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Vegetables

Volunteers from National Grid worked to improve the community garden in Huntington Station on Wednesday, April 20. Photo from Wendy Ladd

Everything’s coming up roses in Huntington Station, thanks to volunteers who spent last Wednesday afternoon working on improvements to the Gateway Park Community Organic Garden.

In honor of Earth Day, more than 70 volunteers from energy company National Grid’s Power to Serve program worked to develop a drainage system, clean up debris and plant flowers.

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) thanked the volunteers for their efforts, including a new rain garden “that will make the garden more environmentally efficient and enjoyable for the many gardeners and children who attend the educational programs there.”

Many other local legislators were present at the scene, including Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D), State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) and Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport). Lupinacci also gave National Grid’s President Ken Daly a proclamation for the volunteer work.

The community garden on New York Avenue, at Lowndes Avenue, covers more than an acre and has 115 garden beds for families to grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables. Food grown there is also donated to local food pantries.

According to National Grid, flooding had been an issue in the garden, so the company worked with the town to develop a drainage plan to capture the runoff and prevent flooding in the raised planting beds. Volunteers hand-dug a 4,000-foot trench to install an underground drainage system and put down rocks to capture runoff and direct that water into the newly planted rain garden.

Rain gardens provide environmental benefits, as they capture and clean rainwater before it enters the groundwater system.

Volunteers also planted colorful moisture-tolerant plants, removed litter and weeded the garden.

The effort came “at a perfect time for Huntington Station, with two redevelopment projects underway and renewed community support for revitalization,” Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, a nonprofit geared toward smart growth, said in a statement. “Tangible improvements including a new rain garden were made from the National Grid volunteers and gave a lift to the garden and the Huntington Station community.”

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Tree hibiscus do well in a planter in full sun. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

 

Last week we took a look at some specific plants that can grow in small spaces. Since there are many options, we’ll take a look at a few more this week.

Tree hibiscus do well in a planter in full sun. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Tree hibiscus do well in a planter in full sun. Photo by Ellen Barcel

A wide variety of vegetables can be grown in pots or tubs including string beans, cucumbers (with a trellis) and squash. Remember to replant for a second crop when the plants cease bearing. String beans, for example, can continue to grow well into the fall.

Roses can also be grown in tubs (medium-sized plants) or window boxes (for tiny rose plants). Like herbs, roses need sun; so select a location for your pots, rock garden etc. that gets at least six hours of sun a day. Miniature roses come in a wide variety of colors: ‘Sun Sprinkles’ is a bright yellow, ‘Hot Tamale’ is a gorgeous mix of deep pink and yellow, ‘Cinnamon Girl’ is a burgundy and ‘Innocence’ is the palest shade of pink, almost white.

Remember to check your rose plants for thorns. If the one you select has a lot of them, make sure you locate it where someone won’t trip and hurt themselves. Miniature roses are prone to the same problems that medium and large rose bushes are, namely black spot (a fungal disease) and aphids. So, you need to take the same care that you would if growing a full-sized plant, that is, use a rose spray unless the variety you select specifically says disease resistant. Also, avoid watering the leaves — aim the hose at the soil. Keeping the leaves dry helps to prevent fungal diseases. If you have a deer problem, make sure that the rose bushes are planted where the deer can’t reach them.

Since roses prefer soil that is only slightly acidic (6.5) to neutral (7), growing roses in pots works well from the soil pH since most potting soil is closer to neutral. If you decide to plant your small roses in your garden soil, test it first. If it is very acidic, you need to add lime.

String beans do well in a planter in full sun. Photo by Ellen Barcel
String beans do well in a planter in full sun. Photo by Ellen Barcel

In addition to shrub roses, consider a tree rose — a wide variety of colors are available — which can be grown in a large tub. Tree hibiscus also does well in tubs.

If you have enough space on an open porch, deck or patio, you can grow dwarf evergreen trees. Dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea clauca) is a sturdy evergreen that grows well in USDA hardiness zones 2 through 8. This dense, slow growing tree prefers full sun and because of its small size fits into small spaces as well as large tubs. Putting a pair on either side of an entrance way gives a formal appearance. You can even decorate with small Christmas lights and ornaments come the holidays. It can be pruned into a topiary if you wish. While the tree can reach 10 feet tall, it’s such a slow grower that it will not usually be a problem for 25 to 30 years.

