Upcoming Events: Online Gardening Workshops

Looking for some online gardening classes?  Here are some being offered by Cornell Cooperative Extensions around the state.


A baby deer (fawn) munching on clower in a lawnGardening with Deer

Friday, April 17, 2020, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

There are beautiful plants deer don’t like to eat! Incorporate these perennials, annuals and shrubs in your landscape to create an attractive yard with three seasons of bloom. Also learn about physical and scent strategies to reduce deer browsing in your yard

Cornell Cooperative Extension – Suffolk County


Wicker basket full of lettuce, tomaotes, peppers, beets, turnips,onions and a sprig of mintOrganic Vegetable Garden

Monday, April 20, 2020, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Learn how to grow food in your backyard. This session covers the 5 keys to a successful vegetable garden: location, soil preparation, plan, planting choices and good maintenance. No green thumb needed to get started.

Cornell Cooperative Extension – Suffolk County


Turquoise handled pruning shears surrounde by flower petalsTraining and Pruning Trees

Monday, April 20, 6:30 PM -7:30 PM

Learn about the pruning when trees are young to shape their future, and pruning needs as trees grow.

Cornell Cooperative Extension – Tompkins County


A butterfly on a pink zinniaPollinator Gardens

Tuesday, April 21, 2020, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Butterflies, birds and the other pollinators need host plants for nectar, food and lodging. By introducing three seasons of key pollinator plants into your garden, you can create a pollinator-friendly habitat in your front and back yard. Discover the best planting arrangements as well the many colorful and hardy plants attractive to pollinators

Cornell Cooperative Extension – Suffolk County


Plastic Waste - a pile of plastic water bottles, straws, pill packs and bagsGet Drastic with Plastic

Wednesday, April 22, 2020, 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Happy Earth Day! Join our discussion about the harm that plastics do to our environment, and how we can each reduce our consumption of single use plastics.

Cornell Cooperative Extension – Putnam County


Someone spraying a container of seedlings with alarge yellow spray bottlSafe Pesticide Use for Home Gardeners

Wednesday, April 22, 2020, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM

No matter what type of garden you have, chances are you will encounter problems. Join us for a presentation introducing home gardeners to alternative pest control methods to use before reaching for a pesticide. When a pesticide is necessary, learn about product selection and proper application techniques to protect yourself as well as the environment. This presentation will focus on less toxic alternatives and provide proper safety tips when using or storing pesticides.

Cornell Cooperative Extension – Oneida County


Wicker basket full of lettuce, tomaotes, peppers, beets, turnips,onions and a sprig of mintOrganic Vegetable Gardening

Thursday, April 23, 2020, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Learn how to grow food in your backyard. This session covers the 5 keys to a successful vegetable garden: location, soil preparation, plan, planting choices and good maintenance. No green thumb needed to get started.

Cornell Cooperative Extension – Suffolk County


Dark red trillium - Flower with three petals and large white stemens in the middleNative Plants in your Garden

Friday, April 24, 2020, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Native plants are the best choices for Long Island gardeners. Not only are they vigorous and attractive, but native plants support our pollinators. Discover the increasing array of handsome native plants that can you can incorporate in your landscape.

Cornell Cooperative Extension – Suffolk County


Wicker basket full of lettuce, tomaotes, peppers, beets, turnips,onions and a sprig of mintGrow Your Own Vegetables

Saturday, April 25, 2020, 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM

This class is perfect for folks who are in their first year or so of gardening. You’ll learn how to pick a location for your garden, plan what to grow, make sure your soil is healthy, and more!

Cornell Cooperative Extension – Putnam County


Turquoise handled pruning shears surrounde by flower petalsPruning Shrubs

Monday, April 27, 6:30 PM -7:30 PM

Learn about practices that make shrubs look new again and help them fit in the landscape.

Cornell Cooperative Extension – Tompkins County


Hummingbird feeding from a red flowerHummingbirds in your Garden

Monday, April 27, 2020, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Create the proper habitat for these magical creatures by providing them with nectar sources from appropriate flowers and sugar feeders. If you build the right garden for them, they will come! Discover amazing facts about these tiny birds while viewing photographs of them in action.

Cornell Cooperative Extension – Suffolk County


A garden patch of magenta, orange and yellow zinniasGrowing Cut Flowers

Wednesday, April 29, 2020, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

What a joyful privilege to bring colorful blooms inside! Join us to learn about annual flower varieties that are easy to grow in your home garden and lend themselves to making beautiful arrangements.

