Gardening

A peek into the closed garden along Terryville Road, currently covered in weeds. Photo by Kyle Barr

Overgrown with weeds, the lone park on Terryville Road in Port Jefferson Station looks forsaken. Where students once grew plants for harvest, now the only thing cultivated there are weeds.

A peek into the closed garden along Terryville Road, currently covered in weeds. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though that could change, if local civic leaders manage to get the community involved.

“One day, I said to myself, maybe we can get this going again,” Sal Pitti, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association said.

The community garden, as it’s known, is owned by the Comsewogue school district, though it has been unused for years, according to Pitti.

The civic has asked community members for aid in repairing the garden, located just north of St. Gerard Majella Church on the other side of the street. The garden already contains an existing greenhouse, planter boxes, a gazebo and shed, though they have been unused for several years.

Susan Casali, associate superintendent at Comsewogue, said the property had been taken care of in the past by the Comsewogue Youth Center for years, but suddenly ceased operations several years ago. She added the district is looking forward to having the community revitalize the small patch of greenery along Terryville Road.

“The school district is very excited to have the community revitalize the garden and we have spoken to Sal and Ed about what we can do to help make the project a success and beautify the community,” she said.

Pitti and the civic are looking for a rotating cast of aid, with the civic president saying he did not wish for “the same five people to be doing the work every two weeks.”

The garden has been mowed enough to keep the grass from getting too long, but vines currently strangle the garden’s surrounding fence. On the inside, the greenhouse stands intact along with flower boxes, but those have similarly been surrounded by weeds.

Ed Garboski, the vice president of the civic, posted to the Comsewogue Community Group Facebook page asking if any community members would be interested in volunteering. Jennifer Dzvonar, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, said she would look into ways her group could help, while Rob DeStefano, school district board member, said he would look into getting Cub Scout Pack 354 families involved in aiding the project. Other community members mentioned getting local Girl Scout troops on board as well.

While Garboski expects they will gather enough interest and volunteers for the initial cleanup, what they truly require is people dedicated to weekly maintenance.

“Our future hope is to create a location our kids can use for school-related activities of all capacities, as well as a place our senior community members may relax,” Garboski said.

Once the project is up and running, Pitti said they could potentially donate the food they produce to local churches for soup kitchens or other such outreach programs.

Those who are interested in assisting in the project can visit the civic’s website at www.PJSTCA.org and send an email with one’s information and availability.

Stacy Colamussi creates her own impressive fertilizer from kitchen scraps with the aid of red wigglers. Photos from Stacy Colamussi and the Town of Huntington

On a sunny Wednesday morning in June, Town of Huntington Deputy Clerk Stacy Colamussi presented her vermicomposting “worm fertilizer” demonstration to over 60 residents at the town’s Senior Center.

Stacy Colamussi creates her own impressive fertilizer from kitchen scraps with the aid of red wigglers. Photos from Stacy Colamussi and the Town of Huntington

As an avid gardener, Colamussi has always composted, but over the past several years she has started vermicomposting: raising special composting worms that eat all her kitchen scraps, newspapers and junk mail. Colamussi then uses their waste, or castings, to fertilize and protect her plants.

“Worm fertilizer is a great way to go green – imagine if everyone practiced vermicomposting,” Colamussi, who wholeheartedly attests to the process and its success, and has now devoted her time to educating others on its benefits, seeking to make everyone’s backyard a little greener. “We can dramatically reduce waste sent to waste management facilities, while reaping the benefits of vigorous and healthy flowers, plants, shrubs and lawns, not to mention vegetables! Worm castings can be used on anything, not only in the garden.”

During her presentation, Colamussi demonstrated the vermicomposting process, explained how to get started and answered various questions about using worm castings in the garden before giving away bags of her homemade worm fertilizer as souvenirs for attendees.

Upon receiving an interested and enthusiastic response from those present, Colamussi announced she would be presenting her vermicomposting demonstration at several local libraries during the summer and fall.

For gardeners eager to immediately launch their own vermicomposting project, Colamussi explains the process:  

To begin, you should weigh your food scraps for one week to see how many pounds of scraps you accumulate. Then, buy the number of worms you need to consume your scraps. One pound of worms, which is about 1,000 of them, will eat ½ to 1 pound per day. You can buy red wiggler (Eisenia fetida) worms online.

The bin 

You can make a homemade bin or buy a commercial one in which to keep worms. It’s very simple. I started with a homemade bin, using two Can-O-Worms and a Worm Factory that a friend gave me. I have now migrated to commercial bins. I actually have three. They can be kept inside or outside, but temperatures have to be 55 to 80 degrees year-round. Therefore, I keep mine in the house. There are many YouTube videos and articles online to show you how to make a bin.