Squash plants do well in a planter in full sun. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Squash plants do well in a planter in full sun. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Dwarf deciduous trees grow well in tubs. Dwarf fruit trees provide flowers in the spring and fruit in summer or fall. ‘Juliet Dwarf Cherry,’ for example, grows just five to eight feet tall, is self-pollinating and does well in USDA hardiness zones 2 through 7 (Long Island is zone 7). Because of their small size, it’s easy to prune them and easy to put netting to protect the fruit from hungry birds. Other dwarf trees include dwarf apple, pear and fig. Dwarf lime, lemon and orange can be grown outdoors in summer but must be moved indoors in the colder weather.

Bonsai: If you’re really into gardening as a hobby, consider bonsai, plants deliberately kept miniature by root and branch pruning. Bonsai are grown in small containers, but, a warning, this hobby is for the dedicated gardener as it requires a fair amount of work and knowledge. Deciduous plants such as Japanese red maple make for beautiful bonsai but must also be wintered outdoors, in a protected area, as the bonsai version needs a period of rest just like the full-sized plant.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions and/or comments to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

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Potatoes need a very acidic soil to thrive, making Long Island an ideal environment. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

What exactly is soil pH and how does it affect your ability to grow the veggies you want? Well, it’s a measure of how acid or alkaline soil is. On a scale of 0 to 14, seven is neutral. Below 7 is acidic (sour) and above 7 is alkaline (sweet). Today, we have little kits that can be used to test soil available in garden stores, but in the “olden days” farmers tasted the soil, hence the terms sour for acidic and sweet for alkaline soil.

The soil pH affects how different plants take up nutrients. Some do better in an acidic soil, that is, take up nutrients better, while others do better in a neutral or slightly alkaline soil.

Long Island soil, for the most part, is very acidic. Test your soil and treat it accordingly based on what you want to grow. Oregon State University Extension explains it this way. Each unit of change is a 10-fold difference. Going from 6.0 to 5.0 means that the soil is 10 times more acidic, so it’s a very big change.

Potatoes do well in a soil pH that is very acidic ­— 4.8 to 5.5. This is why Long Island, going back to the early 1800s, has been known for its potato farms. Farmers had one less thing to be concerned with, namely changing the soil pH. Cornell University notes that growing potatoes in a pH of 6.0 or higher makes them more prone to scab (a disease of root and tuber crops).

Veggies that do extremely well in acidic soil (going down to the 5.0 range) include artichoke, beets, cabbage, sweet potatoes, turnips, leek, chives, carrots, radishes, cucumbers and chili peppers.

Veggies that do well in acidic soil (say 5.5) to neutral (7) include beans, broccoli and cauliflower. Bush beans are ideal as they require no staking. Summer squash, which matures in 50 to 60 days, also does well in acidic soil. Tomatoes also do well in this broad range of soil pHs as well as cucumbers.

Plants that do well in neutral (or only slightly acidic) to mildly alkaline range (7.0 to 8.0) are mushrooms, okra, parsley, peppers, yams and asparagus.

If your soil is substantially below the optimal range for what you are growing, add lime, following manufacturer’s directions. Remember that lime can take many months or even a year to break down in the soil. Read the package directions on the various types you are considering. It’s probably best to start adding the lime to the soil now in the areas where you are planning to grow veggies next year. Also remember that the soil will revert to the pH it tends to be naturally, so once you start liming the soil to reach a certain number, you need to continue to do that as per package directions each growing season.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions and/or comments to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

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Radishes only take 30 days to mature so you can easily plant them for at least another month. Stock photo

By Ellen Barcel

Just because we’re so far into summer, you don’t have to make the assumption that the season is over for growing vegetables. There are many you can plant by mid-August that will mature by Long Island’s earliest frost date — early November — unless you have a microclimate in your area that is much colder than the rest of the island. There are even veggies that you can start growing as late as mid-September.

The rule of thumb for fall planting is to look up the maturity date of the plants you wish to grow — 30 days, for example, for radishes. Then count backward. The last date you can plant radishes then would be the end of September or the very beginning of October. To be on the safe side, figure the middle of September, instead. Always check the package maturity date because different varieties can vary tremendously. Early varieties of beets can mature by 50 days while later varieties can take up to 80 days; early carrots 60 days while later ones up to 85.

