Pick Your Garden Spot

By: Mary Perkins, CCE Master Gardener Volunteer

The perfect garden spot is always on the other side of the fence, no matter where you try to garden. The critical factors for a perfect garden – crop, sunlight, soil, drainage, and location – are all involved in any garden design and selection of the garden site. These factors can be changed or modified to make any spot ‘nearly’ perfect for your garden. Evaluating each factor is the first step in garden design. Each plant you may wish to grow has its own pattern of need in regard to the other factors mentioned above. Designing your plantings in terms of these critical factors will result in greater success. Always work with nature, instead of against it.

Selection of plants and varieties of plants is important to gaining success and satisfaction from your garden. The range of sizes, shapes, colors, and growing season is mind-boggling. Selecting the best variety for your location can require a lot of research and even some experimentation. A really poor choice may result in near failure, while a good choice will result in success. Do you have a soil that is moist for most of the season, make sure to select varieties that don’t mind having ‘wet feet.’ Other varieties may do well in drought conditions or in soils that haven’t been improved for a while. If you have powdery mildew every year, select a variety that is resistant to it.

Most vegetables and many flowers need full sun – 6 – 8 hours of sunlight each day. Others will do well in only partial sun, or even deep shade. Thus you can, by being aware of an individual plant’s need for sunlight and the amount available, choose plants which will do well in nearly any location.

Soil requirements of plant species also vary. In general, the better your soil, the better your gardening results are going to be. Healthier plants can be grown in better soil. The health of the plant is critical in its resistance to disease and in the results you can expect. The perfect soil is well-drained, loose, light, friable, rich in organic matter, high in nutrients, and doesn’t exist anywhere on your land. Each of these desirable aspects of soil can be improved as you work in the garden. The addition of soil amendments over a period of time can continually take the soil closer to perfection.

Drainage is another variable factor in site selection. The garden soil needs to be well-drained, but not too well-drained. Many soils locally have clay or a clay mixture, “up to the second rail on the fence” and can cause problems with water retention. On the other hand, some sandy or gravelly locations may drain so quickly the plants don’t have the chance to get enough water unless they are watered every day. To check the drainage in your garden spot, dig several holes about one foot across and one foot deep; fill them with water and note the length of time it takes for the water to drain from the holes. The water should drain away in about three hours. Various methods can be used to improve the drainage if the holes drain too quickly or too slowly.

The last factor to consider in designing your garden is location. A garden which is far away from the house and out of sight will not receive the same amount of attention as will the plot next to the back door. One option available in locating the garden is the use of smaller plots in several different locations. A special garden can be achieved by grouping plants for a specific purpose in a small self-contained unit. Some examples of these special gardens are perennials, shade, annuals, herb, butterfly, or various vegetable or fruit gardens.

Before going any further, check your site and do as I have discussed  to ensure greater success in whatever you grow.

Linda Huey Garden Doors

Photo: Colleen Cavagna

DEC to Hold Cleansweepny Program in WNY

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has issued the following press release:

DEC to Hold Cleansweepny Program in WNY to Collect Unwanted Pesticides and Chemicals from Farms and Businesses

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will hold its 16th CleanSweepNY program the week of April 28 in Western New York, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced today. CleanSweepNY is a program that helps promote a healthy and sustainable New York by providing opportunities for businesses, farms and schools to properly dispose of unwanted or obsolete pesticides and other chemicals. DEC will also collect empty, triple-rinsed HDPE (#2) plastic pesticide containers for recycling.

“Every container of unwanted or outdated pesticides turned in during our collection event helps keep these materials out of conventional waste streams and municipal landfills,” Commissioner Martens said. “Through our collaboration with state Department of Transportation (DOT), we want to build on the success of our fall event where we achieved a 150 percent increase in chemicals collected. I encourage businesses to take advantage of this opportunity to reduce potential environmental impacts in our communities and help us build a toxic-free New York.”

DEC is targeting Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara and Wyoming counties for this spring’s CleanSweepNY efforts. The program is designed for entities such as agricultural and non-agricultural professional pesticide applicators, schools, golf courses, cemeteries and marinas. CleanSweepNY services are not available to homeowners.

DEC rotates CleanSweepNY locations throughout the state. Last fall, DEC collected a record-breaking 138,000 pounds of chemicals from 11 counties in the Western Finger Lakes region. Since the program’s inception in 2002, DEC collected and disposed of over 1.2 million pounds of chemical wastes, including more than 809 pounds of elemental mercury, and collected over 4,000 plastic pesticide containers for recycling that would otherwise have been disposed.

CleanSweepNY is an Environmental Benefit Project administered in partnership with the Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) and was initially established with approximately $2.2 million from several enforcement settlements in DEC’s pest management program. The collections are organized by DEC in collaboration with state DOT, which provides collection sites. The program is supported by Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Agricultural Container Recycling Council, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, New York Farm Bureau and related grower associations.

Participants will receive drop-off locations once they pre-register. Preregistration is required by April 25. For more information on CleanSweepNY, visit their website page (which is located in the right hand column of this page) or call toll free: 1-877-SWEEPNY (877-793-3769).

Consider Building a Rain Garden

By M. L. Wells, Cornell University Cooperative Extension Master Gardener


During the morning of the blizzard, mid-March, the temperature was close to 30◦.  I looked out into the fog and mist towards my full to overflowing ponds and wondered where the excess would go.  Well, technically I do know: eventually to the Genesee, Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence and the North Atlantic!  Quite the journey for those rain drops.


