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New book by Don Rakow and colleagues: Public Gardens and Livable Cities

Public Gardens and Livable Cities coverPublic Gardens and Livable Cities changes the paradigm for how we conceive of the role of urban public gardens. Donald A. Rakow, Meghan Z. Gough, and Sharon A. Lee advocate for public gardens as community outreach agents that can, and should, partner with local organizations to support positive local agendas.

Safe neighborhoods, quality science education, access to fresh and healthy foods, substantial training opportunities, and environmental
health are the key initiative areas the authors explore as they highlight model successes and instructive failures that can guide future practices. Public Gardens and Livable Cities uses a prescriptive approach to synthesize a range of public, private, and nonprofit initiatives from municipalities throughout the country. In doing so, the authors examine the initiatives from a practical perspective to identify how they were implemented, their sustainability, the obstacles they encountered, the impact of the initiatives on their populations, and how they dealt with the communities’ underlying social problems.

By emphasizing the knowledge and skills that public gardens can bring to partnerships seeking to improve the quality of life in cities, this book offers a deeper understanding of the urban public garden as a key resource for sustainable community development.

Donald A. Rakow is Associate Professor in the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He is co-author of Nature Rx and Public Garden Management. Meghan Z. Gough is Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. Sharon A. Lee is President of Sharon Lee and Associates, a consulting firm specializing in publications for and about public gardens. She is co-author of Public Garden Management.

More information:

Smarter fall garden clean-up

meg mcgrath

Meg McGrath

In a New York Times article this week (A Smarter Fall Cleanup), Meg McGrath, plant pathologist at the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center, and Becca Rodomsky-Bish, project leader at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology — both serious home gardeners beyond their day jobs — share science-based advice about best ways to put your garden to bed for the winter.

It’s good to not remove every shred of leaf and dead plants from your lawn and landscape as this may reduce habitat for overwintering insects and be detrimental in other ways. “Let’s be a little bit messier,” Rodomsky-Bish suggests.

But in the vegetable garden, sometimes it’s better to use a firm hand. McGrath stresses the importance of removing diseased crop debris when the disease is caused by a pathogen that can survive winter in it. Not all can.

“I am especially concerned about fungal tomato pathogens such as anthracnose, Septoria leaf spot or early blight surviving,” says McGrath, “along with various bacterial diseases. So that debris goes out to the municipal compost with other yard waste my husband and I don’t want to compost or chip.”

For more details of McGrath’s plant-disease-suppressing approach, read the whole article.

Feed the hungry, support SoHo

apples in hands

From Yen-Hua Chen at Cornell’s Society of Horticulture for Graduate Students (SoHo):

This year, SoHo is unable to take part in Apple Fest to sell apples and raise money to support our activities due to the COVID pandemic. Instead we have been able to sell a small amount of apples to a CSA, and we decided to harvest apples to donate to charity.

In view of lost funds and the current COVID situation, we are having a charity fundraiser wherein every dollar donated will result in one pound of apple being donated to charity (upto $1,800). Please do generously support us in the this endeavor and we hope to donate at least 1,500 pounds of apples to charity.

More information on how to donate.

ASHS spotlights Yen Hua

yen hua in greenhouseYen Hua, Horticulture graduate student in Bill Miller’s lab, was featured by the American Society of Horticultural Science in the Society’s Graduate Student Spotlight.  Yen’s research focuses on xylem microbiology to extend cut flower vase life.

Asked what she loves about horticulture, Yen replied, “I always can find a peaceful place in my mind when I get close to plants, and it’s fun to learn more about something you love!”

If she had unlimited funds, Yen says she would tackle two tasks: She would hire other researchers and buy equipment to learn more about plant physiology and breed new varieties.  And she woudl explore marketing strategies to open up domestic floral markets and increase the consumption of floral plants.

Read the whole interview.

Online organic gardening course starts October 8

Registration is now open for Organic Gardening one of the 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.

Questions about either course? View FAQ or contact, Chrys Gardener:

Crunchy, complex: Cornell releases three new apples

susan broown with technician in orchard

Susan Brown with research support specialist Kevin Maloney

CALS News [2020-09-02]:

This fall, apple lovers can look forward to three new varieties from the oldest apple breeding program in the U.S. — located at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York, part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).