Veggies that you can plant in mid-August include bush beans (early varieties mature in 45 days, late varieties in 65 days), early cabbage (60 days), cucumbers (60 days), mustard greens (40 days),  peas (60 days), spinach (40 days) and turnips (40 days). Early carrots (50 days), kohlrabi (45 to 60 days) and leaf lettuce (40 to 50 days).

Some varieties of beans will mature in just 45 days. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Some varieties of beans will mature in just 45 days. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Remember that all of the above are averages. An unusually hot September may affect your veggies negatively. An unusually early frost may do the same thing. But, this is what farmers from way back have had to contend with.  You plant based on the averages but Mother Nature may have other plans.

The Year Without a Summer, 1816, was called that because there was frost in every one of the 12 months of the year. The eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, spewing ash into the atmosphere and blocking the sun the year before, is credited with this phenomenon. But, we don’t need a drastic event to affect our garden. We gardeners know the damage to our plants caused by the cold and snow of the last two winters.

On the other hand, frost could be late. I remember a few years ago, putting out my Christmas wreath next to the geraniums, which were not only alive but still blooming.

So, go ahead and plant a late season vegetable garden and cross your fingers that Mother Nature cooperates to give you a bountiful fall harvest.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

A farmers market is sprouting up on the Three Village Historical Society grounds, offering fresh options for North Shore natives. File photo

It’s fresh in every sense of the word.

Healthy, fresh foods sold by local vendors are available on the grounds adjacent to the Three Village Historical Society in East Setauket every Friday afternoon from 4-7 p.m. The East Setauket Farmers Market started nearly five weeks ago by Melissa Dunstatter, founder of Sweet Melissa Dips & Gourmet Catering of Rocky Point. Dunstatter also runs farmers markets in Port Jefferson and Sayville, and said she’s been a vendor for eight years and running farmers markets for about five.

The East Setauket Farmers Market started when a group of students from the Three Village school district chapter of the National Junior Honor Society wanted to do a fundraiser for a noble cause. What was supposed to be a one-day event back on May 16 to benefit a foundation called Hope for Javier, a nonprofit organization created to fund research for the disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy, has turned into a weekly occurrence.

“The location is really, really nice,” Dunstatter said in a phone interview this week. The success of the May 16 event, coupled with a void left by the departure of Ann Marie’s Farm Stand to Port Jefferson Station, made the site attractive for Dunstatter to set up shop from June all the way through October.

Some of the products from local vendors available at the farmers market include dips from Dunstatter’s company, fresh produce, olive oil, eggs, pickles, jams, beef jerky, fresh bread and much more. The Dip Lady, as Dunstatter is known, also has a kids day planned for sometime in August that will feature face painting, among other family friendly activities.

Dunstatter also mentioned plans for the site by the historical society headquarters that include some of the North Fork wineries, a pig roast, and a tomato and garlic festival, all at dates still to be determined later in the summer.

“So far it seems to be pretty successful,” president of the historical society John Yantz said. He mentioned the fresh baked breads from a vendor who travels east from Brooklyn every Friday as his favorite item to bring home from the market. “The stuff they have is very unique and very health conscious,” Yantz said of the overall selection at the market.

Dunstatter mentioned health consciousness as an important theme for the market as well. “My whole goal is to help families eat better,” she said. Providing local vendors with an opportunity to sell their products without the burden of sky-rocketing rents is another pleasant side effect of the market, according to Dunstatter. She said she plans to expand west into Nassau County at some point, which is an area devoid of quality farmers markets, she said.

“There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes,” Dunstatter said about the challenges of opening and running a farmers market, especially this one that she said was set up in about a week. “I always say I want to start a reality TV show with all of these farmers markets,” she added with a smile.

The East Setauket Farmers Market is held at 93 North Country Road in Setauket. For more information visit the farmers market Facebook page.

Fresh produce will make its way to the streets of Kings Park once again as the annual farmers market takes shape with an opening date set for Sunday. Photo from Alyson Elish-Swartz

The market is fresh.

