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Summer Days in Greenpoint

Summer Days in Greenpoint

This summer, the Hort’s education team developed and led the Young Naturalists Program at McGolrick Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The program was free and open to the public throughout July and August. Students, mostly two to twelve years old, joined our educators for nature-themed classes. Additionally, as an ongoing project, students beautified a park corner – opposite PS 110 – where they and their parents cleared leaf litter, pulled weeds, fertilized the soil, added compost, and planted native perennials to attract pollinators to the park.

Each session encouraged the Naturalists to explore their park with curiosity and a keen eye. Tuesday’s Critter Club brought up-close inspections of ladybugs, worms, crickets, and ants. Wednesday’s Art in the Park displayed students’ inner Van Gogh through print making, water colors, collages, and rubbings. On Thursday’s, everyone grabbed binoculars for a special Park Exploration. Botany and Story Time on Friday’s were a huge hit as students explored the inner workings of plants. The Saturday Family Fun gave young naturalists the opportunity to plant and grow something at home!

By the end of the summer, the Naturalists located and identified red-wing blackbirds, monarch butterflies, sycamore tussock moth caterpillars, and countless other critters and animals who call McGolrick Park home. Plus, as a special treat, on the last day of the program students had the special opportunity to meet Crooks the Chicken!

The Young Naturalists Program is part of The Hort’s McGolrick Park restoration which includes improvements to the dog run, reseeding the lawn, and restoring garden beds. This project is in collaboration with the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn and the McGolrick Park Neighborhood Alliance, and funded by the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF). The GCEF is a joint program of the Office of the New York State Attorney General and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

For a Refreshing Summer, Grow a Smoothie Garden

For a Refreshing Summer, Grow a Smoothie Garden

 

As you walk through New York City, it is hard not to find a store that offers green juices, kale shakes, and fruit smoothies. The health benefits of certain smoothies and juices, particularly green ones, are well-documented and common knowledge. Not only do these nutrient packed cups provide a condensed supply of our daily fruits and vegetables, which can be difficult to get amidst modern living, but they also tend to be quite delicious. At The Hort, we think it’s a great idea to fuse this healthy ‘fast food’ with your horticultural skills to cultivate your very own smoothie garden. Making your own smoothies can be a great way to save money, reduce plastic use, and increase your vitamin intake.

There are many options for what to grow in your smoothie garden. Green vegetables are important main components of any smoothie as they provide energy, stress relief, vitamins, and antioxidants in abundance. Nutrient dense fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries add essential vitamins and sweetness.

When planning your garden this spring, keep these vegetables and fruits in mind for delicious, healthy smoothies:

Vegetables

Celery is a surprisingly healthy vegetable but, fair warning, a bit difficult to grow. It requires copious watering, fertilizer and compost; however, the homegrown stuff tastes unlike anything at the grocery. Not only is celery loaded with anitoxidants, vitamin K, vitamin C, and potassium, but it also can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Did you know one serving of Broccoli offers roughly 10% of your daily value of protein? It is also chock-full of calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin A.

Carrots, being a semi-sweet vegetable, bring a unique flavor and an immunity boost to juices. Studies have shown that eating carrots greatly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Radish will add a nice spicy bite to your drink, the kind we often get from Ginger. The bright red vegetable is loaded with vitamin C, aids digestions, and known to help prevent viral infections. Don’t forget to add the folic acid-rich radish leaves too!

Fennel is another fantastic taste booster and as a cousin of celery; it has terrific health benefits. Fennel is a digestive aid, skin brightener, and brings a full stalk of antioxidants.

Fruit

Blueberries, America’s second favorite berry, comes with some surprising health benefits. Research has shown that these delicious orbs can benefit the nervous system and improve memory.

Far and away the most popular berry, Strawberries provide many antioxidants and plant compounds, vitamin C and manganese.

Raspberries have been known to increase metabolism in fat cells and help with the digestive process.

Smoothie gardens can be planted in the ground, in pots, or in raised beds — essentially anywhere as long as they are properly cared for and given ample room to grow. Various flower and herbs, such as mint and basil, can be arranged among the rows and the corners for a special smoothie twist. The flowers serve an important function by attracting pollinators to the plants.

