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GreenTeam Tips for Starting Seeds

GreenTeam Tips for Starting Seeds

The Hort’s GreenTeam actively promotes the economic, social, environmental, and quality of life benefits of neighborhood plazas and green spaces. Through strategic partnerships, The GreenTeam provides vocational training in horticulture, transitional work, job search skills, and job placement, and aftercare services.

As February rolls around, the sun shines more, and a few 60-degree days pop in here and there, the GreenTeam ramps up its spring planning. In the 2017 season, our workforce will plant, clean, and maintain fifteen public plazas – three more than last year! Serving more public-plazas means planting more plants – and it just so happens that we love plants!

Luckily, to facilitate this large uptick in plantings, The Hort has great friends and partners at Van Houten Farms. Earlier this month, the GreenTeam met with the Van Houten Farms horticulturists to plot out a signature plant palette for the year. The goal is to have New Yorkers recognize the Hort’s public plazas just by looking at the plants!

The GreenTeam does not let Van Houten Farms do all of the growing – they do some too! When a box from Burpee arrived with a huge assortment of flower and vegetable seeds, it was as if Christmas came early (or late?) for our horticulturists. Many of these seeds will be used in supportive housing buildings, where the GreenTeam will teach residents how to grow vegetables and flowers.

However, with the last frost coming soon (about May 1st), it is just about time for all gardeners to start seeds indoors. Whether you are using small pots or seed starting flats, the GreenTeam would like to offer a few tips for seedlings. Follow their advice and watch your seeds grow!

  1. Make sure you clearly label the seeds you plant with the seed variety and planting date – it is easy to forget what you planted.
  2. Use a spray bottle to keep the soil moist at all times, seeds and young seedlings will not grow if the soil dries out.
  3. Keep your pots or trays next to a sunny window or under a grow light. If seedlings are not getting enough sun, they will start searching for light and become leggy.
  4. Make sure your seeds stay warm to encourage germination – most require temps around 72 degrees to germinate.
  5. Always follow the directions on the seed packets! Did you know that some seeds might not need to be covered with soil?

Does all this ‘green-thumbing’ make you a bit nervous? Worried about your limited space to grow or lack of sunlight? Don’t worry, you do not have to ‘seed start’ everything.  There are plenty of leafy greens and spring vegetables that can be planted directly in the ground after the last frost – think arugula, turnips, radishes, kale, and chard. Local farmer’s markets or nurseries are great resources and often have large selections of annuals that can be put right into the ground! But remember to always choose vigorous looking plants and make sure you are not buying anything you did not pay for, such as yellow leaves or aphids.

With enough hard work, care, and patience, you will have a lush and successful growing season! Who knows, you might even out-grow The GreenTeam.

 

Maspeth Step-Street Receives a Make-Over

Maspeth Step-Street Receives a Make-Over

Step-Street-after-web

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.