Cornell Cooperative Extension – Tompkins County


Pile of kitchen scraps, mostly peels of various fruits and vegetables, spead out on top of a compost pileComposting Basics

Wednesday, April 29, 2020, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM

What should you do with all your vegetable scraps? Join Holly Wise, Consumer Horticulture Resource Educator, for composting basics. She will explain the composting process and the benefits of using compost in your gardens. She will provide a recipe for making it. Along with discussing the different types of compost systems.

Cornell Cooperative Extension – Oneida County


Bumble bee on a pink flowerPlant a Pollinator Paradise

Saturdays, May 2 &  9, 2020, 9:30 AM – 11:00 AM

Pollinators are in trouble, but luckily each of us can have a part in ensuring a healthy environment for them. Join us for an in depth and interactive look at how to plan and create a pollinator garden on your property. Whether you have acres or just a front porch, you can create pollinator habitat. This is a two-part class with some at-home work.

Cornell Cooperative Extension – Putnam County


A cluster of cherry tomatoes growing on a tomato plant wet with the morning dew.Growing Vegetables and Small Fruits

Wednesday, May 6, 2020, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM

There’s magic in growing your own food, whether it’s a just-picked tomato or a handful of fresh strawberries. However, growing your own food doesn’t have to be complicated and you don’t even need a large space. Join us and learn what you need to know to get started, focusing on smaller spaces, including raised beds and using containers for your fruits and vegetables. Learn the importance of good soil, when and how to plant, how to use seeds and transplants, what grows best in this area, how to deal with pests, and where to go for help.

Cornell Cooperative Extension – Oneida County

April is Citizen Science Month!

What is citizen science? 

Scientists are limited in the amount of data they can collect by both time and money.  With help from members of the general public, known as citizen scientists, researchers are able to crowd source data collection collecting more data from more places helping them find answers to real-world questions.

So if you want to do something fun and educational that contributes to the advancement of scientific knowledge, consider becoming a citizen scientist.

Citizen Science Projects


Monarch Butterfly (Orang and Black) - Jouney NorthThe Journey North

This project focuses on migration and seasonal changes.   People all over the United States, Canada, and Mexico, report sightings of birds, monarchs, frogs, and other organism.   Watch as reported sightings are mapped in real-time as waves of migrations that move across the continent.


inaturalist logoi-Naturalist

iNaturalist lets you photograph, identify, and document what’s around you.  Every observation can contribute to biodiversity science, from the rarest butterfly to the most common backyard weed.  By sharing your observations with scientists, you will help build our understanding of the natural world.

Never Home Alone

In studying life, scientists have overlooked many regions. Some regions have not been studied because they are so remote. Others because they are so diverse that it is hard to know where to even begin. Then there is the great indoors, which we believe has been understudied in part because it is so immediate. This project aims to document the species that live indoors with humans.


The Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Logo with Bird in MiddleThe Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world contribute bird observations to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology each year, gathering data on a scale once unimaginable. Scientists use these data to reveal how birds are affected by habitat loss, pollution, disease, climate, and other environmental changes. Your participation will help trace bird migration, nesting success, and changes in bird numbers through time.

Celebrate Urban Birds

Celebrate Urban Birds is a citizen science project focused on better understanding the value of green spaces for birds. This project connects people of all ages and backgrounds to birds and the natural world through the arts and fun neighborhood activities.

e-bird

The goal of this project is to gather this information on bird sightings, archive it, and freely share it to power new data-driven approaches to science, conservation and education.  e-Bird also develops tools that make birding more rewarding.  It provides the most current and useful information to the birding community from photos and audio recordings, to seeing real-time maps of species distribution and alerts that let you know when species have been seen.

NestWatch

NestWatch is a nationwide monitoring program designed to track status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds, including when nesting occurs, number of eggs laid, how many eggs hatch, and how many hatchlings survive.  Their database is intended to be used to study the current condition of breeding bird populations and how they may be changing over time as a result of climate change, habitat degradation and loss, expansion of urban areas, and the introduction of non-native plants and animals.


Logo - The Tick App - Bulls Eye with a the outline of a tick in the miidle suurounded by the words The Tick AppThe Tick App

The Tick App allows people living in high-risk areas for Lyme disease, like Orange County New York, to participate in a tick behavioral study.   Participants complete daily logs and report ticks.  The app provides information on how to remove ticks, prevent tick bites, and general information about ticks.   When enough people are involved, it can also provides information about blacklegged and deer tick activity in our area.


