart disease, cancer, obesity, improve balance, and also can reduce depression and anxiety. One trial showed that it can even reduce dementia. Six months of gardening within the trial showed a slow-down of cognitive decline over 18 months. The National Garden Scheme has been quoted saying “Gardens and outside spaces also give people living with dementia access to natural light, which is important for the maintenance of circadian rhythms.”

So next time your feeling ill, or down in the dumps- get out there and pull some weeds! Plant a new crop for the season!

Thank you to The Telegraph for the original information. You can read more here. 

Cherry Blossoms and Sakura Matsuri

On Saturday April 30th, I went to see the Cherry Blossoms and Sakura Matsuri at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. It was such a beautiful and sunny day, it was no surprise that I was not the only one who thought to go that day. Most of the trees were at peak bloom at this time. The smell on the air was sweet, and the scenery was breath taking. In the front of the garden, was what I like to refer as the Cherry Blossom Alley. Planted here was large rows of Cherry Blossom trees, that created an alley down the center of grass. Everyone was sat under the trees, taking in the sights and smelling the sweet air. You could faintly hear the Sakura Matsuri festival going on within the garden from the alley. Past the Cherry Blossom Alley, was a pathway that went through giant bushes of Lilac. It was definitely a photo-op spot and I even captured three different shades of Lilac in the same bushel! The pathway led to the heart of the Botanical Garden, where the festival was being held. There was a long piece of grass where pop-up shops selling books, candy, pillows, and kimonos (to name a few) resided. There was music being played over speakers, and there was even performances from J-pop groups and drummers. Everyone was happy to be there, many people were dressed up in cosplay of their favorite Japanese characters and celebrities. It was a fabulous day out in the beautiful weather, and the flowers were such a sight to see!

Cherry Blossoms in Brooklyn

Its that beautiful time of the year again, when Cherry Blossoms are in bloom left and right. At the Brooklyn Botanical Garden in Brooklyn, you have the chance to see these magnificent plants

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 2.28.15 PM right now! On their website, they have the “cherry watch” which is an updated map of their Japanese garden tracking the blooms. The map is broken down into Prebloom, First Bloom, Peak Bloom and Post-Peak Bloom so you know what you will be seeing when you go. There are even pictures of each bloom for each variety!

There are many varietals that are in bloom or will be blooming shortly. The varietals include Prunus ‘Shirotae’, Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’, Prunus ‘Accolade’ and Prunus subhirtella ‘Rosy Cloud’ to name a few.

At the end of the April, there will be a big festival happening to celebrate the Cherry Blossoms. It is called Sakura Matsuri. This year will mark the 35th anniversary of the festival. There will be over 60 events and performances that will celebrate traditional and contemporary Japanese culture. Some events will include Taiko Drumming, Samurai Sword Shows, many J-pop Vocal groups and even a traditional tea ceremony!

You can purchase tickets starting now, you can visit Brooklyn Botanical Gardens Website for more information! Click here.


To see pictures of what it was like when I went, click here! 

Botanical Gardens and Arboretums Around Long Island

When people say summer on Long Island, the first thing that comes to mind is our lovely beaches and parks. However, there is another way you should be spending your time this summer. Throughout Suffolk and Nassau County there are a plethora of Botanical Gardens and Arboretums. Botanical Gardens were created for the public to enjoy collections of numerous plants while also being a space for botanists to study. Arboretums are a collection of trees. Having botanical gardens on Long Island, allows us to enjoy plants from other parts of the county and even from other parts of the world. Here is a list of beautiful Botanical Gardens and Arboretums throughout Suffolk and Nassau County for you to visit this summer. A huge thank you to for the original list, you can read more about each garden here.

Register now for Spring Gardening School!

The Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County (CCE) is hosting the annual Spring Gardening School on Saturday, April 16th,2016 from 8:30AM to 4:00 PM. This school has been organized by Master Gardener Volunteers for the last 34 years, it is a fun day of learning and fun for hundreds of gardeners!

The class will be held at Patchogue-Medford High School in Medford, NY. All classes will be taught by the Master Gardener Volunteers as well as Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators. The day will consist of workshops held during three sessions and offers classes for beginners to advanced gardeners. There is a new keynote session this year with an address on Grow More with Less: Sustainable Gardening Methods by Vincent Simeone, Director of Planting Fields Arboretum. Some of the classes you can sign up for include: Choosing the Right Trees, Gardening with Chickens, Design & Install Drip Irrigation, Pruning Roses & Hydrangeas, Seed Starting Demystified, and many, many more.