Kings Park’s coveted Farmers Market will start a brand new season on Sunday, June 7, with all of last year’s farmers returning plus some new additions. Founded in 2010, the market boasts everything from locally grown produce, baked goods, fresh fish, goat cheese, olive oil, pickles and more.

One addition includes the St. James-based Saint James Brewery, a craft brewery which specializes in Belgian beer.

Returning farmers market participants also include Thera Farms, from Ronkonkoma, Fink’s Country Farm from Manorville and Monty Breads from Islip Terrace.

There will be multiple festivals held at the market throughout the summer, including a strawberry festival, a corn festival, Oktoberfest, a baking contest and a chili cookout, according to members of the Kings Park civic group helping to organize events.

“This market has brought the town together, while also supporting local agriculture,” said Alyson Elish-Swartz, a member of the Kings Park Civic Association and a chairperson of the farmers market committee said.

The King’s Park Civic Association sponsors this event in partnership with ligreenmarket. Kings Park’s Farmers Market will also spotlight local musicians, as they have done before, with new acts coming this summer. But new this year will be a spotlight on local photographers, with booths featuring photographs from some of Kings Park’s most talented photographers.

Kings Park restaurants will also be hosting cooking demos, where they buy the ingredients from the farmers market and then show fun and fresh dishes residents can make with them. Restaurants like Café Red and Relish have participated in the past, making dishes like fresh watermelon soup.

The Kings Park Farmers Market is open Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., now through November 22, at the municipal lot on Route 25A and Main Street.

The whole idea of the farmers market started when two local residents who didn’t know each other, Ann Marie Nedell and Elish-Swartz, had the same the idea. Sean Lehmann, president of the Kings Park Civic Association, gave Nedell and Elish-Swartz each other’s phone numbers and told them to link up. He asked them to find out more and report back to the civic association.

Elish-Swartz and Nedell pounded the pavement, talking up the idea to community groups and handing out surveys to find out what Kings Park wanted in a farmers market, with free parking high on the list.

The plan took a leap forward when Nedell and Elish-Swartz met Bernadette Martin. Martin is director of Friends and Farmers Inc., a company she started to advocate for small family farms and to bring fresh, local food to Long Islanders. The market first opened in the summer of 2010 and Martin manages it, every Sunday, from June through November.

Susan Risoli contributed reporting.

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By Heidi Sutton & Ernestine Franco

After a winter punctuated with one snow or ice storm after another, it’s hard to believe that spring has finally arrived. Avid gardeners hibernating in their homes for what seemed like months have been keeping their spirits high by perusing the gardening catalogs for the latest plants and products, all the while patiently waiting for the ground to thaw.

In perfect timing, All-America Selections recently announced its list of new varieties of flowers and vegetables for 2015.  Names like Emerald Fire, Butterscotch, Jolt Pink, Dolce Fresca and Tidal Wave Red Velour are enough to get any gardener excited about trying something new.

Since 1932, this nonprofit organization has annually tested new varieties of flowers and vegetables in various locations throughout the United States and Canada. Judges look for improved qualities such as disease tolerance, early bloom or harvest dates, taste, unique colors and flavors, higher yield, length of flowering or harvest, and overall performance.

Here’s what the judges had to say about some of the award winners:

The Northeast can now plant entire gardens using these AAS winning varieties, all of which have been proven to have superior performance.

For a complete list of the new plants chosen by the AAS, as well as other information about the organization, visit their website at www.all-americaselections.org.

Volunteers help out in the garden at the Bethel Hobbs Community Farm, located on Oxhead Road in Centereach. File photo

By Jenni Culkin

A small Centereach farm, about 11 acres in size, is reaching out to the community to raise the funds necessary to continue doing its good work.

The farm has been growing vegetables and other crops to donate to food pantries and people in need since 2007, according to Peter Castorano, one of Bethel Hobbs Community Farm’s caretakers, who lives in the sole house on the property.

“Ann started it all,” said Castorano.

That Ann is Ann Pellegrino.

The Centereach woman discovered the farm, which wasn’t too far from her house, after she sought a place to continue gardening and donating the crops to the poor.

