Greenhouse Plant of the Month: Elephant Ear | Colocasia esculenta

 

The elephant ear plant, or Colocasia, is a flowering plant in the Araceae family. It is native to southeastern Asian and India. It’s name is derived from the Greek work kolokasion, which Dioscorides (a Greek Botanist) meant the edible roots of both Colocasia esculenta and Nelumbo nucifera (Lotus). More obviously, the name Elephant Ear comes from its large leaves that resemble the ears of an elephant.

While the roots are edible (known as Taro) – and have been harvested for over 10,000 years – the leaves and stems are not, unless cooked or fermented first, as they contain microscopic, needle-like raphides.

The Elephant Ear plants require full sun or part shade with wet soil. They can grow anywhere from 3 to 10 feet tall with a 2 to 10 foot spread. It thrives in Zones 9-11 and can endure temperatures down to 30 degrees. They make great companions with other plants in the Araceae family or as a dramatic centerpiece in mixed containers.

Swing by the Greenhouse at Denny Farrell Riverbank State park to view the thriving elephant ear plant!

Ladybug 101 from our Educators

About Ladybugs

There are 4.000 species of ladybugs in the world and up to 150 varieties in the United States alone. They were first introduced into the Unites States from Australia.

They are categorized as insects because they have three main portions of their body: head, thorax, and abdomen.They have poor eyesight and rely on their antennae for touch and smell. In the winter they go dormant and in the spring mating occurs. The male and female are attracted to each other by smell. The female can lay from 2 to 50 eggs in a day!

Ladybugs: A Natural Pesticide

Many farmers and gardeners consider ladybugs a natural pesticide. They eat tiny insects called aphids which feed on the sap in plants. Aphids are common garden insect pests that feed in colonies. An infestation usually causes mold and plant leaves to curl and dry out.

Female ladybugs are larger than male ladybugs and can eat up to 75 aphids a day while a male can eat around 40 per day.Ladybugs in both the larval and adult stages feast on these insects. During its lifetime, a lady big will eat over 5,000 aphids!

Ladybug Release

The best time to release ladybugs in your garden is typically early during the growing season on a cool evening. A great place to release the ladybugs is an area where they can find food and water. Planting plants close together helps to maintain a humid environment. Ladybugs are attracted to plants with umbrella shaped flowers or leaves, such as angelica, caraway, cilantro, dill, fennel, tansy, wild carrot and yarrow. Ladybugs also are drawn to cosmos, coreopsis, dandelions and scented geraniums.

Pumpkin Patch & Halloween Facts

Happy Pumpkin Patch!

 

At this time of year, 2nd graders have candy and treats on their mind – but wait, these orange drops are sweet and delicious too! Thanks to a generous allocation of City Council funds, Council Member James Vacca, these 7 year olds commuted from their classrooms to their gorgeous Hort garden, right on their school campus to harvest their perfect pumpkin!

 

 

Agricultural Origins of Halloween

 

Halloween is a yearly spectacle and beloved holiday of costumes, trick-or-treating, and carving pumpkins. It’s a night of candy and mischief, where children haunt the autumn streets and jack o’ lanterns glow. Many participate every year in the festivities, but few know the holiday’s ancient agricultural beginnings.

 

Celtic Festival of Samhain

The origins of Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celtic harvest festival of Samhain (pronounced SOW-in.) Across Ireland, Wales, the British Isles, Scotland, and France, the night of October 31st marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.  This was a time to offer thanks for abundance and to make sacrifices to appease the gods for the coming winter.  Grain was reaped; mead (honey wine) and beer were brewed. Sheep and cattle were brought in from the pastures for the winter.  Old animals that were thought wouldn’t make it through the coming season were slaughtered and this meat, along with fruits and vegetables that would otherwise spoil, were shared in large festivals. Fairs, markets, and assemblies took place across the lands.

 

Trick or Treating

Samhain was considered a sacred time when the veils between our world and the “otherworld” were lowered and spirits, elves, and fairies would roam the earth. Bonfires were lit on hilltops and scary costumes were worn to frighten malevolent spirits. In Wales, young men would dress up and commit pranks, impersonating the spirits of the dead. Food and drinks were left out for the ancestors, which led to the modern tradition of giving out treats.

 

Bobbing for Apples

The practice of bobbing for apples can be traced back to the Roman invasion of Britain, after which the conquering armies incorporated their traditions into the Celtic festivals. The Romans introduced the apple tree, leading to the goddess of the orchards and abundance called Pomona being honored at Samhain with the divinatory tradition of apple-bobbing. Here, unwed young people would try to capture apples that floated in water or hung on strings. The first to catch one in their teeth would be the next.