The fee to attend is $65 per person, which includes free soil pH testing, a Long Island Gardening Calendar, a plant diagnostic clinic, gardening exhibits, and an early plant sale from some of the finest nurseries on Long Island; continental breakfast, delicious boxed lunch, raffles, and door prizes. Pre–registration is mandatory; first come is first served. Here is a registration form with a full schedule of classes and their descriptions for you to download and send to us. We look forward to seeing you there!

Robin Simmen is Community Horticulture Specialist for CCE Suffolk. She can be reached at or at 631-727-7850 x215.

Thank you to Cornell University for the original information. You can read more here. 


Are your plants purifying your air?

Its no surprise that plants have been shown to reduce stress levels. Many people turn to gardening because it gives them a sense of calmness, which lowers stress and ultimately has a positive effect on health. For example, having low levels of stress goes hand-in-hand with low blood pressure.

While the most effective way of clearing the air of pollution is to open windows, it is not always practical or possible. Many offices and other buildings have stationary windows that are meant to stay shut. However, most of these buildings have indoor plants. This isn’t just for aesthetic’s. Since NASA conducted a research project in 1989 on how plants are a very efficient and cost effective method of reducing indoor air pollution- plants have become a household thing. Many commercial buildings have incorporated plants into the floor plans inhales of avoiding “sick building syndrome,” which is a condition when there is poor ventilation and causes headaches and respiratory problems amongst workers.

The science behind having plants in the office is simple. Like you learned in middle school, plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen. What they didn’t teach us, was they are also very good at removing toxins from the air as well.

You would be daft to think you don’t have indoor air pollution. According to NASA, if you have carpeting, vinyl flooring, upholstered furniture, plastic grocery bags, cigarette smoke or even a roll of paper towels laying around- you may be inhaling toxins on a regular basis. As an ironic side note, many scented air refreshers even release chemicals that may be harmful.

Here is a list of plants that are great at taking toxins out of the air and making the environment a nicer place to breathe.

  • Aglaonema (Chinese Evergreen)
  • Chamaedorea (Bamboo Palm)
  • Chlorophytum (Spider Plant)
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Dracaena Spp.
  • Epipremnim (Golden Pothos)
  • Ficus Spp. (Weeping Fig)
  • Gerbera (Gerber Daisy)
  • Header Spp. (English Ivy)
  • Philodendron Spp.
  • Sansevieria (Snake Plant)
  • Spanthiphyllum (Peace Lily)

Thank you to Jessica Damiano for the original information. You can read more here.


There’s an app for that!

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 11.42.04 AMBurpee has came out with a free app for iPhones/iPads and Android systems to help you remember when to plant, and how to make your garden grow better. The app offers advice on how to sow your garden, and when to harvest your bounty of vegetables, herbs, fruits and other plants. The app is location oriented, so someone living out on Long Island receives different growing instructions then someone in Phoenix. There is also a “How To” feature which contains links to videos on the web about a wide range of plants and vegetables, ensuring your growing success.

You can download the iOS app here.


Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 11.40.17 AM Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 11.40.07 AM

Painted Daisy Seedlings

We planted these Painted Daisy seeds last year, and transplanted them into the garden in early fall. I wanted to share these photos of the painted daisy seedlings from this week.

We gave a lot of these perennials out at Project Bloom last year, and now that they are coming up, I want to help prevent them from being accidentally weeded!

The Latin name is Chrysanthemum coccineum. The flowers are great, showy and cheerful. The foliage is feathery and ferny.

Crocus in March

Most of these bulbs have been blooming for dozens of years. There was a large crocus field in the corner of the yard when we moved in 22 years ago. We’ve moved them around as new beds were added. I keep trying to naturalize them in the front strip of grass by the street, but I think it’s too shady… Some of these crocus bulbs were planted last fall, especially the yellow, orange, and dwarf white ones.

Project Bloom Update – Rainwater Garden

Project Bloom started again without a hitch! We have so many new ideas for this upcoming season. One idea that we’ve started working on is our rain garden. What is a rainwater garden? By definition it is “A garden that is a planted depression or a hole that allows rainwater runoff from impervious urban areas, like roofs, driveways, walkways, parking lots, etc.”