Setup 

To set it up you need bedding. Shredded cardboard and /or paper is what I use. No plastic or glossy mail. For the initial setup, soak the cardboard and paper and wring it out so that it’s like a wrung-out sponge in terms of moisture. Place the bedding in the bin and add the worms. Leave them for a few days so that they can acclimate. Then, add a small amount of chopped up food. Check in a few days to see if they finished it. Start out with small amounts and don’t add anymore until its mostly gone. Over a few weeks, you’ll learn how much to give them. I rotated spots where I deposited the scraps for about a year, for example: top left, then top right, then bottom left and then bottom right. Each time I feed them, I add some dry shredded paper to absorb moisture from the food. It will take three to six months in the beginning to get a good amount of castings (aka: poop). Now I harvest castings weekly. Castings are miracle food for plants!

“Worm fertilizer is a great way to go green – imagine if everyone practiced vermicomposting.”

— Stacy Colamussi

Currently, I feed the worms once a week. I keep a Ziploc bag in the freezer and every day I just throw my scraps (banana peels, avocado skins, pineapple, asparagus, pepper scraps, etc.) in the bags. At the end of the week, I defrost the scraps and chop them up and give it to the worms. No citrus, onions, garlic or hot peppers. Other than that, anything you would normally compost you can give the worms. Coffee grounds, eggshells and so forth. You don’t have to chop the scraps, but it will take much longer for them to eat if you don’t. I put mine in the food processor, because I want tons of castings all the time.

The garden 

I have raised beds and practice square-foot gardening. My soil is ⅓ castings, ⅓ peat moss and ⅓ vermiculite. I brew worm tea weekly and apply as a fertilizer and pesticide. I also side dress my plants, vegetables and flowers every couple of weeks with the castings. I have been gardening for 40 years and have learned new things every single year. I am now completely organic, and I stopped all chemical fertilizers and pesticides. So far, the castings seem to be providing the soil amendment I need, and the plants are super healthy and growing vigorously. The use of worm castings is supposed to increase yield by 20 to 25 percent. I am seeing that this year. I grew zucchini and cucumber plants from seed one month ago. At three weeks, 5-inch high plants had six to eight flowers on each. I’ve not experienced anything like that in the past!

Worm castings are GOLD and you get to save the environment!

By Donna Deedy

donna@tbrnewsmedia.com

“It’s more than a pretty garden,” said Chris Clapp, a marine scientist for The Nature Conservancy. “It’s a biological process that relies on plants, wood chips and microbes to remove nitrogen in wastewater before it flows back into the environment.”

On June 24, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) joined Clapp with a conglomerate of representatives from both government and the private sector at The Nature Conservancy’s Upland Farms Sanctuary in Cold Spring Harbor to unveil a state-of-the-art method for reducing and eliminating nitrogen from wastewater. 

The county expects the new system to be a replacement for cesspools and septic systems, which are blamed for the seeping of nitrogen into Long Island waterways, causing red tides, dead zones and closed beaches.

County Executive Steve Bellone and Nancy Kelley of The Nature Conservancy plant the new garden at Upland Farms.

The issue is a serious concern, Bellone said, as he introduced the county’s Deputy Executive Peter Scully, who is spearheading the county’s Reclaim Our Water Initiative and serves as the Suffolk’s water czar. “Anytime a government appoints a water czar, you know you have problems to address.”

Scully, formerly the director for the Long Island region of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, said six other septic alternatives are currently approved.    

Long Island is reportedly one of the most densely populated locations in the country without adequate wastewater treatment. Currently, there are 360,000 antiquated cesspools and septic systems. The county expects to set nitrogen reduction targets for watershed areas where replacement holds the most benefit. 

The technique, called a vegetated circulating gravel system, is composed of an underground network that essentially connects the drains and toilets of a home or office to plant life and microbial action. It works in two stages to denitrify the wastewater. The first phase discharges wastewater into an underground gravel bed covered with a surprisingly small garden of native plants that takes up nitrogen through its roots. The water is then circulated into an underground box of wood chips that convert the remaining nitrogen into gas, before it’s circulated back to the gravel bed. Once the water is denitrified, it’s dispersed through a buried leaching field. 

The county partnered with the Nature Conservancy to develop and implement the system for its Upland Farms Sanctuary. The sanctuary is located a half-mile from Cold Spring Harbor, where water quality has worsened during the last 12 years to the point where the state is officially proposing to designate it an impaired water body. 

“The Conservancy is proud to stand alongside the county and our partners to celebrate this exciting new system that taps into the power of nature to combat the nitrogen crisis, putting us on a path to cleaner water,” said Nancy Kelley, Long Island chapter director for The Nature Conservancy.  

During the experimental phase the system reduced by half the amount of nitrogen discharged from wastewater. A similar technique has been effective at removing up to 90% in other parts of the country. The system’s designers at Stony Brook University’s Center for Clean Water Technology aim to completely remove nitrogen from discharges.  The Upland Farms offices and meeting hall system, which encompasses 156 square feet,  serves the equivalent of two to three homes. 

