Category Archives: Master Gardener Volunteers

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 DAleseCooke@cornell.edu.

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!

Apply Now for 2017 Master Gardener Volunteer Training

CCE Suffolk trains Master Gardener Volunteers to provide the public with gardening programs and activities that draw on the horticultural research and experience of Cornell University. MG Volunteers receive research-based instruction and are kept up-to-date through continual exposure to the latest developments in environmental horticulture. In return, they agree to share their knowledge with neighbors by volunteering to do community service. After completing the training course and volunteering for 125 hours, they become certified as CCE Suffolk MG Volunteers. Suffolk County’s MG Volunteer Program, along with similar programs in other counties in New York State, is directly linked to Cornell University as part of its National Land-Grant College charter. This tie to Cornell provides MG Volunteers with state-of-the-art gardening knowledge.

MG Volunteer trainees learned how to create healthy soil by sheet mulching into raised beds at the Children's Garden.

2016 MG Volunteer trainees learned how to create healthy soil by sheet mulching compost materials into raised beds. Photo © Robin Simmen.

Anyone who enjoys gardening and has a desire to share knowledge and skills in their community can apply by October 31, 2016 to become a MG Volunteer next year. Every year hundreds of these service-minded folks from Suffolk County do the following:

  • 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 for 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 such as the Suffolk County Farm PumpkinFest and the Bayard Cutting Arboretum Fall Harvest Festival

The next training course for new MG Volunteers is planned for 2017, beginning February 1 and ending June 28. We have revised the curriculum and weekly schedule to provide more hands-on training and make it accessible to people who work Monday through Friday. Starting February 1, weekly Wednesday evening lectures will be held 5:30-8:30 p.m. at CCE Suffolk, 423 Griffing Avenue in Riverhead. Starting April 1, Saturday morning classes will also be held 9:00 a.m.-noon in the field (weather permitting) every other week at various locations from Amityville to Riverhead until the course ends June 28.

The cost of this comprehensive gardening course for community volunteers remains $375 with an additional $125 deposit, refunded upon completion of 125 hours of volunteer service. Download the application here. For more information, please call or email me soon; the deadline to apply is October 31.

Robin Simmen is Community Horticulture Specialist for CCE Suffolk. She can be reached at rls63@cornell.edu or at 631-727-7850 x215.©

In Praise of Spring Planted Bulbs

All of us love crocus, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and so many other bulbs that are early harbingers of spring. Dreaming of flowers to come, in autumn we have no trouble finding time to plant new bulbs for next year. There are, however, four seasons to our gardens, and when the spring bloom is done, it’s time to think of bulbs we can plant in spring for beauty during the rest of the year.

Let me take a step back and say that many catalogs and gardeners use the term “bulb” to refer to corms, tubers, and rhizomes as well as true bulbs. These little storehouses all serve much the same function: housing and protecting the buds, or eyes, for the growing season to come as well as storing energy for growth during stressful times…and the more a plant does for itself, the happier this lazy gardener is. Hence my love of spring-planted bulbs.

Who can resist the glorious iris? Photo by Kate Rowe.

Who can resist the glorious iris? Photo © Kate Rowe.

After the carefree and abundant blossoms of spring, look around your yard for empty spaces that need filling: it’s time for spring-planted bulbs to the rescue! Do you need something tall in a sunny spot? Try iris, day lilies, gladiolus, crocosmia, dahlias, or something really different: bletilla, a.k.a. ground orchid. Bletilla striata can last for years in our Long Island gardens and will grow to be 16” tall. Many gladioli also survive winters in our gardens, thanks to global warming—every cloud has a silver lining!

What’s that you say? You will happily plant iris or day lilies, but not dahlias? You don’t want to grow big, beautiful, colorful dahlias because you don’t want the hassle of digging up the tubers at the end of autumn? Well then, don’t!  With the affordable price of bags of dahlia tubers at big box stores, just forget about digging them up. Those abandoned tubers will enrich the soil…That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Do you have a shady area in need of help? Consider planting carefree variegated Solomon’s seal. Its arching stems are beautiful, and the shy green-tipped white flowers that appear under its leaves in late spring  are a lovely bonus. This gardener can assure you that if Solomon’s seal is happy, it forms lovely large clumps with virtually no help. So it’s one of my favorites; I’m a lazy gardener, remember!

Do you need late garden color? Check out re-blooming iris, canna, of which there are now some shorter varieties, and caladium which blooms throughout the summer until the first cold days of fall. And did I mention dahlias? See above for the lazy gardener’s take on these beauties! For specific advice on using bulbs successfully in your garden, read this CCE Suffolk fact sheet on Summer Flowering Bulbs.

