Creating an Engaging Space for Gardeners at a home for High Risk Youth

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Yesterday I visited a residential home for at-risk youth 14 to 21 years of age in the New York’s Capital Region.

This is the garden’s third year and there is a lot of interest in growing food and flowers and in improving the soils.

Last year, a pizza garden with tomatoes, peppers and herbs was popular. This year, residents will be choosing what they want to grow from a list that includes everything from carrots to strawberries.

Expansion Plans

At least four more raised beds measuring 4×8 will be added to the gardens which already have a total of 14 raised beds. The garden is in an urban area but backs up on a wild space where groundhogs, rabbits and squirrels make their homes. Unfortunately, they have found the garden.

At our meeting, the project’s overseers had questions.  Here’s what they asked, my answers and if you have any suggestions, please add your comments.

Groundhog

Location is everything. And, a very smart groundhog has taken up residence under the garden shed.  Literally, the groundhog lives a stone’s throw from the vegetable beds.

The best way to deal with wildlife is a good fence. I recommended a wire fence to keep groundhogs and rabbits out of the garden. Along the outside of the fence, plant garlic and onions to deter pests.

But it that fails and an animal is a nuisance causing damage, contact your local DEC office to see what can be done. Some animals can be relocated without a permit, others can not.   www.dec.ny.gov/about/558.html 

Adding Interest

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Echinacea is a good choice for a garden to attract bees and butterflies. It’s taproot, which means in can withstand drought and survive in hard, clay soils.

Right now, the garden only has raised beds, but there is space, potential and a strong desire to make it more engaging for the resident gardeners.

 

Here are a few ideas.

1 – A garden border that would attract butterflies and beneficial insects.  Milkweed, Echinacea and Rubeckia seeds were recommended because they are tough, spread easily and in the case of Echinacea and Rubeckia, drought tolerant. In other words, once established, this garden should need little care.

You could take it a step further, add more butterfly attracting plants and establish the garden as a monarch waystation.  For more information: https://www.monarchwatch.org/waystations/

2 – A bird bath with a solar sprinkler to add to the delight of the garden, attract birds and add sound. The solar sprinklers are available online and cost under $20.

3 – Provide a shade retreat for residents and a comfortable place to hang out. Right now, the garden patio is concrete and in full sun most of the day, which means it is often too hot to enjoy.  A triangle sun shade sail would provide shade space to sit and relax and enjoy the garden. You can shop online and find several sizes and configurations.  They cost under $50.

Two corners of the triangle could be attached to the building. The third corner would need to be secured to a pole, which is an additional cost.

4 – A final possibility is a hummingbird feeder. I didn’t suggest a bird feeder because of the wildlife already visiting the garden. But a hummingbird feeder located outside a window might draw tiny visitors to the garden, and curious residents out to see them.

Any other ideas? Add them to the comments below.

 

 

 

 

Caterpillar Inspired?

Screen Shot 2018-09-16 at 6.38.31 AMI have a theory.

A Monarch caterpillar climbed up the cosmos and spotted the drawing of a chrysalis on the sign made by the students at the Waldorf School for the butterfly garden at Pitney Meadows Community Gardens.

Inspired, he thought, “I can do that.” And transformed from caterpillar to pupa right next to the sign. What do you think?

This is our fourth Monarch chrysalis in the garden’s certified Monarch way station which is brimming with flowers planted to support the lifecycle of the Monarch butterfly.

Our Second Butterfly Emerges!

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I’m happy to announce the birth of our second Monarch butterfly this morning. She emerged just before the rains began.

She is beautiful and immediately made herself at home on this red zinnia.

The Pitney Meadows Community Gardens became a certified Monarch way station last winter and as such provides the plants these butterflies need throughout their lifecycle.  Next year, we can start a tagging program that would let us track where our butterflies travel as they make their way to Mexico.  If you are interested in this project, let me know.

Thank you to Judy B. for caring for these little lovelies.

Our First Monarch Emerged

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 1.39.24 PMWe were lucky enough to spot two Monarch butterfly caterpillars in our butterfly garden last month.

There may have been more, but we knew of two.

We nurtured them along. kept them safe and once they formed chrysalises we moved them into a netted butterfly house to watch them mature.

Yesterday, one emerged as the gorgeous butterfly you see here.  The other should follow any day now.

As many of you know, the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens became a certified Monarch Waystation last winter.  This means we provide the plants and habitat Monarch butterflies need to complete their lifecycle from egg to butterfly.

Looks like we did well.

Thank you to Judy. our butterfly foster mother who cared for them.

Butterflies in the Community Gardens

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We have created a wonderful habitat for butterflies at the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens.  Pictured above is the caterpillar of the Eastern Swallowtail butterfly,  photographed by Margie I. on Saturday.

We also have several Monarchs in the caterpillar stage in the butterfly garden.

It is so nice to see.

 

WNYT News Aired a Story on Us.

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 5.11.44 AM.pngYesterday, Emily Burkhard from WNYT News Channel 13 spent the afternoon at the Pitney Meadows Community Farm and did a great segment that included our beekeeper, Jenn Dunn; the plans for the 166-acre farm and the flourishing community gardens.

If you didn’t see it, here’s the link: WNYT

Burkhard and her videographer, Josh, were at the farm interviewing and enjoying the gardens and butterflies for several hours.  During that time, Burkhard learned the process of extracting honey from bee hives, toured the community gardens, spoke with gardeners and asked great questions about plans for the farm’s future that were answered by Farm Director Ken Kleinpeter.

It was fun to be able to share what has been accomplished at Pitney Meadows in just a year.

The videography on the story captures the beauty of the farm and the continuation of its agricultural legacy.

 

 

 

 

 

Children’s Sunflower Hour Program Had a Successful First Season

onion harvestEvery Saturday since June, children have been attending a reading and garden/craft program in the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens we called the Sunflower Hour. Today was the last session of the season.

It has been wonderful with dozens of children coming over the summer to hear stories told by Faye Mihuta, a retired teacher, and experience life in the garden. Children sat in the sunflower house, which is just now beginning bloom and listened to books being read.

Over the last eight weeks the crafts they made with artist Jess Clauser included a fluttering butterfly, bee bracelets, and cards made with vegetable stamps. Other weeks, the children learned about sowing flower seeds, how vegetables grow, the importance of honeybees and the butterfly habitat we have to support Monarch butterflies. Jay Epstein came one Saturday to talk about worms and the children made worm farms from recycled bottles to take home.cly2

Today,  the project was to make a clay medallion by pressing the leaf of the herb sage into wet clay. The clay was trimmed with a round cookie cutter and set out to dry.  Once dry, they can be painted. Each one was very pretty and the children were please to take home several each.

onionfayeNext, we harvested onions. Each child had a chance to pull the onions from the ground and take one home.

Afterwards, we all tasted zucchini bread and basil lemonade. Both were delicious.

It was a great morning in the garden.

Special thank you to Faye and Jess for all the effort put into making Sunflower Hour a memorable experience for young community members.  You are deeply appreciated.

Natalie