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Seminar video: The Seed Your Future Program: Promoting Horticulture in the U.S.

If you missed Monday’s Horticulture Section seminar, The Seed Your Future Program: Promoting Horticulture in the U.S. with John Dole, North Carolina State University, it is available online.

More seminar videos: Horticulture | School of Integrative Plant Science

‘Three Sisters in Soil’ wins global soil painting competition

Three Sisters in Soil

Soil, it turns out, can be a work of art — and a team of Cornell artists and scientists proved just that. A painting they created with soil captured first prize in the university division of the global soil painting competition sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Kirsten Kurtz, manager of the Cornell Soil Health Lab and a graduate student in the field of natural resources, organized the public event Dec. 5, 2017 in the lobby of Mann Library as part of World Soil Day. There, supporting artists and members of the Cornell community created two large canvases from more than 50 paints formulated from soils from around the world.

“It’s amazing the range of colors you can get from soil,” says Kurtz, who started using the technique four years ago. “Of course you have the usual browns and tans, some tinged with yellow and red. But some yield pigments from jet black to light gray and even green.” In addition, soil particles in the paint from gritty sands to fine clays give the works a unique texture not possible with other media.

Supporting artists Patty Chan (Plant Sciences major) Fatma Rekik (Soil and Crop Sciences graduate student), Emily Detrick (Cornell Botanic Gardens) and Shujie Li (Scanlon Lab technician) work on Three Sisters with Kurtz (right).

Her recipe includes pulverizing dried soil and mixing it with water and a gesso binder. Kurtz also led a similar event in 2015 that inspired FAO to take the idea worldwide.

On the main canvas, Kurtz and supporting artists affiliated with the School of Integrative Plant Science used soil paints to honor the Three Sisters of agriculture — corn, beans and squash — used by Native American communities. The scene they painted was based on Ringelreihen, a 1910 work by the German artist Franz von Stuck, which shows three women spinning arm-in-arm.

“We added three baskets filled with corn, beans and squash,” says Kurtz. “These are the crops used in the traditional ‘Three Sisters’ polyculture used by the Haudenosaunee here in the Finger Lakes for centuries, a technique that is a model of sustainable farming.”

The community canvas

Other members of the Cornell community tried their hand at soil painting on the second canvas, completing a mosaic-like design. Plans are to hang the works in the entrance of Bradfield Hall.

“My main goal for these events is to inspire people to think about soil,” says Kurtz. “It is as an essential natural resource – as important as clean water and air. We depend on healthy soil to provide us with food and fiber, and we can use soil to help fight climate change.

“We’ve got lots of great reasons to celebrate soil,” she adds.

See also:

Online organic gardening, garden design courses start March 12

Registration is now open for two online courses offered by the Horticulture Section in Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science:

Raised bed vegetable gardenOrganic Gardening is designed to help new gardeners get started and help experienced gardeners broaden their understanding of organic techniques for all kinds of gardens.

Starting with a strong foundation in soil health and its impact on plant health, the course then explores tried-and-true and cutting-edge techniques for all different kinds of garden plants including food plants, trees and shrubs and lawn.

Participants read assigned essays and book excerpts, participate in online group discussions with other students, complete reflective writing/design work and take part in some hands-on activities. 
Most students spend about 5 hours each week with the content, though there are always ample resources and opportunity to do more.

View more information and full course syllabus for Organic Gardening.

garden_designx300Introduction to Garden Design will help you apply basic garden design techniques to your own garden. We teach an approach to gardening that is based on the principle of right plant, right place. In other words, we will consider the needs of the plant in addition to the needs of the gardener.

You’ll learn garden site analysis and apply the concepts to your personal space, gain proficiency in garden design principles and lay out a rough site plan overview of your garden design.

You will write and reflect on the process as you learn with the instructor taking an active role in this creative endeavor by providing feedback on your assignments and journal entries.

View more information and full course syllabus for Introduction to Garden Design.

Questions about either course? Please contact, Fiona Doherty:

Save the date: Garden educator symposium in Ithaca, N.Y. July 11-14

symposium logoMark your calendar. Cornell University’s Garden-Based Learning Program will host the American Horticultural Society’s (AHS) 26th annual National Children & Youth Garden Symposium in Ithaca, N.Y. July 11 to 14, 2018.

This professional development event will bring together hundreds of educators, garden designers, community leaders, youth program coordinators, and others from across the country who are dedicated to connecting children and youth to the natural world. Attendees will:

  • Explore topics ranging from curriculum to program management to garden design and maintenance during four dynamic days of educational sessions, field trips, and expert keynote presentations.
  • Experience Central New York’s abundant natural beauty and the world-renowned facilities of Cornell University. Visit the award-winning Ithaca Children’s Garden, Cornell Botanic Gardens, Finger Lakes parks and wineries, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Johnson Museum’s botanical art collection and more.
  • Share ideas, success stories, and inspiration with like-minded colleagues from across the nation.

“Attending my first NCYGS in 2013 was a pivotal point in my career,” says Fiona Doherty, Cornell University Extension Support Specialist. “The symposium expanded my network, provided me with fresh perspectives and fueled my passion for youth engagement and garden-based education. Each symposium I have attended since has continued to inspire and energize me and provide me with new skills and ideas.”

Online registration will open in April and includes discounts for AHS members, students and presenters. Contact organizers for volunteer and sponsorship opportunities.

More program details and online registration will be available at:


Call: (703) 768-5700

Follow AHS on Twitter: @AHS_NCYGS (#ncygs18)

Tour California Spring Trials April 13-17

From Mark Bridgen, Professor and Director of the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center:

We’re organizing a tour of several of the main stops along the Spring Trial route in California from April 13-17, 2018. This one-of-a-kind guided excursion is an intense, educational, and very entertaining way to visit several of the key Spring Trial locations with fellow horticulturists. The itinerary is jam-packed with three full days of tours with the days beginning early and continuing at a fast pace late into the evening. Guests will be able to visit the major horticultural companies that distribute plant materials and supplies and get a first-hand look at the products and new varieties that are available to the floriculture industry. This excursion is designed specifically for members of the greenhouse, nursery, and landscape industries, other horticulture professionals, and academics.

Deadline to register is February 9, 2018. More information and registration form.

If you have questions about details of the trip, contact me at or at 631-727-3595.

Mark Bridgen and Neil Mattson on tour of 2014 California Spring Trials.

Mark Bridgen and Neil Mattson on tour of 2014 California Spring Trials.

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