 

Jack-O’-Lanterns

The first Jack-o’-Lanterns were carved during Samhain in Ireland out of turnips and beets. The lanterns, hollowed out and carved with frightening or funny faces, were said to both represent the spirits that haunted the world during this time, and also to ward them off. When Irish immigrants came to America and discovered the native pumpkin, this large and hollow gourd replaced the turnips and beets as the vegetable of choice.

The name of the Jack-O’-Lantern can be explained by the myth of a clever but lazy blacksmith named Jack who tricked the devil into climbing an apple tree. Jack then carved crosses into the base of the tree to trap the devil. He forces Satan to promise to never take his soul to hell. After living a greedy and drunken life, when Jack dies, he is not allowed into heaven or the underworld. When Satan forbids his entrance to hell, he gives him an ember to place inside a lantern to light his way as he wanders the world for eternity.

 

Modern and Secular

After the Catholic Church came to wield great power, pagan holidays began to be supplanted by Catholic holidays. “All Hallows Eve” was superimposed over Samhain, with some of the old traditions coexisting with the new Christian holiday of “All Saints” and “All Souls”.  When these traditions came to America, they were secularized into Halloween, and the holiday came to be celebrated mostly by children. Though many have forgotten Samhain, everywhere we see symbols of harvest and mischievous spirits in the form of colorful corn, bales of hay, carved pumpkins, scary costumes, pranks, and general mirth.

 

Fall 2017 Workshops, Cooking Classes, and Free Activities with NYdigs

Looking for something to do? Stop by the Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park Greenhouse and Classroom to join The Hort’s NYdigs program for workshops, classes, and activities. Find information about some of our popular fall events below.

Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park is located at 679 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10031

Workshops and Cooking Classes

Workshops and classes have a limited number of tickets, please register online or at the greenhouse at Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park

Sensational Thanksgiving Sides: Healthy Twists on Classic Sides

Tuesday, November 14th | 6:30pm | All Ages | $10
Create delicious autumn-inspired side dishes perfect for the holidays or any day! In this course, you will explore different techniques, spice combinations, and preparation styles that will take a standard dish to the next level.

Register for this class

 

Fall Fermented Vegetables

Thursday, November 16th | 6:30pm | All Ages | $20
In this course we will cover the basic science behind making ferments focusing on using fall veggies: beets, turnips, pumpkins, and more. We will talk about why it’s good for you, and we’ll teach you how to make it yourself. If you are interested in Old World food preservation, gut health, or fermentation in general, this is the class for you!

Register for this class

 

International Breads: Sourdough, Injera, Idlis, and Dosas

Thursday, December 7th | 6:30pm | All Ages | $20
This class will explore the history, health benefits, and learn how to make Idlis(South Indian breakfast cake), Injera (Ethiopian flatbread), and Dosa (fermented crepe).

Register for this class

 

Artisanal Pizza & Toppings: Pesto, Ricotta, and More

Tuesday, January 16th 2018 | 6:30pm | All Ages | $10
Discover the art of pizza making and topping selection with this hands-on course. You will learn how to make artisanal pizza topped with house-made ricotta, kale, pumpkin, and more!

Register for this class

 

Free Activities and Events

The following programs are free and open to the public – no registration required.

Tea Time
Tuesdays | 10am-12pm | All Ages | Free
From hibiscus to green, make your own delicious & organic, herbal tea that will refresh and rejuvenate. Taste your tea with a book in the greenhouse or take it home with you!

Kid’s Nature Crafts
Saturdays | 11am – 1pm | Ages 3 – 10 | Free
Come by the greenhouse for kid-friendly, nature-inspired crafts, up-close critter investigations, garden books and more!

A Walk in the Park
Saturdays | 1pm – 2pm | All Ages | Free
Go on a walk and explore the environment of Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park. We will discuss the park wildlife, include binoculars for bird watching, and end with tea in the greenhouse.
*Weather Permitting

DIY: All-Natural Salve
November 21| 1pm – 2pm | Ages 18+ | Free
December 5, 19 | 1 pm – 2pm | Ages 18+ | Free
Salves are the perfect way to ward off the dry, cold season. Learn how herbal salves can protect and heal your skin. Take one home with you, too!

Print Making with Nature: Holiday Cards
December 1, 15 | 1pm – 2pm | All Ages | Free
Using leaves, petals, and other natural material, learn the basics of print making and how to incorporate the found material. Everyone gets to make a card to take home.

Supported By:

In Partnership With:

 

Summer Days in Greenpoint

This summer, the Hort’s education team developed and led the Young Naturalists Program at McGolrick Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The program was free and open to the public throughout July and August. Students, mostly two to twelve years old, joined our educators for nature-themed classes. Additionally, as an ongoing project, students beautified a park corner – opposite PS 110 – where they and their parents cleared leaf litter, pulled weeds, fertilized the soil, added compost, and planted native perennials to attract pollinators to the park.