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said that denitrification efforts work. The Centerport Yacht Club’s beach was closed for seven years due to water quality issues and reopened in 2015 after the Northport sewer plant upgraded to a denitrification system. Improvements to the harbor storm drain discharges, and a public lawn care campaign about curbing the use of fertilizers, also reportedly helped. 

The county has reached a critical juncture and beginning July 1, its new sanitary code for septic systems takes effect, which permits only denitrifying technology.

Justin Jobin, who works on environmental projects with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, said that he expects to gain approval for a pilot program to accelerate the vegetated circulating gravel system’s public introduction, which could be approved as soon as this summer.  The design can be modified, its developers said, to serve single homes or large businesses. In addition to removing nitrogen, the system can also naturally filter out pharmaceuticals and personal care products.  Its impacts on 1,4-dioxane are being studied. 

Visit www.ReclaimOurWater.info for additional information. 

Photos by Donna Deedy

An allium blooms in the mansion terrace garden.
Transformed gardens on view through September

Fourteen local nurseries and garden designers are taking part in the Vanderbilt Museum’s second annual Gardeners Showcase this year. Redesigning and transforming garden areas, planting new perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees and enhancing the beauty and ambiance of William K. Vanderbilt II’s historic Eagle’s Nest mansion and estate, home of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum were all part of this year’s design plan.

The beautiful results were unveiled on June 1. The showcase runs through Sunday, Sept. 29. 

“I am grateful for the enthusiastic response from the landscaping and gardening community to volunteer their talents to beautify this historic estate,” said Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt.

A view of this year’s sensory garden by the planetarium

“These floral artisans, as well as our own veteran corps of accomplished volunteer gardeners, have invested their time, labor and resources. Their enhancements will be enjoyed by more than 30,000 visitors this summer. We hope to continue this collaboration for many years,” he added.

 Participating designers, identified by signage at showcase sites, are Carlstrom Landscapes Inc.; Centerport Garden Club; de Groot Designs Inc.; Dina Yando Landscape & Garden Design; Gro-Girl Horticultural Therapy; Haven on Earth Garden Design; Landscapes by Bob Dohne Inc.; Marguerite Kohler Designs; Mossy Pine Garden & Landscape Design; Pal-O-Mine Equestrian J-STEP Program; The Compleat Garden; Trimarchi Landscaping & Design; and Vanderbilt Volunteer Gardeners.

Visitors to the showcase pay only general admission to the museum which is $8 adults, $7 students and seniors, and $5 children 12 and under.  There is no additional fee to see the gardens.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. Hours are Saturdays, Sundays and Tuesdays from noon to 4 p.m. until June 23, and open daily from June 24 to Sept. 2 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Photos courtesy of Vanderbilt Museum

On Saturday, June 29, three private gardens in Mount Sinai and Old Field will be open to the public for tours through the Garden Conservancy Open Days program. Admission is $10 at each garden; children 12 and under are free. The gardens include: 

The Stasiewicz Garden, 44 Jesse Way, Mount Sinai (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) is filled with a myriad of shrubs, perennials and annuals to soothe the soul and also attract a wide variety of colorful birds. Each year the garden takes on new facets of color combinations and lawn art. Come walk the footpaths or just relax and take in the sights, sounds and scents of nature.

Tranquility, 42 Jesse Way, Mount Sinai (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) features hundreds of perennials, shrubs, trees and annuals that are combined with water features, lawn art and recently relocated garden trails that allow the visitor to enter the owner’s vision of an Impressionistic garden painting. Footpaths wind through the extensive garden, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of nature and escape the general stress of modern lifestyles.

Two Grey Achers, 88 Old Field Road, Old Field (noon to 4 p.m.) was designed by its owners to provide beauty and interest in every season. Adjacent to Conscience Bay on Long Island’s North Shore, the garden features a remarkable collection of choice conifers, rhododendrons, azaleas, Japanese maples and other companions amassed over three decades that creates a year-round tapestry of color, texture and form. Come, enjoy and find specific ideas for stunning, hardworking woody plants to add to your own garden. Garden Extra: Join garden host Bruce Feller for a tour and discussion focusing on Japanese maples at 2 p.m. 

Call 845-424-6500 or visit www.gardenconservancy.org/open-days for more info.

The Rocky Point Civic Association will host the 7th annual Rocky Point Garden Tour on Saturday, June 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The self-guided tour of 10 gardens will be held rain or shine and includes admission to tour the historic Noah Hallock House and surrounding gardens on the same day.