Monarch Caterpilar (Yellow, white, black stripped) on a green leaf - Monarch Larva Monitoring ProjectMonarch Larva Monitoring Program

This citizen science project’s mission is to better understand the distribution and abundance of breeding monarchs and to use that knowledge to inform and inspire monarch conservation.  People from across the United States and Canada participate in this monarch research.  Their observations aid in conserving monarchs and their threatened migratory phenomenon, and advance the understanding of butterfly ecology in general.


Logo - Monarch Watch.org Education, Conservation, ResearchMonarch Watch

Monarch Watch strives to provide the public with information about the biology of monarch butterflies, their spectacular migration, and how to use monarchs to further science education in primary and secondary schools. They engage in research on monarch migration biology and monarch population dynamics to better understand how to conserve the monarch migration.

Monarch Calendar Project

In the spring and fall volunteers collect observations of adult monarchs.  This information is used to  assemble quantitative data on monarch numbers at critical times during the breeding season.

Tagging Monarchs

Each fall Monarch Watch distributes more than a quarter of a million tags to thousands of volunteers across North America who tag monarchs as they migrate through their area. These citizen scientists capture monarchs throughout the migration season, record the tag code, tag date, gender of the butterfly, and geographic location then tag and release them. At the end of the tagging season, these data are submitted to Monarch Watch and added to their database to be used in research.


Logo - The Lost Ladybug ProjectThe Lost Ladybug Project

In the past twenty years, native ladybugs that were once very common have become extremely rare.  During this same time, ladybugs from other parts of the world have greatly increased in both numbers and range. This is happening very quickly and no one knows how, why, or what impact it will have on ladybug diversity.  Citizen scientists involved in this project help scientists answer these questions by photographing ladybugs and submitting the photos along with information about when and where the ladybugs were found.


Logo - Vegetable Varieties for GardenersVegetable Varieties for Gardeners

A project of Cornell University’s Garden Based Learning, this web forum provides an avenue for gardeners to share knowledge.  Gardeners report what vegetable varieties perform well – and not so well – in their gardens.  Other gardeners can view ratings and read the reviews to decide which might work well for them.  Researchers  use the information gain new insight into the performance of vegetable varieties under a wide range of conditions and practices. The information gathered is also used to make a  Selected List of Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners in New York State.


Logo - The outline of New York State under a picture of a moth, a beetle, a moth and a fly with the words Empire State Native Pollinator SurveyEmpire State Native Pollinator Survey

Native pollinators play an essential role in the pollination of flowering plants, including native plants and wildflowers, garden plants, as well as cultivated crops. Some native pollinator species have suffered population declines over the last few decades.   Participants  in this study submit photographs and/or specimens to help  determine the conservation status of a wide array of native insect pollinators in non-agricultural habitats.


iMapInvasivesiMapInvasives

iMapInvasives is an on-line, GIS-based data management system used to assist citizen scientists and natural resource professionals working to protect our natural resources from the threat of invasive species.  Citizen scientists are provided with resources to help them identify invasive species. Their invasive species findings are aggregated with data from a wide variety of sources contributing to early detection of invasive species as well as analysis of management strategies.


A curated beetle collection with pinned specimens above tagsNotes from Nature

Natural history museums across the world share a common goal – to conserve and make available knowledge about natural and cultural heritage. The Notes from Nature project gives you the opportunity to make a scientifically important contribution towards that goal by transcribing museum records. Every transcription that is completed brings us closer to filling gaps in our knowledge of global biodiversity and natural heritage.


Logo - citizenscience.orgCitizen Science Database

This is an official government website designed to accelerate the use of crowdsourcing and citizen science across the U.S. government.  It includes a searchable database of  a government-wide listing of citizen science and crowdsourcing projects designed to improve cross-agency collaboration, reveal opportunities for new high-impact projects, and make it easier for volunteers to find out about projects they can join.


Become a Citizen Scientist today!

Upcoming Event: Make Your Veggie Garden Beautiful

A vegetable garden with a combination of cabbage surrounded by small yellow and orange flowers and dark purple leafy greensMake Your Veggie Garden Beautiful (via Zoom)

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County

Date and Time: Wednesday, April 8, 2020, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Cost: $0-$30 / person self-determined sliding scale, pay what you can afford

You’ve learned how to make your vegetable garden bountiful…now make it beautiful too! Join Master Gardener, Teresa Craighead, as she covers: flowers for in and around the vegetable garden, things to consider when introducing vegetables into ornamental gardens, vegetables with ornamental qualities, potager gardens, elements of garden design, planting patterns that please the eye, structures and accessories. This class is designed for vegetable gardeners, ornamental gardeners and anyone who is striving to create a summer veggie patch that both pleases the palate and delights the eye by blending with an ornamental landscape.

