Monthly Archives: August 2017

Master Gardeners in the Community: The Wedge at Mt. Sinai Heritage Park

The perfect time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now. This Chinese proverb applies to many aspects of life including the creation, enhancement and maintenance of the landscape at the Wedge in Mt. Sinai.

The Wedge (Heritage Park and Heritage Center) was just a seed of an idea 20 years ago. In just a score of years, 18 acres of sod farm have been transformed into a “mini central park” cherished by many and envied by others. Volunteers, donors and local government have foraged a partnership to ‘grow’ a mix of passive and active recreational features at the Wedge. Contoured slopes, meandering walking paths, landscaped areas and gardens, a playground, putting green and three sports fields allow visitors to ease their minds, reflect, learn, enjoy, communicate, romp, run, walk and play. Add to these are the community and private events sponsored by the 501c3 Heritage Trust at the Heritage Center.

The 2017 crop of Master Gardeners toured the park in May. I enjoyed sharing information and experiences about the landscape and hardscape added to the Wedge by volunteers, scouts and local business. At the end of the tour I felt there was more to share about being a Master Gardener volunteer at the Wedge.

Any volunteer project will confront challenges (issues) like soil preparation, water supply, money, leadership, time, consensus building, short and long term maintenance, nurturing of personal rewards, and permission from and coordination with the powers that be. All have been experienced and are part of the ‘tree’ planted twenty years ago.

The playground and putting green are great family fun. Organized sports are played on the ball fields but it is not uncommon to see kids and adults engaged in “free play” or friends and families picnicking on the same fields. The play knoll is climbed by tots, rolled down in the summer and sledded down in winter. The park’s daffodil Smiley Face brings smiles to faces when 2,500 daffodils bloom.

The activity and landscape changes with the season but one constant is the use of the 0.7 mile perimeter path.  Kids, adults, families, friends, residents of group homes, people recovering from surgery or heart attacks walk, stroll, run, ride scooters, and learn to ride bikes on the path.

The park is so favored because of its openness, sense of safety, location, contours and landscape. The textures, colors and shapes of the landscape change with each season. The spring Master Gardener tour highlighted the following:

  • Old Man’s Machine and Crop exhibit – Crop plots of grains, flax, potatoes and rows of lavender have a back drop of farm implements that were used to prepare soil, plant and harvest crops.

  • Mt. Sinai Garden Club’s perennial and shade garden along with 8 community plots.
  • Small pollinator garden and corn crib shed.
  • Avenue of America mile sign post and the beginning of the Heritage Planet Walk.
  • Avenue of America trees and location of Parade of American Flags. Selected state trees were described and a prize Gold Rush dawn redwood was admired. In 20 years all these trees will enrich visitor’s pleasure in the park.
  • Court of America sitting area with a rock garden representation of the United States.  Aluminum edging forms the outline of the country, rocks represent mountains, shaped bluestone the Great Lakes and various plants vegetate the land (below). Presidential blocks border the 20’ x 14’ “map”.

  • The blooms of the Patriotic Triangle symbolize the colors of our nation and the three sides and corner columns (Ionic and two Corinthian) represent the branches of government.
  • The dawn redwood corner is developing into a low maintenance landscape. The Arkansas rose is the symbol of Iowa and North Dakota and Vinca, St. John’s Wort, Walkers Low and Liriope will suppress the growth of weeds. The tall redwood is still recovering from being transplanted eight years ago and someday will be 130 to 150 feet tall.
  • A butterfly garden triangle is well established and has a bridge for the bridging ceremonies of local Girl Scout troops.
  • A grass play knoll provides a high place to climb and enjoy the open space of the park. Families and friends picnic on the crest or watch kids roll or sled down the slopes.
  • A new golf putting green is enhanced with a landscaped water feature.
  • A Hinoki cypress maze has plant but will take time to establish. When opened it will complement the playground and putting green.
  • The Four flags triangle is enhanced with shrubs and perennials.

People compliment and thank us for our volunteer work on the landscape and it is not uncommon for people to ask questions about what is planted. The last 20 years has been rewarding. The next 20 years will provide future master gardeners and other volunteer opportunities to enrich and maintain the Wedge. Visit the Wedge and say hello if you see us puttering in the park. Congratulate Fred when you see him, he has volunteered 40 years of community service for CCE Suffolk.