So get out that sturdy blender and turn those extra veggies or your new garden into a yummy and fresh summer treat. For a great, delicious smoothie, try this simple formula: 

2 cups leafy greens or vegetables

2 cups liquid base

3 cups ripe fruit

Try freezing your fruit for a chilled, and frosty consistency. Add a 1/4 cup fresh mint for a unique flavor too!

 

 

Maspeth Step-Street Receives a Make-Over

Maspeth Step-Street Receives a Make-Over

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A Maspeth step-street received the GreenTeam treatment in the form of 100 trash bags hauled, 450 cubic feet of mulch laid, and 800 annuals planted.

IMG_3300The time has flown by for the Hort’s GreenTeam. Winter means they are hard at work planting bulbs, raking leaves into big fluffy piles, cutting back perennials, and removing vegetable crops from various gardens in Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. The winter plant list is well underway, too: chrysanthemums, snap dragons, pansies, and ornamental cabbages and kales are introduced to thirteen public plazas throughout the city. All this work means GreenTeam interns can reflect on the full cycle of garden and plaza maintenance.

 

One project that excited the GreenTeam was the rejuvenation of the 53rd Avenue step-street in Maspeth, Queens. Sponsored and supported by Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, the first woman to represent the 30th Council District, The Hort beautified the grounds adjacent to the neglected staircase in preparation for its official re-naming ceremony.

Before the clean-up
Before the clean-up

The staircase was quite derelict and required a full day to clean and prepare. Rubble, trash, weeds, fallen leaves, and dead branches were so plentiful that the ten-man work crew filled over 100 trashbags! Once the area was clear of foreign and decaying objects, the degraded hillside and rocky soil was turned over with fresh compost – essential preparation for the hundreds of plants that were coming the next day.

IMG_3289Bright and early on election day, Van Houten Farms delivered over 800 annuals – a huge shock for the gardening crew! The Hort’s work van was also full with nine types of native shrubs, the beautiful and versatile Orange Bush Honeysuckles (Diervilla Kodiak) and Red Twig Dog Woods (cornus stolonifera) among them. The team worked right up until dark to plant as many mums, ornamental kales, and snapdragons as they could.

The next morning, the GreenTeam had to make quick work of the mums because there were over 200 bags of mulch on its way. Luckily, student volunteers from Maspeth high school arrived unannounced to help with the project. Their spirit and youthful energy (vital for carrying many bags of mulch) helped finish the project strong.

The Hort is honored to play a role in beautifying our city, especially in under-resourced neighborhoods. As one passerby noted, “Our little staircase looks like Manhattan now!” We are also so happy to work with dedicated council members like Elizabeth Crowley. Thanks to her, her team, and Maspeth High School, “Easter Rising Way” has been transformed into an important remembrance of Irish and American history.

Reflections from Rikers Island GreenHouse

Reflections from Rikers Island GreenHouse

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Many of our students, particularly those who are incarcerated on serious charges, are defined by the public, and sometimes their own families, by their crimes. The GreenHouse staff is dedicated to connecting with the individual, looking past their stories and viewing them as gardeners. Efforts would not be successful without interns that not only offer a helping hand but an open heart and a patient smile. The following are reflections from our interns about the GreenHouse and the transformative power of nature.

Kathryn Berg

“Some of the tangible therHort_Rikers_lcmorris_2012-45apeutic benefits of horticulture therapy are well-known, such as fresh air, exercise, and stress-reduction.  In my experience, it also improves self-esteem, mental focus, and cooperation. The most profound benefit I’ve witnessed at the GreenHouse: a connection with nature, with the cycle of life, produces a regenerative effect.

The interactions between plant and humans are at times almost astounding.  We work with one young man who is charged with murder for strangling a fellow patient while he was committed to a mental institution. Early on, he said that he felt that there was no hope for him because he had “gone too far to the dark side.” The longer he is with us, the more he opens up.  He has a sweet disposition and now he allows himself to smile, laugh, and joke with fellow students. Recently, he made a poster of the seeds he selected to plant and wrote next to one picture: “I want to hug this flower.” I highlight him because I think his transformation captures the magic of horticulture therapy.  Prior to working at the GreenHouse, I had no idea of the spiritual ramifications of gardening.  The longer I’m there, the more I’m convinced of a sacred connection between plants and humans.

