Gardening

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.

CENTERPORT: The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum will host its second annual Gardeners Showcase, The Gardens of Eagle’s Nest, during spring and summer 2019. The museum invites local nurseries and garden designers to show off their skills and creativity in one of the gardens that grace the 43-acre waterfront estate, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Spots are still open for several showcases and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. In return for their effort and contribution, participants will receive signage that identifies their business at each garden showcase site; recognition on the Vanderbilt website and publicity on its social-media platforms; publicity through news releases sent to regional media; and a one-year Associate Membership to the Vanderbilt Museum.

To secure a spot in this year’s Gardeners Showcase, or to obtain more information, please contact Jim Munson, the Vanderbilt Museum’s operations supervisor, at 631-379-2237 or at jim@vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Photos from Vanderbilt Museum

Volunteers, above, plant lettuce at Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in the spring. Photo by Heidi Sutton

More educational programs are coming to the last farm in Centereach thanks to a county grant.

Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) sponsored a resolution to amend the 2018 operating budget and transfer funds to Sachem Teen Center, Suffolk County Police Athletic League and Bethel Hobbs Community Farm. The transfer resulted in a $29,616 grant for the farm, which donates 90 percent of its vegetables to area food pantries.

Vice President Ann Pellegrino by one of the farm’s raised gardens. File photo

Vice President Ann Pellegrino said Muratore has been one of the farm’s biggest supporters for years, and to thank him, he will receive a plaque at Bethel Hobbs Community Farm’s annual Fall Harvest Festival Oct. 6.

“He sees the good work that we’re doing over here, and he always likes to help us out,” she said. “And this year, he really pushed for a grant.”

Muratore said he loves the farm. A few years ago, he joined Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) in organizing Run the Farm, an annual four-mile race fundraiser.

“I think it’s a wonderful, wonderful asset that we have in the district and in the county,” the legislator said. “Ann Pellegrino does so much with that place and with the children, and people get to buy fruits and vegetables there that are homegrown. It’s really a big plus for the community.”

Muratore said his fellow county legislators voted unanimously for the grant.

He said it’s up to Pellegrino what she does with the funds. The farm’s vice president said she plans to use the money to enhance the educational programs it offers for students with things like farm tours and making salads with them. In the future, she said she would love to build an indoor classroom so when it’s cold or raining outside, programs can be held indoors. She said it’s the first time they received a significant amount of money. “We’ve never had that, never,” Pellegrino said. “We’re always scrounging for pennies. There is so much we can do with that.”

Pellegrino invites the community to the farm’s 10th annual Fall Harvest Festival which will be held this Saturday, Oct. 6, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The afternoon will feature tractor rides, live music, face painting, pumpkins, a bounce house, games and contests, food, a visit from the “Science Guy,” a farm stand and much more. Admission to the festival is free with fees for certain activities.

Bethel Hobbs Community Farm is located at 178 Oxhead Road, Centereach. For more information, visit www.hobbsfarm.info.

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