At Project Bloom, there is a very large parking lot. When it rains, a lot of run-off from that parking lot goes right into the lake, including oil from cars and garbage. We are trying to help clean out the rainwater before it reaches the lake using underground filtration provided by plants. We are turning some old platform steps that were becoming dangerous to walk on into the new rain garden. In each step tier we will plant grasses and other plants that can handle a lot of water at once, and also can withstand being dry for a long period of time. This will slow down the flow of rainwater and allow the water to be naturally clean before it goes into the lake.

We have a student from Suffolk County Community College interested in doing part of their internship with us by working on turning these steps into a raingarden. She is attending the school for Environmental Science, and we can’t wait for her help!

Here are some photos of the beginning of the new garden area.

Spring Blooms – March 17, 2016

This week is all about the crocus in bloom, but there are other things popping up in the garden too. Flowers include Snowdrops, Daffodils, Vinca Vine, Crocus, Reticulated Iris, Tulips, Day Lilies, Lily of the Valley and Lenten Rose. The Reticulated Iris is such a deep royal purple, its just lovely to look at. 

Project Bloom February Update

Hello Project Bloomers! February is here, which means that Project Bloom has started up again! Seeds have already been planted for the coreopsis, gallardia, andno_dogs1200 rudbeckia. We also planted 20 flats of Alyssum in Royal Carpet (purple) and Carpet of Snow (white.) I painted two new signs to be put up at the garden, this “No Dogs” sign that will be mounted on the fence later this week, and also one that says “Seeding is Believing” to be put above the Greenhouse entry.

We got 2 checks from the Master Gardeners after our presentation to the group last week. One from the group and one from Judy S. (Very big thank you!) Bob and I went to Job Lot and got 2 birdbaths for the gardens. The big one will go in the main Pollinator Garden area, and the little one will go in the children’s garden. They are glazed terra cotta, so we will store them indoors until after last frost. Wth the rest of the money, I got a few more perennial seeds, and Bob is going to go to Home Depot anseeding1200d buy 2×2 posts and enough wire to complete the “deer proofing” of the vegetable garden, around the new fenced area.

birdbaths1200Project Bloom meets every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, from 9:30 to 11 am at the Greenhouse. We welcome new people, and you don’t have to RSVP! Just show up! We can always use the extra hands and friendly gardeners!

Plants That Are Out Of This World!

Valentines Day, 2016. Scott Kelly harvests a patch of Zinnias in the International Space Station. Space travel to Mars is getting closer then ever. NASA is currently in the middle of an experiment to grow plants and vegetables in space. The seeds were activated on November 13th, and have been growing bountiful since. “We need to learn a tremendous amount to help develop more robust sustainable food production systems as NASA moves toward long-duration exploration and the journey to Mars,” said Gioia Massa, a principal ground scientist for the experiment.

The experiment consisted of two patches of Zinnias, one on the ground and one up in space. Grown in the same conditions and time span, to see if any faults would arise. “The flowers going to seed are a good demonstration for sustainable food crops,” said Nicole Dufour, a NASA mechanical engineer and Veggie subject-matter expert. “It’s a good example of starting with seeds and ending with seeds, which is what you need to sustain crop growth.”

Researchers are curious to see if the pollen from the plants are going to affect the health of crew members, and if having bright flowers aboard will boost morale as well. Expieremnts that involve space plants have always brought joy to astronauts, especially for the people who have been in space for long periods of time, like Scott Kelly. Part of the pleasure of being an astronaut is having been involved in meaningful work, according to behavioral scientists at NASA. However, it is not just astronauts that are positively affected by growing plants!

The next batch of plants sent to the space station will include two types of seeds: ‘Outrageous’ Red Romaine Lettuce for the crew to grow and consume, and a variety of small Chinese Cabbage called ‘Tokyo Bekana.’ We are all excited to see the outcome of these experiments!

Thank you NASA for the original information. You can read more about the experiment here.


Vegetable Garden Expanded

On Saturday 1/16/16, Bob and I took advantage of the warm weather and relocated the fence line. The picket fence surrounding the vegetable garden was shifted toward the parking lot, and had sections added to extend the garden perimeter. This adds between 800 and 900 square feet of space to our garden. We will relocate the flower photo board to outside the fence when the ground thaws again. The children’s garden will move from the corner near the greenhouse to the corner closest to the playground. Following the photos of the Fence project are some flowers in bloom in the greenhouse in mid-January.