Working one-on-one with us, our students are able 6to share concerns, hopes, sorrows, hurt, and joy. We are not in a rush, and nature reminds us to practice deep listening. We share stories and we laugh; sometimes we cry. Part of deep listening in the Greenhouse is to listen not just to what is spoken, but to what is silent. The inmates at Rikers don’t choose to be together, almost never get to be alone, and rarely experience any quiet.  The young men complain that their dorm is extremely loud and that they never get uninterrupted sleep.  With us, they are slow to speak. In gardening, we allow for silence as we work, so that they have room to share. While we do not eliminate the suffering of incarceration, we make it easier to bear.”


Hillary “Scout” Exter

“Spending time at the GreenHouse is an extraordinary experience on so many levels—the contrast between being “outside” and “inside” takes on a new meaning. The garden is a wild place — no manicured lawns here —but it’s also a very peaceful one.  It is a feast for the senses in an otherwise bleak and stark place: the colors, textures, fragrances of the garden, the sounds of birds, the taste of the food we have grown, the sun and breezes and drizzles always delight me.

LTV_2016_lcmorris-5I love seeing each gardener find his or her special places within the garden. Whether it’s the rose wheel, pond, flock of guinea hens, raised bed vegetables, melon patch, vines dripping down on the pergola’s, students always take ownership of a particular area or task.  There are so many lessons to learn and to grow from. Students experience how to work as a team and follow instructions — and the consequences of not (e.g. a seed too deep won’t germinate). Together they foster patience, like waiting for guinea hen eggs to hatch, and the importance of proper care. They recognize their actions or inactions, such as watering plants to foster growth, enabling them to see their work through the season – taking joy in the cycles of life.

I have come to the GreenHouse as a beginner gardener and I have learned so much from working with Hilda, Sarah, Deb, my fellow interns, and the gardener’s who are incarcerated.  With sleeves rolled up, hands in the dirt, beads of sweat visible on our brows, we are all immersed in a common endeavor—the science and miracle of observing and helping things grow.”


Hannah Immerman

“There are numerous spots in the Greenhouse garden where you can look up and all around you and forget, if only for a second, that you are on Rikers Island. It can be restorative and rejuvenating to embrace those small moments and then focus on the task at hand.

5In the Greenhouse garden, inmates and interns are students, gardeners, landscapers, chefs and teachers. We learn how to prune roses and how to delicately water seedlings. We learn that weeding really can be relaxing. We learn when to talk and when to listen and that often, just being in the space together and working toward a common goal is enough. We learn that ladybugs flap their wings 85 times per second. We learn about the types of melon. We learn so much, so we can know ourselves.

Circling the rose wheel, climbing into the guinea hen coop, getting lost in the melon patch or weaving your way through raised beds filled with vegetables, herbs, and fruit, everywhere you turn there is proof that someone’s curiosity and care has made it all possible.”

 

Summer Success Stories: Parkside Plaza

Summer Success Stories: Parkside Plaza

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The Hort is dedicated to sustaining a robust network of neighborhood plaza managers to maintain clean, safe and vibrant public spaces across New York City while promoting the economic, social, environmental, and quality of life benefits of neighborhood plazas to New York’s civic, business, and philanthropic communities; the media; and elected officials.

Parkside Plaza, a cozy Prospect-Lefferts Garden corner on Ocean and Parkside Avenues, has drastically transformed over the past two years. The renewal is rooted in The Hort’s vision for each space: a beautiful, functional, and publicly managed green space where the community can relax and engage with one another. More broadly: a great spot to sit.

2picThis summer, the growth and transformation of the previously derelict, forgotten patch of concrete continued. The all-volunteer plaza management group, The Parkside Committee, hosted three major events or “plaza activations”: a celebration of the Plaza’s 1-year anniversary, an African Drumming & Dance festival, and a Community Resource Fair, which highlighted housing information, pre-K offerings, and voter registration. Thousands of people participated in each event, while hundreds more flocked to the newly founded Sunday farmer’s market.