Each session encouraged the Naturalists to explore their park with curiosity and a keen eye. Tuesday’s Critter Club brought up-close inspections of ladybugs, worms, crickets, and ants. Wednesday’s Art in the Park displayed students’ inner Van Gogh through print making, water colors, collages, and rubbings. On Thursday’s, everyone grabbed binoculars for a special Park Exploration. Botany and Story Time on Friday’s were a huge hit as students explored the inner workings of plants. The Saturday Family Fun gave young naturalists the opportunity to plant and grow something at home!

By the end of the summer, the Naturalists located and identified red-wing blackbirds, monarch butterflies, sycamore tussock moth caterpillars, and countless other critters and animals who call McGolrick Park home. Plus, as a special treat, on the last day of the program students had the special opportunity to meet Crooks the Chicken!

The Young Naturalists Program is part of The Hort’s McGolrick Park restoration which includes improvements to the dog run, reseeding the lawn, and restoring garden beds. This project is in collaboration with the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn and the McGolrick Park Neighborhood Alliance, and funded by the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF). The GCEF is a joint program of the Office of the New York State Attorney General and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The Hort’s High School Internship Program

Naval Cemetery Landscape

Over spring break, the Horticultural Society of New York led a 30 hour training and internship program for a group of 40 Brooklyn high school students focusing on urban gardening, landscape design, and green infrastructure. The experience was designed to engage students with their neighborhood’s green landscape by actively involving them in the maintenance and beautification of the Brooklyn Greenway and Naval Cemetery Landscape. The support of council members Carlos Menchaca and Antonio Reynoso was integral to the success of the program.

Making Seed Bombs

I was surprised at “actually wanting to dig in dirt and actually liking it”

The most useful thing “I learn[ed] was the difference between climate change and weather”

Now that the Naval Cemetery Landscape (opened Fall 2016) is open to the public, The Hort utilized the transformed space as a project site for students. With the program designed to split its time between traditional classroom instruction and fieldwork, the landscape served as an ideal work area – featuring native plants, butterfly-attracting cultivars, and a peaceful green space. The Hort’s education staff, along with guest speakers from the fields of environmental science, urban planning, and professional landscaping, led workshops on horticulture, soil science, green infrastructure, climate change, and the benefits of native plants. Fieldwork at the Naval Cemetery involved soil tests, tree surveys, architectural review, and insect study. Students also received job readiness training including resume writing, interviewing and job search skills.

“I’m surprised that green infrastructure is everywhere I go! Even on the roof of Barclay’s Center!”

“Before this program I never planted anything ever and I didn’t think plants were important”

Interns learned landscape maintenance techniques and best practices by working to beautify the Brooklyn Greenway. They identified and pulled weeds, improved soil conditions with organic amendments, and planted native, butterfly-friendly plants. The group also restored five street tree beds along the entrance to the Naval Cemetery by removing stumps and weeds, selecting and planting native perennial seedlings to attract pollinators, and adding layers of compost and mulch.

“Planting is actually pretty fun”

“One thing that surprised me was [how many] types of greenspaces there are”

“I learned how to better the environment around me”

The internship culminated with a certificate ceremony and celebration on Thursday, June 8th. To see more photos, visit our flickr album.

Family Fun Day at Riverbank State Park

On Saturday June 3rd, with the support of Council Member Mark Levine (Manhattan District 7), the Hort’s NYdigs program hosted a family fun day at Riverbank State Park featuring three of our favorite things: planting, exploring, and eating!

Set-up in the park’s busy courtyard, children (and parents too!) quickly found their way to the plant table – attracted by flats of Marigolds, Tomatoes, Basil, Dill, Parsley, and Carnations. They decorated their own pot, scooped rich soil to prepare the transplant, and chose which seedling to care for at home. At the end of the afternoon, over 200 plants found their way to new, happy gardeners.

With plants in hand, many families joined a nature exploration led by a Hort educator. Each explorer spent time searching for birds with binoculars, discussing the mighty Hudson River, and learning a new fact or two. Did you know there have been whale sightings in the Hudson?

Finally, Chef Noah Sheetz prepared three delicious, all-natural recipes for everyone totaste. A beautiful, purple beet hummus served with crackers and veggies prepared the palate; which gave way to a satisfying vegetable and root salad; and finished with a chocolaty, crunchy quinoa energy bite! The recipes are below if you would like to recreate the delectable experience.

 

Recipes by Chef Noah Sheetz

 

PS 83X Learning Garden Revitalization

During an early April week, the Hort’s GreenTeam revitalized the overgrown garden near the entrance of PS 83X in the Bronx. The project, made possible by Council Member James Vacca, transformed the outdoor space from a line of scruffy evergreens to an outdoor classroom and garden, fully furnished with sixteen tree stump seats!