Out in the Garden

As the days get warmer and the sun sets later and later, I hope you all have the opportunity to spend more and more time outside.  Sunshine and fresh air are good for the soul!

If you happen to have a garden or have decided that this is the year to start one there are lots of things to keep you busy at this time of year!

Perennial Beds

A mantis egg mass, straw colored foam like mass the size of a golf ball, on the branch of a forsythia bush covered with yellow flower buds
Mantis ootheca on forsythia

Hopefully you waited until spring to clean up your garden to allow beneficial insects and other arthropods such as bees and butterflies to overwinter.  Now that spring has sprung you should leave debris as long as you can to give these creatures a chance to emerge from their winter hiding places.  You should start carefully removing debris from around blossoming plants.  If you must cut back hollow stems, bundle them so any pollinators overwintering inside have a chance to emerge.   As you are cleaning up be on the look out for praying mantis egg cases know as ootheca.   This is one time when you should leave things till tomorrow!

Freshly mulched garden bed in front of a house
Freshly mulched garden beds

Mulching is another spring time activity.  There are many different types of organic mulch that will not only suppress weeds, but also add organic material to the soil as they break down.  You don’t have to mulch everything, in fact many ground nesting bees such as bumble bees need a bit of bare earth to make their nests.  And if you are mulching your trees make sure to keep the mulch at least 3 inches away from the base of the tree so that it is not touching the bark.

And it is never to early to start weeding!  Lots of winter annual weeds such as common chickweed and prickly lettuce have already sprouted!

Vegetable and Herb Gardening

Starting Seeds Indoors

It is not to late to seed one more round of cool season crop such as cabbage, kale,  and lettuce, but it is also time to start seeding warm season crops such as eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes.

To start seeds you will need:

      • seeds
Several flats of seedlings
Flats of seedlings

There are lots of places online where you can purchase seeds. If you still have seeds left over from last year and don’t know if they are still good, don’t throw them out, try this simple home germination test.

      • sterile potting mix

It is important to use sterile potting mix to avoid disease issues like damping off.  Do not reuse potting mix and do not use garden compost.

      • container
20 or 30 chard seelings sprouting in a small plastic container filled with soil
Rainbow chard seedlings in a supermarket salad container

You don’t need to buy a fancy container to start seeds.  Just make sure the container has been sterilized and has drainage holes.

      • water

You want to keep the soil moist, but be careful not to over water or you may have a problem with damping off.

      • light source
A bookcase converted into a light frame for seedlings -grow lights above seed trays placed on the shelves
Bookcase converted into a grow frame

Some seeds need  light to germinate, but all seeds need light after they germinate. Once your seeds sprout  a light source will help prevent them from becoming leggy.  You can purchase grow lights or just use a soft white fluorescent bulb.  Here are directions on how to build a Low-Cost Grow-Light Frame.

      • heat
Mini greenhouse made from areused plastic container covering a small tray with 8 small cups of soilEight small cups of soil
Mini greenhouse

Most seeds will germinate between the temperatures of 55°F and 75°F,  but the optimal temperature for each type of seed varies.  You can create a mini-green house to trap heat and moisture.  You can also buy heating mats to warm the soil.  Click here to see  Soil Temperature Conditions for Vegetable Seed Germination.

Out in the Garden

A small child in a jean shirt, teal skirt and bright yellow rain boots put seeds in the ground
Planting peas

Gardening is an activity for the whole family!  Children love helping plant seeds!  Right now you can be direct seeding cool season crops in your garden such as beets, carrots, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, and turnips.  If you want to have a continual harvest, consider succession planting or  seeding several smaller plantings of the same crop at timed intervals, rather than all at once.

Chive plant in a raised garden bed
Chives

While most people are busy seeding, some perennial plants are already coming up or even ready to harvest!  Chives are a great example of a perennial that allows you add something fresh and green to your meals in the early spring.  If you planted chives in your garden last year, they are probably already making their way to your table.  This perennial of the onion family begins growing in early March and is able to be snipped with scissors and eaten soon after and throughout the growing season right up until the fall frost.