At the Hort, we know that big events are only part of the equation for a successful plaza. We know that it is day-in, day-out maintenance that brings lasting change to a neighborhood and over time creates a true asset. A clean, well-maintained plaza sends an unmistakable message that investment is happening. For Parkside, that investment is the time, money, and sweat equity from the community stewards.
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To make the volunteer investment sustainable and worthwhile, the GreenTeam and the Association of Community Employment (ACE) arrive every morning to unlock and arrange tables and chairs, raise the umbrellas, and remove litter — reversing those tasks each evening. The work crews also plant season-specific flowers, bringing new, lush color to the Q-Train “greyscape”. The positive response has led the scope of the project to expand as the Parkside Committee guided the renewal of half a dozen tree pits on the nearby streets.

Parkside Plaza has been one of the many successes from New York’s Plaza Program. Our hope is that everyone is able to visit a plaza, engage in with the community, pull up a chair, and relax. Or as Ike Rosen, a Prospect-Lefferts Garden resident, stated on the Parkside Plaza Facebook page, “I’ve never been to the farmers market, but as a mobility-challenged resident of the neighborhood, I appreciate the seating area available when out shopping.”

Learn more about the Hort’s GreenTeam and Neighborhood Plaza Partnership at www.thehort.org

Also, learn more about our great partners, Parkside Plaza Committee and the Association of Community Employment (ACE).

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Q&A with the Hort’s GreenTeam – Surviving the Summer Heat!

Q&A with the Hort’s GreenTeam – Surviving the Summer Heat!

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In a Summer of sweltering heat and thick, humid air, you would be forgiven for wanting to be inside. But not the GreenTeam: they have sweat, hauled, and planted their way through the heatwave. Despite this, they always keep their chin up and smile on their face. How could they not enjoy themselves when the progression of each planted tree and blossomed flower highlights a (so far) successful season?

To learn a bit more about what makes the GreenTeam tick through the summer season, Sam Lewis, GreenTeam Manager, answers a few questions.
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Q: What’s the toughest part of the summer?

Sam: As you may know, plants don’t slow down like us in the mid-summer sun, meaning early mornings and late evenings. It’s not uncommon for staff and interns to tend gardens at supportive housing facilities, provide maintenance at public plazas, and clean up community parks every day. Oh, and also the heat, did I mention the heat?

Q: Do you know which task the GreenTeam participants like to do the most?

Sam: If you ask me, it’s probably harvesting, weeding, planting, deadheading, pruning, and mulching. You know, all of it! The rest of the guys would probably say “break-time”. I’m kidding, they all love seeing their work grow through the summer and then are surprised at how much pruning and care each plant takes.

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Q: Is there any project the GreenTeam is especially excited about?

Sam: We have a lot of cool projects, but the community farm and flower garden at the CAMBA Gardens Facility (Wingate, Brooklyn) has everyone buzzing. It’s a building with over 200 units of affordable housing and is also home to families and individuals with special needs. Our interns are really attached to this location because the project began from ground zero: testing soil for dangerous metals, amending poor soil, and taking out old dead wood. In the spring, residents mapped out their vision for the garden and helped the team lay the foundation. Now the produce list includes: tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers, eggplant, okra, basil, tomatillos, corn, beans, herbs, and berries. The designated flower section highlights zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, snapdragons, gomphrena, marigolds, bachelor buttons, and statice. I know that was long-winded, but it’s a truly impressive place.

Q: How does the community respond to such a transformation at CAMBA Gardens?

Sam: Everyone has been really responsive, especially leaders inside CAMBA. The junior board visited the garden for a volunteer workday and were in awe of the progress made. Volunteers made plant ID signs, helped weed beds, and composted a little too. After being in the garden for half of the day, everyone recognized how essential it was to the entire housing complex.

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Q: What will happen to the garden in the fall and the winter?

Sam: Have no fear! In October residents will plant cover crops, garlic and tulips to maintain the soil quality. Also, throughout the fall and winter, the team will offer instructional workshops like how to make basil pesto, create flower arrangements, and when to start seeds for the spring. We love working with CAMBA and are looking forward to next summer already.

Q: Any words of advice for fellow summer gardeners?

Sam: Enjoy your harvest! You know as well as I do that it takes a lot of work to maintain plants, but there is nothing better than picking a bunch of your own tomatoes for a delicious summer salsa.