I’ve concentrated here mainly on perennial flowers (as any card-carrying lazy gardener would) but many bulbs can be planted as annuals to provide a world of beautiful color in Long Island gardens. For the most part, these bulbs are no more expensive than a 6″ or 8″ pot of geraniums, and in general much more carefree, so give them some thought as you plan for summer and autumn color in your garden, on your patio, or in your pots. Not sure how to plant and nurture these bulbs in your garden? There’s an easy way to learn: Check out this Flowering Growing Guides list of plants from Cornell, which includes many of these bulbs.

Here’s a short list of both annual and perennial spring-planted bulbs to use either as fillers or focal points in your garden. Those marked with an asterisk are the ones most successfully dug up and over-wintered for replanting next year (an activity for the over-achievers among you):

ANNUALS                                          PERENNIALS                    

Begonia                                              Anemone

Caladium                                            Acidanthera

Canna*                                               Bletilla

Dahlia*                                               Crocosmia

Elephant ear*                                    Day lily

Freesia                                                Fall crocus (Colchicum)

Ranunculus                                        Gladiolus (to zone 7)

Tigridia                                                Iris

Triteleia                                               Lily

Solomon’s seal

Once your bulbs are planted, sit back with a cool drink and relax while they make your garden look beautiful!

Kate Rowe is a lazy gardener and Master Gardener Volunteer from the CCE Suffolk class of 2014. She can be reached at rowekb@gmail.com.

Register Now for Spring Gardening School

Join us for Suffolk County’s annual Spring Gardening School on Saturday, April 16, 2016, 8:30 a.m to 4:00 p.m. Organized by Master Gardener Volunteers for the last 34 years, this beloved event kicks off the growing season for hundreds of gardeners who gather together for a day of learning and fun.

2016 poster Spring Gardening School 2016 will be held at Patchogue-Medford High School in Medford, 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. New this year is a keynote session with an address on Grow More with Less: Sustainable Gardening Methods by Vincent Simeone, Director of Planting Fields Arboretum. You can sign up for such classes as Choosing the Right Trees, Gardening with Chickens, Design & Install Drip Irrigation, Pruning Roses & Hydrangeas, Seed Starting Demystified, and many, many more.

The fee to attend is $65 per person, 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!

Robin Simmen is Community Horticulture Specialist for CCE Suffolk. She can be reached at rls63@cornell.edu or at 631-727-7850 x215.

Apply Now for Master Gardener Volunteer Training

CCE Suffolk trains Master Gardener Volunteers to provide the public with gardening programs and activities that draw on the horticultural research and experience of Cornell University. MG Volunteers receive research-based instruction and are kept up-to-date through continual exposure to the latest developments in environmental horticulture. In return, they agree to share their knowledge with neighbors by volunteering to do community service. After completing the training course and volunteering for 125 hours, they become certified as CCE Suffolk MG Volunteers. Suffolk County’s MG Volunteer Program, along with similar programs in other counties in New York State, is directly linked to Cornell University as part of its National Land-Grant College charter. This tie to Cornell provides MG Volunteers with state-of-the-art gardening knowledge.

A happy tribe of MG Volunteers keeps the Children's Garden growing at Suffolk County Farm.

A happy tribe of Master Gardener Volunteers keeps the Children’s Garden growing at Suffolk County Farm.

Anyone who enjoys gardening and has a desire to share knowledge and skills in their community can apply by October 31, 2015 to become a MG Volunteer. Every year hundreds of these service-minded folks from Suffolk County do the following:

  • 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 for 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 such as the Suffolk County Farm PumpkinFest and the Bayard Cutting Arboretum Fall Harvest Festival

The next training course for new MG Volunteers will be held in 2016, beginning February 3 and ending June 29. We are revising the curriculum and weekly schedule to provide more hands-on training and make it accessible to people who work Monday through Friday. Starting February 3, weekly Wednesday evening lectures will be held 5:30-8:30 p.m. at CCE Suffolk, 423 Griffing Avenue in Riverhead. Starting April 2, Saturday morning classes will also be held 9:00 a.m.-noon in the field (weather permitting) every other week at various locations from Amityville to Riverhead until the course ends June 29.

The cost of this comprehensive gardening course remains $375 with an additional $125 deposit, refunded upon completion of 125 hours of volunteer service. Download an application here.  For more information, please call or email me soon; the deadline is October 31.

Robin Simmen is Community Horticulture Specialist for CCE Suffolk. She can be reached at rls63@cornell.edu or at 631-727-7850 x215.