Crinkly green and dark purple leaves with bright pink stems sticking out ogf the soil
Rhubarb

Another perennial making an appearance is rhubarb!  Rhubarb is a great addition to any vegetable garden and as it is deer resistant and highly attractive it can also be used as part of your edible landscape.  Although the leaves of rhubarb are considered poisonous, the stems of this spring crop that can be used to make the classic strawberry rhubarb pie as well as many other delicious snacks.

Click here for vegetable gardening resources! 

And as always, if you are having any issues in your garden, need help identifying the cause of a problem or figuring out a management strategy give us a call.  Our Garden Helpline phones are staffed April – November, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm.  But you can always leave us a message or send us an e-mail.

Call (845) 343-0664 or e-mail your questions to mghelpline@cornell.edu.


Whatever kind of garden you have, spend some time enjoying its beauty!

A hanging ball of greens and fuzzy pussy wilow branches
December’s Kissing Ball transformed into a ‘Kitty Ball’ by the addition of Pussy Willow branches

Thanks to all of the Master Gardener Volunteers who provided their thoughts and photos for this post!

What’s in Bloom?

Bright red flowers on the branch of a red maple tree
Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

by Susan Ndiaye, Community Horticulture Educator

Signs of spring abound!   Bird songs fill the air.  Buds on the trees are starting to unfurl.   New shoots are breaking through the soil.  And flowers are beginning to bloom!

Here are some of the flowers to look out for as you venture outside for a breath of fresh air.

When most people think of maple trees, flowers aren’t the first thing that comes to mind.  Red maples are native to the eastern United States and happen to be one of the first trees to flower in the spring.  Their bright pink to red flowers result in the production of thousands of winged fruits called samaras, colloquially referred to as helicopters.  After ripening on the trees for several weeks they will fill the air and litter the ground.

A branch of forsythia in full blloom - yellow flowers
Forsythia spp.

Although many people equate the yellow blossoms of the forsythia with the beginning of spring, the forsythia is not native to New York; it actually native to eastern Asia.  This fast growing shrub is a favorite among homeowners, because it is tolerant to deer, resistant to Japanese beetles, and rarely has disease problems.   If you are looking for a native alternative to forsythia, try spicebush (Lindera benzoin).  This medium sized multi-stemmed shrub has fragrant yellow-green flowers in early spring and supports 12 species of butterflies and  provides berries for the birds.

Snowdrop - small white flower held between someone's thumb and forefinger
Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)
Bunches of white ane purple crocuses
Crocus spp.

One of the many joys of spring is the emergence of all the spring flowering bulbs.   Some of them are already blooming: snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils (my favorite flower!).   Despite its sometime unsightly appearance, make sure you leave  the foliage alone until it turns yellow and dies back.  This allows the leaves of the plant to produce food through photosynthesis.  This food is stored in the bulb and will be used  to produce even more beautiful flowers next spring!

Hellebores are also flowering! This evergreen herbaceous perennial is native to Turkey, but does well here in Orange County.  It grows well in full or partial shade and has beautiful white to pink to purple flowers that bloom in late winter into  early spring.  Hellebores are rarely damaged by deer and as they are evergreen, after their flowers fade, they make an attractive ground cover

Pink Hellebores (Helleborus spp.)
Varigated pink and with flowe with stringy yellow stamens in the center
Varigated Hellebores (Helleborus spp.)
White flowers with bright yellow stamens in the center
White Hellebores (Helleborus spp.)

As you are out enjoying the sunshine, what other signs of spring do see or hear or smell?

Thanks to all of the Master Gardener Volunteers who provided their thoughts and photos for this post!

Vegetable Gardening Resources

Although it seems like no one really knows what is going on right now or how long this situation is going to last, one thing that I am sure of is that there is no time like the present to start your own vegetable garden!

Whether you’ve been growing vegetables for 30+ years or this will be you first year, here is a list of resources that should help you along the way.


Vegetable Gardening Resources – Getting Started!A cucurbit seedling showing the two cotelydons and the first true leaf just starting to unfold.