With school empty during the summer,  elements of the design and plant list were specially curated to survive New York’s hottest and driest months with little care. Our horticulturists chose to highlight drought resistant plants like Coral Bells, Shadbush, Ajuga, and Red Twig Dogwood.

The learning garden, located next to the school’s entrance, was also rejuvenated. The six raised garden beds received much needed repairs, a fresh supply of soil and compost, and a surrounding layer of mulch. Each of the six 2nd grade classes at PS83X will have their own bed to sow seeds, learn about plants, and grow vegetables throughout the school year.

The partnership also brings Hort educators to PS 83X to teach over 200 second graders how to identify and plant vegetables, herbs, and flowers – emphasizing the importance of plant science. Everyone is excited for a beautiful new outdoor learning space where they can release ladybugs, learn about garden pests, and offer a fun, hands on look at our natural world. Before the school year is out, every 2nd grade student will transplant seedlings they started and nurtured in their classroom.

Check out the Flickr album below to see great photos from the project!

PS83 X Students

Introducing NYdigs: Plant-based Nutrition & Wellness Education

In 2017, the Horticultural Society of New York will launch NYdigs, a community outreach program that will connect New Yorkers to plant-based nutrition and wellness education. Offering a variety of free and affordable gardening courses, special events, hands-on workshops, and informative conferences, NYdigs will educate New Yorkers about how gardens, landscapes, and green infrastructure can positively affect their communities, families, and lives.

NYdigs will host programs, conferences, and special events throughout the city. From the art of making soap, to the benefits of cooking with fresh vegetables, to our Urban Agriculture Conference, programs and events will be rooted in the Hort’s mission: cultivating the vital connection between people and plants.

To stay up-to-date on all things NYdigs, sign up for our mailing list or visit our NYdigs webpage: thehort.org/nydigs

NYdigs is proudly sponsored by Burpee Seeds and Plants.

The Importance of Natural Science Education

IMG_0364
The Hort provides the Apple Seed program to underserved public schools, in the classroom and as part of after-school programs. Apple Seed is an inquiry–based program that emphasizes raising the level of critical thinking among students and sharpening their powers of observation. Apple Seed includes hand-on activities that integrate science learning with reading, mathematics, writing, cultural history, geography, and artistic expression. The Apple Seed curriculum is based on the National Science Education Standards.

At the Hort we love to introduce New York City public school children to the great outdoors — even in a gray cityscape. It’s no secret that access to urban green spaces, an emphasis on nutrition education, and connecting students to nature prepares young people for a more successful future. The curriculum we teach in schools offers further insight into the inspirational power of nature.

5Every semester our in-school (and in-garden!) educators work tirelessly to engage students with each lesson.  We don’t want the learning and experience to stop in the classroom or at the school. Lessons are designed to be taken home and shared with parents and siblings to reinforce the experience and empower others. For instance, when our 4th and 5th graders participate in a hands-on activity that teaches them to identify different types of herbs and build a ‘seasoning pack’ with a recipe to use at home.

In 2016, Hort educators measured the impact of our school lessons through process-based questions designed to show growth. Take a look at some of the highlights:

 

Brooklyn high school, 9 – 12th grade students

Before Apple Seed lessonsIMG_0136

  • None of the high school students were able to recognize sage, rosemary, and thyme, while 20% knew cilantro
  • None of the students had heard about a career in landscape design

After Apple Seed Lessons

  • 100% of students could name sage, rosemary, thyme and cilantro
  • Students participated in a design lesson with a landscape architect

Third grade students at an elementary school near Central Park

Before Apple Seed Lessons

  • Of Eighty students, less than ten previously held a lady bug
  • Only 5% have carved or cut open a pumpkin
  • Less than fifteen students had ever planted in school or at home

After Apple Seed Lessons

  • Every student participated in (and loved!) a lady bug inspection and release
  • Third graders ran around their school garden hunting in a pumpkin patch, received a pumpkin stew recipe card, and a pumpkin to take home
  • Each student planted a plant and helped it grow!

watering on 210 roofThird Grade Students at an elementary school in Harlem

Before Apple Seed Lessons

  • 60% of students previously tasted tea, while none had ever made their own
  • None had ever used rosemary, sage, or thyme to season their food

After Apple Seed Lessons

  • Every student made their own tea AND they all tasted it.
  • 55% of students used a mix of rosemary, sage, and thyme to season their families food at Thanksgiving.

Many of these findings are consistent with the schools we serve – reinforcing the importance of natural science and nutrition education in our city’s schools.

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