Greenhouse Newsletter | March

Upcoming Events

There are a lot of exciting new classes being offered at the Greenhouse and Kitchen! Come participate in a workshop on seed starting to kick start your spring garden, learn about identifying edible foods in the wild and using them in the kitchen with Chef Noah Sheetz of Chef’s Consortium, or check out one of our upcoming fermentation series classes!

Click here to see our full schedule

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

Plant of the month: Lemon Verbena

Lemon verbena, or Aloysia citriodora, is a strongly scented and flavorful herb in the verbenaceae family. Native to Argentina and Chile, lemon verbena can grow up to 10-15 feet tall in the tropics, and 2-4 feet tall in containers. Lemon verbena is the most strongly scented and intense of all lemon foliage plants. Ever since it was imported to Europe from Spain’s South American colonies in the 18th century, lemon verbena has become a globally accessible herb used for its medicinal effects and qualities as a food additive. Its leaves can be used in beverages and desserts, or to flavor meat and vegetable dishes, as well as in perfumes, cosmetics, potpourris, and herbal medicines. Lemon verbena is rich in antioxidants, and boasts a number of health benefits when used medicinally. This herb is typically used to reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, relieve stomach issues and indigestion, reduce fever, soothe nerves, clear up congestion, and aid in weight loss.

Lemon verbena thrives in full sun and hot temperatures, and will grow as a perennial in frost free areas and as an annual in northern climates. If grown in an area with too much shade, the leaves will lose their potency and the branches will grow long and spindly. When the temperature drops below 40 degrees, the plant will drop its leaves and enter dormancy. Lemon verbena can be grown in containers and overwintered indoors in bright, cool locations with minimal watering. It requires loose, well-draining soil to prevent the roots from getting soggy, which will kill the plant. Popular planting locations for lemon verbena are along outdoor walking paths, or anywhere indoors where the leaves may be brushed up against to release the scent.

Sources

Bonnie Plants, Organic Facts, Missouri Botanical Garden

Chickpea Stew with Turmeric, Coconut and Ginger

Yield: 4-6 servings

  • ¼ cup olive oil; additional for serving
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • A knob (approximately two inches) ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric, plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon or more red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, kale or collard greens, stems removed, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup mint leaves, for serving
  • Plain yogurt, for serving (optional)
  • Toasted whole wheat pita (cut into wedges)

Over medium heat in a large pot, heat oil and add garlic, onion and ginger. Season with salt and pepper and cook a few minutes until the onion starts to brown a little around the edges.

Add turmeric, red pepper flakes and chickpeas. Stir frequently and cook chickpeas as they sizzle in the oil until they start to break down and brown slightly and get crisp, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.

Add coconut milk and stock to the pot and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any bits that formed on bottom of the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally until stew thickens, up to 30 minutes, or longer until it reaches your desired thickness or consistency. Add greens, submerging them in the liquid until they wilt and soften. Check seasoning.

Place stew in individual bowls and garnish with mint, sprinkle of red pepper flakes and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with yogurt and toasted pita and a dusting of turmeric (optional).

Banana Apple Muffins

  • 2 apples peeled and grated
  • 1 cup ripe mashed bananas (1 banana)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (10 tablespoons or 1 ¼ sticks)
  • 3 TB milk with ¼ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Pre-heat oven to 375°F and line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

Mix together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat the 1 1/4 sticks of butter and 1 cup of sugar together on medium speed until it has a light and fluffy texture.
Without reducing the speed, add 2 eggs one at a time, and also buttermilk. Finally, beat in the flour mixture. Use a spoon to fold in the apples and banana.

Fill the lined muffin cups about half-way.

Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.

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.

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

For a Refreshing Summer, Grow a Smoothie Garden

 

As you walk through New York City, it is hard not to find a store that offers green juices, kale shakes, and fruit smoothies. The health benefits of certain smoothies and juices, particularly green ones, are well-documented and common knowledge. Not only do these nutrient packed cups provide a condensed supply of our daily fruits and vegetables, which can be difficult to get amidst modern living, but they also tend to be quite delicious. At The Hort, we think it’s a great idea to fuse this healthy ‘fast food’ with your horticultural skills to cultivate your very own smoothie garden. Making your own smoothies can be a great way to save money, reduce plastic use, and increase your vitamin intake.

There are many options for what to grow in your smoothie garden. Green vegetables are important main components of any smoothie as they provide energy, stress relief, vitamins, and antioxidants in abundance. Nutrient dense fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries add essential vitamins and sweetness.