Which brings to mind the rain garden.  Also the recent occurrence of the 100-year flood every decade or so.  There are many reasons for floods: too much rain in a short time, sudden melt of a heavy snow pack, too many roads, parking lots and roof tops.  The first two are mostly beyond our control but we could engineer our way out of the latter.  Even we as individual gardeners can do a little something.  Make a rain garden or a green roof.  The first is easy, the second a major undertaking!


Most homes in suburbia or villages of 1000 ft² sit on a lot 50’ x 100’ or 5000 ft² 20% of the rain runs off your roof and goes where?  The street, sewer, neighbor’s yard or a low spot in your yard to make a temporary pond?


Here is how a rain garden helps.  Planted with proper plants, near the down spout or in the depression, rain gardens will absorb much of the excess water.  Some plants love damp or even wet feet.  Why not put them to work.  Here are some plants which will thrive in such a setting.  My plan is for a  10’ x 6’ rain garden.  In a dry spell remove the sod and add 2” of soil or sand and dig or till in 6” deep.  Plants in a rain garden should range in height and season of bloom for aesthetics.  Some plants are free for the digging in local ditches or fields (yours or a friend’s.) Here is what I would plant. 


Some are native, others are local and some you may even have to order from a supplier:

Joe Pye Weed grows to 4’ in wet places, rosy pink in August to September,

New England Aster grows 3’, purple in September to October,

Mallow grows 18”, pink, white in June to July,

Maiden Hair Fern, 12-18”

Wild Ginger, 4-6”

Blue Flagg Iris grows 30”, lavender in June,

Blazing Star Liastra grows 2’ to 3’ is rosy purple in July and August,

Monarda grows 2’ to 3’ is Lavendar-purple in July and August,

Other options include: Columbine, Cut-leaf Coneflower, Great Lobelia, Cardinal Flower, White Turtlehead, Beardtongue, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Virginia bluebells, bloodroot and Jacobs ladder.


This is just a few plants that can be used in a rain garden. Remember, even in a rain garden, some plants like the sun and some plants want only shade, so plant according to your sites features. Go online and check out Rain Garden Alliance for a list of other plants, trees and shrubs, confirm they will grow in our colder northern zones of 4 and 5, http://raingardenalliance.org/planting/plantlist. If you want a site that provides plans that are already laid out and the plants chosen for you, try this extension website, http://jade.coe.edu/~mstclair/RainGarden/rain_garden_plant_layouts-3.pdf.  Put Mother Nature to work soaking up all that extra water and reduce the amount of runoff in our streams and lakes!

STEM Club Meetings

Come one, come all to our STEM Club (science, technology, engineering and math) meeting! We will be meeting every other Wednesday from 4:30-5:30 at the Cuba Cultural Center (38 East Main Street Cuba.)

Our first meeting will take place April 30th. We will be working on bridge design as well as simple science projects. We will also be involved with some community outreach activities at the Cultural Center. If you have any questions please contact the office.

We hope to see you on the 30th!

From Our Friends at SNAP Ed

How much sugar are you drinking?

It is difficult to believe that the beverages we choose can contain as many calories as a meal or snack! What seems like a light, refreshing drink can contribute a significant amount of calories to our daily intake; those calories are usually coming from added sugar.

For example a popular brand of peach iced tea (18 oz.) contains about 40 grams of sugar which is the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar (almost a ¼ cup of sugar!). This is 160 calories for a beverage which doesn’t even provide vitamins and minerals which our body needs. And we thought we were being healthy choosing the fruit flavored iced tea!

Another popular sugary drink is a 20 oz. bottle of cola which has about 20 teaspoons of sugar and 275 calories. If you drank one cola this size each day for a week that would be close to 3 cups of sugar! You can see how a simple beverage choice can add up. According to the USDA Nutrition Evidence Library, drinking one or more sugar sweetened beverages a day is associated with weight gain and a higher body weight compared to adults who do not drink sugary beverages.  Sugar sweetened beverages such as colas are considered ‘empty calories’ because they have no vitamins or minerals, just calories.

Are your ready to make a healthy change for the spring? Reducing your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages is a great place to start! Try swapping one sugary beverage a day for a glass of water or low-fat milk. Water will keep you hydrated and focused throughout the day. Milk will add a great source of calcium, protein, and some hydration.

Nutrition lessons that teach about reducing sugary beverage consumption and other nutrition and health-related topics, such as balancing calories, increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, and stretching your food dollars are provided by Cornell Cooperative Extension Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties through a program called Eat Smart NY.  Eat Smart NY lessons are funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP.

Eat Smart New York is a free nutrition education program available to SNAP recipients and SNAP eligibles. To screen for SNAP benefit eligibility or to apply online for SNAP benefits, please visit https://www.mybenefits.ny.gov/.  To find out more about Eat Smart NY in Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties and where lessons are held call CCE at 716-699-2377 ext 122 or visit our website http://blogs.cornell.edu/ccecattall

Visit these websites below for more helpful information about reducing your intake of sugar sweetened beverages:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Re-Think Your Drink! http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/drinks.html

MyPlate.gov Make Better Beverages Choices: 10 Tips to get Started. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet19MakeBetterBeverageChoices-BlkAndWht.pdf

Health Education Council. Rethink your Drink. http://healthedcouncil.org/rethink/sugar-calculator-1.php

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. ReThink your drinks.http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=10931