Tickets, which are $15 adults, free for children under 12, may be purchased at Back to Basics, 632 Route 25A; Heritage Paint, 637 Route 25A; and Flowers on Broadway, 43 Broadway in Rocky Point through the day of the event. All proceeds will benefit the Rocky Point Civic Association and the Hallock House. Questions? Call 631-521-5726.

It’s time to garden!

Join the staff at Frank Melville Memorial Park, 1 Old Field Road, Setauket for a free gardening class at the Red Barn on Saturday, May 25 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Come share garden success stories and Master Gardener Haig Seferian will answer your questions. And, no one will go home empty-handed. For more info, call 631-689-6146.

Steven J. Crowley Memorial Park in Port Jefferson Station on Old Town Road is one of the parks affected by the new limitations. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Town of Brookhaven is looking to make cleaning up their parks a little quieter and a little more environmentally friendly.

At its May 2 meeting, the town board voted unanimously to establish “green parks” at various locations within the Town of Brookhaven. This mandates the town to only use electric-powered, handheld landscaping equipment when cleaning up the parks.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) was one of the main drivers for the bill, which would establish the ordinance in only small parks, including the Steven J. Crowley Memorial Park and Block Boulevard Park in Port Jefferson Station, and Sycamore Circle Park and Parson Drive Park in Stony Brook. The Democratic councilwoman said it is a case of both noise and pollution.

“Thirty minutes running a gas-powered leaf blower pollutes the same as a Ford Raptor truck running 3,900 miles. One leaf blower creates two to four pounds of particulate matter per hour,” Cartright said.

The changes have been limited to small-sized parks in the town, according to Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), because the batteries wear out if used constantly for the larger town-owned parks, though he said the town was looking to go beyond this pilot program in the direction of all electric handheld landscape equipment for more than town employees.

Cartright said she has been looking into more general legislation that would affect gas-powered leaf blowers within the entire town. She pointed to the town of North Hempstead, which passed a law in January this year banning the use of gas-powered leaf blowers from June 15 to Sept. 15. 

The councilwoman said she wants to bring landscaping associations and other advocacy groups to the table.

“I don’t want to do something that impacts the landscapers that’s negative,” Cartright said. “I do want to bring them to the table to talk about how we can be a little more environmentally friendly.”

The new ordinance requires a budget transfer of $10,000 for the new equipment, which mostly comes in the form of electric leaf blowers.

Other parks included are Miller Avenue Park in Shoreham, the Gary Adler Park in Centereach and the Pamela and Iroquois parks in Selden. All councilors on the board cosponsored the bill with parks from their individual areas.

Cartright said she receives constant notice from residents complaining about landscapers using loud equipment not just in town-owned parks, but at all times in the day on people’s property. 

“We have constituents calling every other day telling us they’re in violation of our noise code, and that we need to do something about it,” Cartright said. 

When it comes to choosing a landscaper, the Democratic councilwoman said there is no one person helping to show which landscapers try to use electric equipment.

“If I wanted to pick a landscaper that used only electric, we don’t know who that is,” she said.

Thousands of residents came out to enjoy the exhibits, including this one courtesy of Bloomin Haus Nursery, at last year’s Home & Garden Show. Photo courtesy of Town of Brookhaven

It’s back! The Town of Brookhaven will present its annual Home & Garden Show at the Holtsville Ecology Site, 249 Buckley Road, Holtsville on March 23 and 24 and March 30 and 31 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m..

The indoor event will feature dozens of vendor exhibits including landscaping, garden centers, stonework, garden structures, siding and windows, interior décor, gutters and more.

In addition, with paid admission, visitors can participate in free educational workshops and hands-on classes for children, as well as photos with the Easter Bunny. Classes and workshops are subject to change; a comprehensive schedule of seminars is available at www.brookhavenny.gov.

“The Home and Garden Show is an excellent opportunity for residents to support local businesses and reinvest in our local economy, while getting some unique ideas from our vendors’ displays,” said Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Daniel P. Losquadro.

“From building outdoor fireplaces and getting more creative with landscaping design to replacing fencing and walkways or even going solar, the Home & Garden Show features innovative ways to enhance your home, garden and property this spring,”  he added.

The cost of admission is $6 for adults; children 16 and under are free. Discounted tickets are available for prepurchase at www.brookhavenny.gov. Parking is free, as is the opportunity to visit with the Easter Bunny and walk through the animal preserve, which is home to more than 100 injured or nonreleasable wild and farm animals. In addition, each day attendees will have the opportunity to win services or merchandise raffled off by vendors.

For further information, contact the Ecology Site at 631-758-9664.

Interested in growing your own vegetables but have limited space at home? The Mount Sinai Garden Club has a number of community garden plots available at Heritage Park, 633 Mount Sinai-Coram Road in Mount Sinai this year. Each 4-foot by 8-foot plot, located behind the Heritage Center, is available for $25. Water is available. For more info, call Walter at 631-331-0689.