Seeds for 2016 Greenhouse Season

This year for 2016 we plan to grow only varieties of plants that the deer don’t like and that are drought resistant. The only real exception to this are the sunflowers. Deer love them, but I do too! Most of our community volunteer gardens are dealing with either deer or problems getting water or both, and this should improve their chances for success with our plants. When determining our plants for this year, I chose varieties that we have had good luck growing from seed in the past.  This year I have it down to 17 varieties of good old standards: 10 annuals, 2 edibles and 5 perennials.  

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:


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.

Our Garden – November 12, 2015

Come see what is in bloom for the month of November in our garden right now! We have been doing a lot of work in the yard recently as well. We have put down a foundation for the new greenhouse in the backyard, we have started to form a rock garden, and we put down new stepping stones in the front yard. Some of the flowers growing include Gerber Daisies, Hydrangeas and Atrium. 

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. 

Rose Colors and Meanings

Each variety of rose has its own meaning. Here is a chart of each color and meaning, so you don’t give the wrong color (or impression) next time you hand out these faithful flowers.


























Thank you ProFlowers for the original information. You can read more here. 

Christmas Tree Safety

Throughout the month of December, it is important to check your Christmas tree for watering daily (if you always have a live tree.) According to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) fire departments respond to an average of 210 structure fires caused by Christmas trees. Here are some tips to remember during the christmas season, to ensure your house doesn’t go up in flames.

  1. Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
  2. Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 1″ – 2″ from the base of the trunk.
  3. If you have an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.Be sure to keep it at least three feet away from radiators or any heat source and to always turn off the lights before going to sleep.
  4. When decorating the tree, make sure there is no broken, worn, or loose bulbs on a string of lights.
  5. Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  6. Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  7. Use lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
  8. The holiday season is over, get rid of your tree when it begins to drop needles. Dried-out trees are just as much of a fire hazard than you think. Never keep it in a garage or placed outside against the home.

Thank you to the National Fire Protection Association for the original information. You can read more here. 

How to Overwinter your Dahlias

Dahlias are tropical plants, which means they will not survive the cold New York winter that is upon us. Since New York is in zone 7, they are treated as annuals or they are dug up and have their tubers stored in a frost-free environment (like your house) until the spring. Overwintering Dahlias is an easy task, and here is how to do it.


Wait until just after the first killing frost has passed, You will notice the top of the plants turning black. Cut the plants back to 4-inches and dig up a wide enough area to ensure including the entire root zone.


Remove the soil from root clumps by hand, but do not shake them; the plants are fragile.

Drying and Packing

Place the tubers in a dry basement, or outdoors on a screen rack or in a dry shady spot for a few days to dry. Gently wipe away any remaining soil from the tubers and tag them accordingly for different varieties, this way it will be easy identifying everything in the spring. Put four cups of vermiculite, sphagnum peat moss, wood shavings or sawdust into a gallon-size produce bag. These bags have pinholes spaced about a half-inch apart to allow for air circulation. Add tubers, then pack the bags into a wood, cardboard or plastic box, and cover it to ensure complete darkness. Store at 40-45 degrees. Check your tubers monthly. If you begin to notice any shriveling, sprinkle water onto the packaging material. If any of them are more than slightly shriveled, you can put them in a pail of water overnight, if they plump up– pat them dry and return to the soil. Discard any rotted or molding tubers, and air out the bag and box they were in. Expect to lose 10 percent of all tubers stored.

You can plant your Dahlias outside around Memorial Day. Place them in a spot that gets at least six hours of sunlight daily. To give them a head start, plant them in pots outdoors, kept by a sunny window, about a month before transplanting time.


Thank you Jessica Damiano for the original information. You can read more here.


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.

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. 

How to make your carved pumpkins last longer!

October is here, which means its time to gather those pumpkins and carve them! One downfall of carving pumpkins, is timing. It’s the constant worry that ‘Maybe I’m carving them too early.’ or ‘I really hope these last to halloween.’ You can carve a sprightly Jack-O-Latern but in a week or two you can have a decrepit ghoul sitting on your porch. There are a few factors to why pumpkins age like they do after being carved. Oxygen in the air can easily enter and break down the pumpkin through oxidation, Once you carve the pumpkin it is susceptible to fungi, bacteria and mold which can shorten the life and simple dehydration sets in as soon as you make the first carving. Here are some steps you can do that will extend your carved pumpkins life.