On Sept. 2, Susan Brown, the Herman M. Cohn Professor of Agriculture and Life Science, and research specialist Kevin Maloney announced the release of NY56, NY73 and NY109 – marketed as Cordera, Pink Luster and Firecracker, respectively.

As an open-release, orchards in New York state and across the U.S. will be able to grow the new varieties without licensing exclusivity. Brown said this gives growers a competitive edge by allowing them to replace older apples with what today’s consumers want — crunch, complexity and a new twist on an American classic.

Read the whole article.

2020 annual flower trials: The show must go on!

2020  was quite a year.  We had to cancel our annual Floriculture Field Day. But the annual flower and foliage plant trials located near the Cornell Botanic Gardens’ Nevins Center are looking good.

More information:


Rakow recognized for Nature Rx efforts

rakow flanked by two students walking through garden

Rakow strolls through Minns Garden outside Plant Science Building last year with Public Garden Leadership MPS students Trey Ramsey and Jessica Brey.

Associate professor Don Rakow was recognized for his innovative research with a 2020 SHIFT (Shaping How we Invest For Tomorrow) Award by the nonprofit Center for Jackson Hole.  The SHIFT Awards recognize individuals, initiatives, or organizations that make innovative, impactful and replicable contributions to the advancement of the health benefits of time outside.

Award organizers write that Rakow “has been one of the primary driving forces behind integrating Campus Nature Rx programs for universities and colleges in the US and Canada. He started the Campus Nature Rx network and has been collaborating with several researchers to look at how Nature Rx programs impact students’ mental and physical health. Through his research, Dr. Rakow highlights the significance of public gardens and parks as environmental, cultural, and social organizations. This focus bridges consideration of how campus landscapes can be leveraged for health and wellbeing of students, staff and faculty. He is committed to facilitating mental and physical health on university and college campuses through nature engagement that is inclusive of individuals of all ethnicities, abilities, and age groups.”

To learn more about Rakow’s work, see the Cornell Research article Nature, Our Intrinsic Healer.

NYS sanitizer, Cornell’s U-pick guide boost farm success

Cornell Chronicle [2020-07-21]:

Shed at you pick farm with two employees, flats and hand sanitizer

Two employees of Hand Melon Farms in Greenwich, New York, provide flats and pints for picking blueberries – and offer NYS sanitizer for safety.

Even in the coronavirus era, New York’s pick-your-own farms are flourishing.

“After months of enduring lockdowns, especially in New York, the pick-your-own berry farms around the state are booming this year,” said Marvin Pritts, professor of horticulture in the School of Integrative Plant Science, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Most of the pick-your-own farms are using our Cornell-developed guidelines that are very broad – they’re having an impact.”

The “Best Management Practices for U-Pick Farms During the COVID-19 Pandemic” guidebook offers detail on adjusting farm practices to reduce risk, and provides clarity on getting consumers safely through the farm and keeping farm employees healthy.

“Consumers are cooperating,” said Anu Rangarajan, director of Cornell’s Small Farms Program. “The pick-your-own farm customers are using masks and following rules, washing hands and using hand sanitizer. People are confident about being on these farms.”

Read the whole article.

Application open for Cornell Assistantship for Horticulture in Africa

Cornell University announces the availability of the Cornell Assistantship for Horticulture in Africa (CAHA), a doctoral position for a student from sub-Saharan Africa studying in the field of horticulture.

The doctoral assistantship is available to one student from sub-Saharan Africa who completes coursework at Cornell but conducts dissertation research in the region. The position is contingent upon the student returning to his or her home country after their doctoral degree is complete.

Applications are due September 15, 2020 for admission in 2021.

Successful candidates must already have a Master’s degree, originate from a country in sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, and be of native African ancestry. Depending on the nature of the research and cost, it may be necessary for the student to secure additional outside funding.

The assistantship will require 15 to 20 hours per week of teaching and/or research responsibilities.

Application: Cornell Assistantship for Horticulture in Africa


  • Already have a Master’s degree
  • Originate from a country in sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa
  • Be of native African ancestry

Application deadline is September 15, 2020

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