Former Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Kathy Walsh and farm Director Ann Pellegrino put their backs into it at Hobbs Farm. File photo
Former Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Kathy Walsh and farm Director Ann Pellegrino put their backs into it at Hobbs Farm. File photo

Alfred Hobbs willed the farm to the Bethel AME Church, its owner since 1955. Pellegrino decided to take over the farm’s maintenance, although it is still owned by Bethel Church. She is now the vice president of the farm, which donates tens of thousands of pounds of crops to those in need each year.

The farm has recently experienced an invasion by wild deer, which are eating some of the farm’s crops. The deer eating the crops has significantly lowered the overall productivity of the farm.

“It costs a lot to maintain the farm,” Pellegrino said.

For this reason, an inaugural 4-mile run, which will take place on Saturday, Aug. 22, at 9 a.m., will help raise money for a higher fence to prevent further invasion by the deer population. Advanced registration is $20. In addition, it will cost $5 for children to participate in the Kids Fun Run. There will be awards for runners, music and raffles at the event.

“It’s a really great cause,” Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) said. “Hobbs farm is a hidden jewel in the area.”

According to LaValle, the run has been made official by USA Track & Field. It will be timed and kept track of like any other official race.

“We would like to make this a yearly event,” Pellegrino said.

The inaugural run is not the only way to make a difference.

There are only approximately eight regular volunteers at the farm, including Dottie Meade, Elaine Gaveglia and Jason Castorano. Castorano finds himself fixing the farm equipment and handling the maintenance of heavy machinery, like the tractor. Meade helps out with a plot of land designated to educating young children and helping them learn and grow.

Meade said regular volunteers included the Green Teens from the Middle Country Public Library, volunteers from Long Island colleges like Suffolk County Community College, Stony Brook University and Adelphi University and the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts.

“We need volunteers, we need sponsors and we need the word out,” Pellegrino said.

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While most pumpkins are fairly large, tiny varieties, such as the white and orange ones above, make cute decorations for the dinner table. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

It will soon be time to plant your vegetable garden. Do you sometimes feel that you plant the “same old, same old?” The same tomatoes? The same green beans? If so, why not try some really unique veggies along with the traditional ones? Some say they’re ugly while others call them cute. They’re the veggies that differ from the norm. Here’s a sampling, but you can find lots more in all the seed catalogues that are arriving.

Cauliflower
When you think of cauliflower, you usually think of a snowy white head of florets surrounded by green leaves. But, have you considered Graffiti Hybrid, which has purple florets, or Cheddar Hybrid, which is the color of cheddar cheese and a good source of vitamin A. A really unique looking cauliflower is Veronica Romanesco Hybrid, which has a green head, and a sweet nutty flavor that is milder than most cauliflowers. The florets are spiraled and resemble a bunch of hens and chicks. Yes, I really want to try this one myself.

Radishes
Most radishes have a red skin and a white interior. This fast-growing crop likes cool weather, so plant early for a spring crop or late in summer for a fall crop. But a really unique radish, Watermelon, reverses the colors. It has a white and green skin and pinkish-red interior. It grows bigger than most — two to four inches. The flavor is said to be mild with a bit of sweetness.

Pumpkins
Nothing says autumn like pumpkins, whether for pies or jack-o’-lanterns. But if you want to grow some eye-catchers, consider any one of a number of bumpy pumpkins. There’s Red Warty Thing, Goosebumps Hybrid, Galeux d’Eysines and Knucklehead Hybrid. Yes, they’re edible, but these eerie pumpkins are ideal to be turned into Halloween jack-o’-lanterns, warty faces and all. Tiny, smooth-skinned pumpkins include Jack Be Little, which is so small it fits in the palm of your hand. If you’re planning on entering a contest for the biggest, try Prizewinner Hybrid, which has been known to reach up to 400 pounds.

Tomatoes
Say tomato and most people will think of the round, orangy-red fruit that goes perfectly with bacon and lettuce to form a BLT sandwich. But, tomatoes, like so many other fruits, come in different colors such as yellow — Yellow Pear and Lemon Boy Hybrid — or blue — Indigo Blue Beauty and Indigo Apple. Tomato sizes range from tiny to enormous. Ugly Ripes are wrinkled but delicious.

Yes, there are many other veggies and fruits that have varieties that differ from the norm. There’s bicolored corn and Golden Detroit, a pale orange beet. Read your gardening catalogues and try at least one or two unique veggies this year.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.