If you’d like to help please contact any of the below:

Fred Drewes;  631-473-6776

Heritage Trust;  631-509-0882

Walter Becker, Mt Sinai Garden Club;

Article written by Fred Drewes, Master Gardener Volunteer                

Photos courtesy of Valerie Bruno, Master Gardener Class of 2017


Gardening in a Changing Climate

In a recent visit to the Teaching Gardens at Farmingdale State University, the Master Gardeners toured the beautiful gardens, learning first hand how changing climate conditions can affect how we garden. Plants and tropicals once only hardy to southern environments are now flourishing here on Long Island, and if conditions are right, certain varieties may be able to successfully overwinter in the garden.

Farmingdale State Teaching Gardens, photo by Donna Alese Cooke

As gardeners continually adapt to changing weather patterns, they understand how these changes may impact our precious landscape and natural resources. Here are some simple steps the home gardener can take, as described by Professor David Wolfe from the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University, to adapt to these changing climate conditions:

  • Vary your plant selection and try new varieties that may be better suited to your changing climate. Select drought and heat tolerant plants that are resistant to diseases and insect pests.
  • Consider shifting planting times: try planting cool-season crops earlier, to be harvested before the season heats up.
  • Look for new weeds, pests and diseases that come as a result of a warmer climate.
  • Be prepared to deal with both rainy and drought conditions: add organic matter to your soil. This will improve drainage in wet areas and retain water in drought-prone areas.

Wolfe also suggests various ways to reduce our carbon footprint, by strategically using fertilizers, storing carbon in soil, planting trees, and reducing fossil fuel use, and reducing, reusing and recycling disposable products.

You can learn more about Gardening in a Changing Climate at Wolfe’s page at and enroll in a new, free online course starting on September 11th, “Climate Change Science, Communication and Action,” offered by Cornell University Civic Ecology.

Climate Change Science, Communication and Action is an online course designed for Extension Educators, Master Gardener Volunteers, state and local government, land trusts and other non-profits, and others interested in an introduction to climate change science and how to communicate effectively about this important topic. Participants will make new connections and share resources as part of an online network of Cornell University professionals, students, volunteers, and others interested in Climate Change Science.

On a local level, CCE Suffolk Community Horticulture has formed a local group of course participants, who will use what they learn from this course and apply it to our educational outreach and community needs. The course dates are September 11-October 1, 2017, and you can find the registration link below. Once registered, please contact to be added to the Suffolk CCE Community Action group on Facebook, and to be informed of local meetings where we will meet as a group in Suffolk County.


Climate Change Science, Communication and Action Online Course Registration Link:

Department of Horticulture:

Interactive USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, where you can find your zone by ZIP code:

Submitted by Donna Alese Cooke, Community Horticulture Specialist, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk



Master Gardener Volunteer Training 2018

CCE Suffolk will once again be offering a new class of Master Gardener Trainees. The next training course will take place every Wednesday, 10am-4pm from January 17 through May 30. Weekly lectures and hands-on learning will take place at various locations in addition to our Extension Education Center, CCE Suffolk, 423 Griffing Avenue in Riverhead.

What do Master Gardeners do? Master Gardener Volunteers receive research-based instruction during the course of the training, and continue to be kept current through ongoing experiential learning and advanced training. In return, they agree to share their knowledge though community service and educational outreach.

Volunteers become Certified Master Gardeners for CCE Suffolk after completing the training course and volunteering 125 hour of service. CCE Suffolk’s Master Gardener Volunteer Program is directly linked to Cornell University as part of its National Land-Grant College charter, which provides a valuable connection to state-of-the-art gardening knowledge.

Each year hundreds of these service-minded folks from Suffolk County:

  • Organize a Spring Gardening School for the public, including workshops, exhibits, and a plant sale
  • Table with gardening information at community events
  • Cultivate the land and teach youth at the Children’s Garden at Suffolk County Farm
  • Design and help maintain community beautification projects, demonstration gardens, community gardens, and school gardens
  • Offer gardening talks and classes at public libraries, schools, and  interested groups
  • Create and participate in programs for senior citizens, youth, and the physically and mentally challenged
  • Teach the proper care of lawns, shrubs, trees, and flowers, and how to grow fruits and vegetables
  • Install exhibits and provide gardening information at flower shows and events

    MG Volunteers at the Children’s Garden at Suffolk County Farm

Anyone who enjoys gardening and has a desire to learn and share their knowledge and skills can apply to the 2018 Master Gardener Training Class. The cost of this comprehensive gardening course is $375 with an additional $125 deposit. The deposit is refundable, upon completion of 125 hours of volunteer service. Download the application here.

You can find more information about our Master Gardener Program and download application materials at:

Donna Alese Cooke is the Community Horticulture Specialist for CCE Suffolk. She can be reached at or at 631-727-7850 x225.©