When planning your garden this spring, keep these vegetables and fruits in mind for delicious, healthy smoothies:

Vegetables

Celery is a surprisingly healthy vegetable but, fair warning, a bit difficult to grow. It requires copious watering, fertilizer and compost; however, the homegrown stuff tastes unlike anything at the grocery. Not only is celery loaded with anitoxidants, vitamin K, vitamin C, and potassium, but it also can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Did you know one serving of Broccoli offers roughly 10% of your daily value of protein? It is also chock-full of calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin A.

Carrots, being a semi-sweet vegetable, bring a unique flavor and an immunity boost to juices. Studies have shown that eating carrots greatly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Radish will add a nice spicy bite to your drink, the kind we often get from Ginger. The bright red vegetable is loaded with vitamin C, aids digestions, and known to help prevent viral infections. Don’t forget to add the folic acid-rich radish leaves too!

Fennel is another fantastic taste booster and as a cousin of celery; it has terrific health benefits. Fennel is a digestive aid, skin brightener, and brings a full stalk of antioxidants.

Fruit

Blueberries, America’s second favorite berry, comes with some surprising health benefits. Research has shown that these delicious orbs can benefit the nervous system and improve memory.

Far and away the most popular berry, Strawberries provide many antioxidants and plant compounds, vitamin C and manganese.

Raspberries have been known to increase metabolism in fat cells and help with the digestive process.

Smoothie gardens can be planted in the ground, in pots, or in raised beds — essentially anywhere as long as they are properly cared for and given ample room to grow. Various flower and herbs, such as mint and basil, can be arranged among the rows and the corners for a special smoothie twist. The flowers serve an important function by attracting pollinators to the plants.

So get out that sturdy blender and turn those extra veggies or your new garden into a yummy and fresh summer treat. For a great, delicious smoothie, try this simple formula: 

2 cups leafy greens or vegetables

2 cups liquid base

3 cups ripe fruit

Try freezing your fruit for a chilled, and frosty consistency. Add a 1/4 cup fresh mint for a unique flavor too!

 

 

GreenTeam Tips for Starting Seeds

The Hort’s GreenTeam actively promotes the economic, social, environmental, and quality of life benefits of neighborhood plazas and green spaces. Through strategic partnerships, The GreenTeam provides vocational training in horticulture, transitional work, job search skills, and job placement, and aftercare services.

As February rolls around, the sun shines more, and a few 60-degree days pop in here and there, the GreenTeam ramps up its spring planning. In the 2017 season, our workforce will plant, clean, and maintain fifteen public plazas – three more than last year! Serving more public-plazas means planting more plants – and it just so happens that we love plants!

Luckily, to facilitate this large uptick in plantings, The Hort has great friends and partners at Van Houten Farms. Earlier this month, the GreenTeam met with the Van Houten Farms horticulturists to plot out a signature plant palette for the year. The goal is to have New Yorkers recognize the Hort’s public plazas just by looking at the plants!

The GreenTeam does not let Van Houten Farms do all of the growing – they do some too! When a box from Burpee arrived with a huge assortment of flower and vegetable seeds, it was as if Christmas came early (or late?) for our horticulturists. Many of these seeds will be used in supportive housing buildings, where the GreenTeam will teach residents how to grow vegetables and flowers.

However, with the last frost coming soon (about May 1st), it is just about time for all gardeners to start seeds indoors. Whether you are using small pots or seed starting flats, the GreenTeam would like to offer a few tips for seedlings. Follow their advice and watch your seeds grow!

  1. Make sure you clearly label the seeds you plant with the seed variety and planting date – it is easy to forget what you planted.
  2. Use a spray bottle to keep the soil moist at all times, seeds and young seedlings will not grow if the soil dries out.
  3. Keep your pots or trays next to a sunny window or under a grow light. If seedlings are not getting enough sun, they will start searching for light and become leggy.
  4. Make sure your seeds stay warm to encourage germination – most require temps around 72 degrees to germinate.
  5. Always follow the directions on the seed packets! Did you know that some seeds might not need to be covered with soil?

Does all this ‘green-thumbing’ make you a bit nervous? Worried about your limited space to grow or lack of sunlight? Don’t worry, you do not have to ‘seed start’ everything.  There are plenty of leafy greens and spring vegetables that can be planted directly in the ground after the last frost – think arugula, turnips, radishes, kale, and chard. Local farmer’s markets or nurseries are great resources and often have large selections of annuals that can be put right into the ground! But remember to always choose vigorous looking plants and make sure you are not buying anything you did not pay for, such as yellow leaves or aphids.

With enough hard work, care, and patience, you will have a lush and successful growing season! Who knows, you might even out-grow The GreenTeam.