  1. Remove all dirt on the pumpkin using a damp cloth.
  2. Make a solution of 1 tablespoon bleach per quart of water and pour into an easy spray bottle.
  3. Spray inside and out of all the cut areas of the pumpkin with the solution (this will kill most of the surface bacteria that cause rotting.)
  4. Let it sit and dry for 20 minutes.
  5. Rub all of the carved surfaces with petroleum jelly (this keeps out new bacteria and also reduces dehydration rate dramatically!)
  6. Wipe all the excess petroleum away.
  7. Keep your pumpkin out of direct sunlight and try to keep it cool without freezing, and you should be able to extend your pumpkins life by about a week!

Happy Carving!

Thank you to Pumpkin Patches and More for the original information. You can read more 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.

Miles of Hope 5K Run!

The Town of Islip and the Islip Breast Cancer Coalition will be holding a 5K Run on Sunday, September 20th, 2015! This will be the first annual run and we want YOU to be a part of it! The Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Run supports a worthwhile group providing services to breast cancer patients and their families, and supports breast cancer research and legislation. There’s also a 1K Kids Fun Run. The route is from town hall to the beach and back, through a nice neighborhood. Click here for details or to sign up!

The Run starts at 9:15 sharp at Islip Town Hall (located at 655 Main Street in Islip) and everyone is invited! Print out the PDF located below to fill out the registration form for the run!

Miles Of Hope Registration Form in pdf format

Or click here to sign up online.

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. 

What to plant in the Summer for the Fall!

While summer is coming to an end, it doesn’t mean your gardening has to. There are many plants that should be planted now to insure they grow for the winter and fall season. Also many of the plants thrive better when exposed to the cold fall weather and frost. Some that benefit from the frost include Brussel Sprouts, Chinese Cabbage, Kale and even Turnips. But what do I mean by frost you ask? Frost is generally a light coating of ice that occurs overnight and is split into three categories of intensity. Light freeze is anywhere between temperatures 28 and 31 degrees, Moderate freeze happens between 24 and 28 degrees, and Severe freeze which occurs below 24 degrees. All of the previous plants noted should be harvested before the first frost. On Long Island, our first frost typically happens around October 15th. Here is a list of plants that can be seeded now, for a harvest in the upcoming seasons.

  • Beets (sow one-half to 1-inch deep and 1-inch apart in rows 12-18 inches apart)
  • Cabbage (sow one-half to 3/4-inch deep and 3-inches apart. Harvest when heads first feel solid)
  • Kale (sow one-quarter to one-half inch deep and 1-inch apart in rows 24 inches apart. Harvest when leaves reach full size)
  • Lettuce (sow directly into the garden one-eighth inch deep and 1-inch apart in rows 12 inches apart. Head lettuces should be harvested when head feels firm but before it bolts)
  • Radishes (sow directly into the garden one-half inch deep and 1-inch apart in rows 12 inches apart. Harvest before the ground freezes)
  • Spinach (sow one-half to 1-inch deep and 3-inches apart. Harvest when full sized or a few leaves as necessary)
  • Swiss Chard (sow 1-inch deep and 4-inches apart in rows 18-24 inches apart. Harvest by removing the outer leaves as needed)

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.

New Bulbs Coming Soon!

We recently just ordered a bunch of new bulbs for the fall and spring season! Some were bought as an anniversary gift to ourselves! For Bob’s koi pond, we purchased 3 water lilies, 1 water lettuce and 1 water hyacinth. The water lilies were bottom of the barrel bulbs, so we are not entirely sure what color they will turn out to be– I think they may turn out to be yellow. For the front garden, we bought 3 French Lavender Grosso. These Lavenders are much bigger than the English variety of Hidcote we usually plant. I am so excited for these to grow. We also purchased 25 Anemone Blanda Blue Star, 175 Crocus Speciosus, 25 Iris Reticulata, 100 Species Crocus Mix and 50 Species Crocus Romance (Chrysanthus.) All the colors are going to be beautiful, and I cannot wait for the fall and spring to see them bloom!

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.