Recently, there was a cleanup/ beautification happening at Lake Ronkonkoma Beach. We were so excited to be a part of another project like this through Keep Islip Clean. There was many volunteers from the Lake Ronkonkoma Beautification Group and Nature’s Bounty. All the before pictures were taken on April 1st, and all the afters were taken on April 18th. From all the wind, there was so much sand blown up around the garden. A big thank you to all the volunteers that removed all the sand by hand. The volunteers that participated at this cleanup/ beautification also tended to another memorial garden area, and cleaned the rest of the Lake Ronkonkoma Beach! All of the flowers for this project came from Stables Nursery in North Babylon. Thanks Ken!
Project Bloom Garden Project
A children’s garden and pollinator garden created by Project Bloom volunteers will expand and thrive thanks to a recent $500 grant designed to support community “greenspace” development. Project Bloom, a community beautification program, was one of approximately 100 organizations across the U.S. chosen for the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company’s GRO1000 initiative encouraging garden builds. It is part of a broader initiative designed to create 1,000 gardens and greenspaces throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe for the Company’s 150th anniversary in 2018.
Keep Islip Clean (KIC) and the Islip Parks Department launched Project Bloom 23 years ago under the direction of volunteers from Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Program. Volunteers still meet each spring at the circa 1920 greenhouse on the grounds of Brookwood Hall in East Islip. Volunteer gardeners grow and supply about 30 local KIC volunteer groups with over 6,000 free plants that are used to beautify public spaces throughout the Town of Islip.
The GRO1000 grant will help expand a newly renovated community vegetable garden to include 100 square feet for a children’s “Victory Garden,” a new pumpkin/watermelon patch and a new berry bed with a bird bath. The flower beds surrounding the children’s garden have been filled with plants to attract pollinators.
In addition to the children’s garden, other improvements include replanting an existing meadow bed as a 200 square foot pollinator garden. Ultimately, these special plants will be distributed to Project Bloom groups with the goal of establishing 30 more pollinator gardens. Informational signs installed in the gardens will educate the public about the role these types of plants play in maintaining a healthy environment by supporting the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators.
The last several years have seen an ambitious expansion of Project Bloom under the stewardship of Master Gardener Kathy VanDyke and her husband, Bob. With their knowledgeable direction, scores of volunteers have donated many hours to create a new landscape for the benefit of the public.
“We were thrilled to receive the grant from Scotts to support our garden projects at Project Bloom,” said Kathy. “As a volunteer organization with very limited funding, this grant award will go a long way towards establishing new gardens and creating educational signs.”
The public is invited to visit the gardens located on the Brookwood Hall property at 50 Irish Lane, East Islip. For more information about volunteering, call Keep Islip Clean at 631-224-2627.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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!
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.
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.
This year on April 22nd, Keep Islip Clean (KIC) and Project Bloom Master Gardeners are hosting a cleanup at Brookwood Hall Park! Everyone is welcome, from Scout groups to local gardeners! It is from 9AM until 5PM, everyone should meet at Brookwood Hall on Irish Lane and Montauk Highway in East Islip. For more information call the Islip Arts Council at 631-224-5420 or KIC at 631-224-2627.