  • Beginning a Vegetable Garden This resource takes you through choosing a location for you garden to dealing garden pests.
  • Vegetable Growing Guides From artichoke to zucchini, find information about site characteristics and plant traits as well as growing information and special considerations.
  • Vegetable Planting Guide This resource includes a chart that shows when you should seed things inside, when you should seed things outside and when it is time to transplant. (Note: Although written for Rockland County, it works Orange County as well.)
  • Average Last Frost Date Although the last frost date is important, keep in mind that even after the last frost, cool temperatures will stress warm season crops like peppers and tomatoes.  These crops like nighttime temperatures consistently above 45°F and soil temperatures at about 70°F.
  • Soil Amendments and Fertilizers This guide includes fertilizer guidelines by plant group as well as information about pH adjusters, growth stimulants and potting mixes

Soil Samples

A trowel stuck in a raised garden bedBefore starting a garden, it is always a good idea to get a soil test.  As our office is closed, we are no longer accepting soil samples at this time.  Fortunately, if you need your soil tested, you can mail it directly to the soil testing lab, Dairy One.

Once you have your results, we would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

Vegetable Garden Problems

  • Vegetable Pests Colorado potato beetle on a potato stemFrom cucumber beetles and aphids to spider mites and slugs, this guide will help you identify your pest and give you tips on how to manage it.
  • Vegetable Diseases Choose your vegetable and then look through Fact Sheets and Information Bulletins to help identify the disease and learn the best way to manage it. 
  • Vegetable Cultural and Environmental Problems Sometimes you might think your plant has a disease when in fact the problem is not caused by a pathogen but environmental conditions or a cultural practice.  This resource will help you diagnose your problem and teach you what you can do about it.

Garden Helpline!

Garden Helpline Card (Information in text below image.)If you need help identifying the cause of a problem or figuring out a management strategy give us a call.  Our Garden Helpline phones are staffed April – November, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm.  But you can always leave us a message or send us an e-mail.

Call (845) 343-0664 or e-mail your questions to mghelpline@cornell.edu.


So in the time of uncertainty, I encourage you to grow some food.

Stay home!  Stay safe!  Be well!  Happy Gardening!

 

The Great Backyard Bird Count has begun!

A bright red male cardinal perched a twig as snow falls The Great Backyard Bird count has begun! Starting today, February 14th until Monday, February 17th you are invited to join this citizen science project in which people all over the world spend at least 15 minutes simply counting the numbers and kinds of birds that they see.

This project began in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.  Just last year over 200,000 people in 100 countries participated and counting over 6,800 species of birds.

The data collected from the Great Backyard Bird Count helps scientist learn more about bird populations including population fluctuation, migration timing, effects of climate change, etc. This is extremely important as birds are great indicator species and in North America we have seen significant decline in bird population in the past 50 years!A black crow standing on the snowy ground

So please take 15 minutes of you time today, tomorrow, Sunday and/or Monday and participate in this amazing opportunity to contribute to scientific research!

Click here to learn how to join the Great Backyard Bird Count!

Related link:

Birds as Indicator Species – Ornithology: The Science of Birds

North America has lost more than 1 in 4 birds in the last 50 years, new study says – National Audubon Society

 

Philadelphia Flower Show Bus Trip

 Tuesday, March 3, 2020

(registration  deadline February 7th)

Bus boards at 7:45 am, leaves at 8:00 am and returns at 9:00 pm from Crystal Run Galleria

Cost: $80 per person

cost includes the bus and a ticket to the Flower Show

Learn more about the the 2020 Philadelphia Flower Show!

Click here to Register!

Hemp! An Introduction to Hemp as a Crop

Hemp: It is not Pot! An Introduction to Hemp as a Crop

By Brooke Moore, New Windsor Senior Master Gardener Volunteer and Madelene Knaggs, New Windsor Master Gardener Volunteer

This article appeared in the October / November 2019 Issue of Gardening in Orange County. Click here to subscribe!

top of a hemp plant showing the characteristic five lobed leavesHemp may not be a familiar crop to you, but it has had a long history in this country and is poised to make a comeback in the Hudson Valley and throughout New York State. In the last five years, changes to federal and state laws have allowed for the growing of hemp. As a result, hemp has the potential to create an incredible economic boom for our region.

As demand for dairy and other traditional crops has declined, farmers are looking for alternative crops to provide a long-term base for staying in agriculture. Hemp may also be a means to keep younger farmers interested and involved in family farms. Some estimates for the return on investment in growing hemp for cannabidiol (CBD) are as high as 40%. This high return on investment is unheard of in agriculture, but as we are still in the earlier days of growing hemp in our region, it could turn out to be much less. Research is ongoing and there are many facets of hemp where little is known or where conflicting information exists.

