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Welcome to Our New Community Horticulture Specialist

Let’s all give a warm welcome to Donna Alese Cooke, the new Community Horticulture Specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.  No stranger to Cornell Cooperative Extension, Donna comes to us with experience in education and extension having worked with Master Gardener programs in both Orange and Rockland Counties, and is a Master Gardener herself. Donna is a graduate of the Ornamental Horticulture Program at Farmingdale State College and has a graduate degree in Curriculum Development and Instructional Technology. Donna jumped right in to the busy summer activities on June 19.

You can find Donna at 631-727-7850 x225 or

The Children’s Garden Summer Program

2017 is the 25th consecutive year Master Gardener Volunteers have offered a summer gardening program for children through Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. Growing interest in this program has led to a renovation of the garden, including a new pergola and paved walkway, hoop houses for growing early and late season vegetables, as well as identification and special care of many pollinator-friendly plants in the garden.

Popular projects for the 2017 Children’s Garden program include:

  • Making newspaper pots, and then potting up seeds and transplants to bring home to grow
  • Identifying weeds by making weed ID books to bring home for future use
  • Learning about the various garden areas and the variety of butterflies, birds, and insects attracted to them
  • Adding food scraps to our 3-bin compost system and learning why “Rot Rules” in the soil kingdom
  • Planting square-foot gardens to grow food in raised beds
  • Harvesting vegetables and fruit from the hoop house, raised beds, and teepee
  • Playing in the bean teepee, sunflower house, and gazebo

Favorite activities from previous years include a visit from the Worm Lady, a tour of the Butterfly House at the Farm, a wagon ride tour of the Farm, and much more. On the last day of the program, we’ll enjoy a celebratory feast, prepared from bounty we harvest from the garden.

The 2017 program provides a hands-on gardening experience for children. Children ages 5 and up are best suited for the program, which is not parent participatory. They will be divided into two groups – ages 5 to 8 years and 9 to 12 years – with age appropriate activities for each group. All children will keep nature journals to record their time/experiences in the summer program at the Children’s Garden.

The eight-week gardening session will meet on Wednesday mornings July 5 through August 23 from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. The Children’s Garden is located at the Suffolk County Farm in Yaphank.

Interested? Click here for a registration form.

Want more information? Call Donna Alese Cooke at 631-727-7850 x225

The Horticulture Diagnostic Lab Can Help!

Do you have questions about gardening? Need a soil test? Want help identifying plant pests or diseases? Wonder what kind of insect or tick you’ve found? The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County Horticulture Diagnostic Lab can help! Our Horticulture Consultants can assist with plant problem diagnosis, pest identification, and general gardening and landscaping information. You can reach them through Call-In Help Lines, or stop by in person. There are two locations in Suffolk County:

Cornell Cooperative Extension
Extension Education Center
423 Griffing Ave, Riverhead, NY 11901
Open year round, Monday-Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm
Call-in help line: 631-727-4126; 9:00am-12:00pm

Bayard Cutting Arboretum
Montauk Highway, Great River, NY 11739
Open from April 27-October, Thursdays and Fridays only, 10:00am to 4:30pm
Call-in help line: 631-581-4223; 8:45am-11:45am and 1:00pm-4:00pm

Click here for more information about the Horticulture Diagnostic Labs.

You can also find many great resources here:

Also, check out this article from the Northforker on the lab!

Distinguishing Red and White Oaks: It’s Important Now More Than Ever!

It’s more important than ever to know what oak you’re looking at because of the introduction of oak wilt to Long Island, which is a serious disease that affects all species of oaks (Quercus spp.). While all species of oaks are susceptible to oak wilt, the fungal pathogen (Ceratocystis fagacearum) doesn’t impact all oak species equally to the same degree. Species in the red oak group, in particular red oak (Quercus rubra), are most devastated by this disease and die within the first year or less upon infection. With species in the white oak group, however, a much slower progression of the disease occurs—it may be years before the infected tree dies. To learn more follow this link to Oak Wilt Risk: Distinguishing Red and White Oaks.

Leaf from the white oak group on the left, and red oak group on the right. Note the curved leaf margins and hair-like bristles that distinguish the two.

Prune Your Oak Trees in Winter

In an earlier post we discussed oak wilt, which was identified for the first time on Long Island this summer in the Town of Islip. Unfortunately, additional reports of oak wilt have since occurred from several other towns in Suffolk County. In light of these reports, the DEC is urging homeowners to prune their oak trees in winter and not during the growing season. One way that oak wilt spreads is through insects (sap beetles are one of the main culprits), which can move the fungus from an infected tree to a healthy tree. During the warmer growing season sap beetles are active and attracted to the fresh wounds, increasing the chances of disease spread.

Learn more about oak wilt on the DEC website.

Register for Spring Gardening School

Join us for Suffolk County’s annual Spring Gardening School on Saturday, April 22, 2017, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Organized by Master Gardener Volunteers for the last 35 years, this beloved event kicks off the growing season for hundreds of gardeners who gather together for a day of learning and fun.

Spring Gardening School 2017 will be held at Longwood Senior High School in Middle Island, NY. All classes are taught by Master Gardener Volunteers and Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators. The day consists of workshops held during three sessions and offers classes for beginners to advanced gardeners. This year a keynote address on “Long Island Native Plants and Pollinators” will be presented by Polly Weigand, Executive Director of the Long Island Native Plant Initiative. You can sign up for such classes as Gardening with Chickens, Design & Install Drip Irrigation, How to Attract and Enjoy the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, Low-Water Gardening, Seed Starting Demystified, and many, many more.

The fee to attend is $65 per person ($60 early bird, before March 1st), which includes free soil pH testing, a Long Island Gardening Calendar, a plant diagnostic clinic, gardening exhibits, and an early plant sale from some of the finest nurseries on Long Island; continental breakfast, delicious boxed lunch, raffles, and door prizes. Preregistration is mandatory; first come is first served. Here is a registration form with a full schedule of classes and their descriptions for you to download and send to us. We look forward to seeing you there!