Purple hemp flower pistils on a CBD hemp plant
Female hemp flower

Hemp can be grown for use as fiber, grain, oil and CBD. In the Hudson Valley most hemp in 2019 is being grown for CBD not for fiber, grain, or oil. CBD is a compound that is extracted from the female hemp flower and can be used for medicinal purposes. Unlike its cousin marijuana, CBD do not produce a “high” when ingested. There is a lot to learn about hemp and its potential impact on the agricultural economy of our region, but before we explore all the options lets answer some basic questions and introduce the crop.

What is hemp?

Both hemp and marijuana are varieties of Canabis sativa. Each is produced through selective breeding. Hemp is bred to produce fiber, grain, oil and/or CBD, while marijuana is bred to produce delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is a psychoactive compound.

Genetically the two plants are very similar. Research shows that even though different genes produce CBD and THC, these genes are linked. This link between the genes creates a ratio of CBD to THC that influences the total amount of each compound in a particular plant.

Hemp can be useful in many ways that may surprise you. Historically hemp was grown to produce fiber for use in rope and textiles. Today hemp fiber is used for insulation, animal bedding, particle board, hempcrete (a mixture of hemp and lime used in construction), and some plastics. When synthetic fibers became more common in the mid-twentieth century, hemp and other natural fibers fell out of favor. Now as we look at the impact of plastic products in all forms, a renewed interest in natural fiber production, including hemp, has taken hold.

Close-up of a top of a hemp plant covered with seeds
Ready to harvest hemp grain

Hemp seeds are a good source of protein and can used like other seed to enhance a large variety of foods. They can also be pressed to produce a food grade oil that is high in omegas, vitamins, and minerals. As hemp oil has a low smoking temperature, the oil is best used for low temperature cooking. Hemp oil can also be used in cosmetics.

The medical side of hemp comes from using  CBD extracts from the female flowers. (More about this will be in another article.)

Is it legal to grow hemp?

Field of 3 foot tall hemp plants, rows are seperated by black landscaping fabric and each row has a five foot wooden post ever marking of every two plants
Hemp Trial, Geneva, NY

Yes, with the proper approval from the state it is now legal to grow hemp. Following the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, which legitimized industrial hemp research, New York State created an Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Project Pilot Program to encourage hemp research. In 2017, the state expanded the program from a few educational institutions to farmers and businesses. The 2018 Farm Bill went as far as removing industrial hemp from the controlled substances list. Today hemp growers in New York are partners with the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program and supervised by the Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Is all hemp the same?

The simple answer is no. There is still much to be learned about the genetics of hemp plants and what is important for developing plants that will thrive in our soil and climate. Plant researchers are looking at both modern hemp plants as well as feral plants they find growing along ditches and hidden in fields. Some of these feral plants date back to the colonial period of cultivation. Others are from the pre-WWII era when hemp was a huge source of fiber. These plants may well hold the key to developing modern cultivars which are well adapted to the soil and temperature in New York State and still produce a high rate of CBD and a low rate of THC.

Do the plants all look the same?

All the hemp plants currently grown have similar looking leaves, but there is quite a variety of height, width, and flower development. And even though the leaf shape is similar, it too can vary in size. Plant breeders continue to select for plants that are both easy to cultivate and easy to harvest, but still produce good quality fiber, grain, oil, or CBD depending on the desired end product.

The topof a hemp plant, a small dish of hemp seeds and a ropper bottle of CBD oilDo all plants produce the same products?

There are many of different hemp cultivars, each bred to produce either good quality fiber, grain, oil or CBD. Growers choose the specific cultivar that matches the intended use. Most growers in our region are growing for CBD production, not for fiber, grain or oil production. In the future plants may be developed to allow for multiple products to be economically processed from the same plant.

Special thanks to Maire Ullrich, Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County and to the Cornell Hemp Team for resources and guidance in this series.

This article is the first in a series of articles focusing on the hemp industry.  See future Gardening in Orange County issues for more information.

For more information about all things hemp:

Beginning Hemp – Keys to Successful Production in NYS – Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County

Cornell Hemp – Cornell School of Integrative Plant Science

 

Color, Color Everywhere – or maybe not!

By Brooke Moore, New Windsor, Senior Master Gardener Volunteer

This article appeared in the September 2019 Issue of Gardening in Orange County. Click here to subscribe!

We live in a colorful world filled with plants, animals, and objects that are brightly colored or, in some cases, patterned, or even singular in color.  As humans we often think that the rest of the world sees itself and its surroundings in the same way that we do. But nothing could be further than the truth.

A cirlce filled with dots of varying sizes all in arying shade of red except for the green dots, of varying shades, that form a large 'W' spaning the width of the circle.
An Ishihar plate, used by optometrists and ophthalmologists to test for color blindness.
As a teenager I had a wonderful friend, John, who was the first person I knew who was colorblind.  Not just color insensitive, as many are, but truly and completely unable to perceive any color at all.  His experience of the world was totally opposite to mine, as I am one of the lucky or in some ways unlucky people who perceive way more color than most people do.  His daily view of things was more like that of a rabbit, who see in shades of darkness and light and contrast.

Close up of a blue human eye.
Human eye

Learning more about how he saw the world and experienced paintings, gardens and simple things like traffic lights began my interest in color and how we can manipulate our surroundings based on adding or subtracting colors from a situation.

Close-uo of the head of a fly - white head, lots of black hairs and large red eyes in which you can see teh individaul lenses
Fly eye

The animals who live among us and in our gardens perceive color in many different ways, and they interact with the plants we grow depending on what they see and how they see and interpret light.

All eyes use reflected light to create images that are the basis of sight.  As humans, we have sight that can determine the shape, size and special relationship of objects, and we have sight that is color-based.

Close up of an owl eye - bright yellow eye surrounded by white, brown and black plummage
Owl eye

The same is true for animals.  Birds have keen color sight that helps them with foraging for food, identifying prey and recognizing others of their species.  Many scientists have been astonished to discover that some birds may not be able to see all the colors of their own plumage, while other birds can see more than enough colors to find and attract a mate.

Bird Vision
A graph with absorbance on the y-axis (0-1.0) and wave length (330 nm - 700 nm) on the x-axis. There are four lines on the graph, all of them bell shape-esque. The grey line peaks at 370 nm, which falls in the ultraviolet range. The blue line peaks at 445 nm, which falls in the blue range of the visble light spectrum. The green line peaks at 508 nm, which falls in the green range of the visible light spectrum. The red line peaks at 565 nm, which falls in the yellow/orange range of the visible light spectrum.
Humans usually have three types of cones allowing them to perceive light in the visible spectrum.  Some animals , including birds, have four types of cones which allows them to see ultraviolet light.

Birds see more colors than humans as they are able to use ultraviolet (UV) light due to having four types of cones in their retinas – in contrast to humans who have three types of cones.  Different species of birds have more or fewer cone cells in their retinas and thus different ability to see colors.  The ability to determine subtle differences in shades of colors is an evolving ability in birds and thought to be something that aids in adapting to change in environment and availability of food sources.

Color Vision
State Types of cone cells Approx. number of colors perceived Carriers
Monochromacy 1 200 Marine mammals, owl monkey, Australian sea lion, achromat primates
Dichromacy 2 40,000 Most terrestrial non-primate mammals, color blind primates
Trichromacy 3 10 million Most primates, especially great apes (such as humans), marsupials, some insects (such as honeybees)
Tetrachromacy 4 100 million Most reptiles, amphibians, birds and insects, rarely humans
Pentachromacy 5 10 billion Some insects (specific species of butterflies), some birds (pigeons for instance)

The UV reflection from the waxy surface of fruits and berries makes them stand out from the green of foliage – and birds are better able to find them.  Red berries are seen  best and will be eaten first, so also growing some plants that produce orange or yellow fruit will extend the feeding season.

Top picture: A sinlge stem with two flower buds and one small yellow flower with four petals. Bottom: The same photo taken in UV light. The flower is now white with a black center.
Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) photographed in visible light (top) and ultraviolet light (bottom).

Many insects also reflect UV light, making them more attractive to birds as a food source.  Certain bird eggs reflect UV light and help birds to identify their own eggs and reject those put in the nest by other birds.  Many flowers have nectar guides  that reflect UV light.  These  marking are visible to bees and butterflies allowing them to easily find the nectar at the center of the flower.

Deer have poor color vision limited to short (blue) and middle (green) wave lengths of color.  They may have some UV sensitivity but not much compared to birds.  Foxes do not see green and have little ability to see blue, red or yellow.  So, these animals are not using color in the garden to find or choose what they eat!

The head of a deer standing with its face brushing up againsta purple flower.Understanding which animals use color to find and choose food can help us in identifying plants to put into our gardens, and plants to leave out.  It also can put to rest myths like deer choosing red tulips over yellow daffodils -because they are making a choice based on taste and smell, not sight.

Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County

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