Thursday, October 23, 2014

Supporting a Local Elementary School on Green Apple Day

On October 11th, Master Gardeners Howard Goldstein and Karen Melton joined the Cook-Wissahickon Elementary school in Roxborough for their 3rd annual Green Apple Day of Service.

The Cook-Wissahickon school has a strong environmental focus and has created a native plant meadow, reduced energy usage, provides recycling drop off for neighbors, and plans to extend the native plantings and replace blacktop with porous materials in the future.

The half day event included Howard and Karen's favorite books and photos and a presentation on the importance of native plants in supporting pollinators and birds, as well as the many other benefits derived from a native meadow such as outdoor classroom opportunities for the children and storm water management for the neighborhood.

In addition there was a red worm composting demonstration, a workshop to construct hanging planters out of used bottles, information on watershed management, and of course, lots of food!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Pollinator-Friendly Raised Bed at the Free Library's Thomas F. Donatucci Sr. Branch

Stephanie Rukowicz

Thomas F. Donatucci Sr. Free Library Branch at 20th & Shunk.
Nestled in the Girard Estates neighborhood of South Philly, the Thomas F. Donatucci Sr. Free Library Branch boasts a garden open to the public Spring through Fall. The Branch Manager, David Mariscotti, encourages the community to enjoy the grounds in reading books, bringing picnics, or just enjoying the fresh air. As one of his many responsibilities, David works with the Free Library's sole gardener and a few dedicated volunteers to maintain the landscaping. To encourage future generations to tend garden, David connected with Marj Rosenblum and together they generated the idea of a Pollinator-Friendly Garden workshop for children and their families.  

Marj and I worked with David to plan the workshop that took place on May 17th earlier this year. Part 1 featured a presentation on why pollinators are important, how pollination happens, and how to encourage pollinators to visit our gardens. During the presentation, we were pleased to meet a young student, named Sophia, whose school curriculum included work on pollinators! She had much to share with the group on what she was learning in class.

The workshop continued outside with Part 2, where we installed a 4'x8' raised bed, planted with nectar-rich annuals such as zinnia; perennials such as columbine, coneflower, goldenrod; as well as butterfly-specific hosts such as milkweed (Monarch), parsley and dill (Black Swallowtail). Of course this was the group's favorite part, and there was much discussion over who got to plant what.
All hands on deck! Master Gardeners-in-Training Marj and Stephanie work with support from the Children's Librarian to instruct attendees and their guardians how to plant and select placement.

Families were encouraged to check out one of the many resources on pollinators found at the Donatucci Branch, and each child left with a plant to include in their home garden.
A satisfied workshop participant with her plant, joined by her father, and Master Gardener-in-Training Marj.

This small raised bed contributes to the large garden that already existed at the Branch. Among the many trees and plants found on the property there are native oaks, dogwoods, Black-eyed Susan and Purple coneflower. Now that Fall is upon us, we will take advantage of the perfect time of year to transplant in additional native perennials to attract more pollinators and to fill in the gaps where annuals won't return next year.
Pollinator-Friendly raised bed in the Fall. Zinnia, Goldenrod, Cosmos, and Calamintha are currently in bloom.

Pollinator gathering Goldenrod nectar.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Last Weekend for the Fringe Festival Art Project, WETLANDS, at Spruce Harbor Park

Benjamin Cromie

While visiting Spruce Harbor Park at Penn's Landing this month, you may have wondered what that unusual houseboat contraption was bobbing up and down on the Delaware. WETLAND is visual artist, Mary Mattingly's post-apocalyptic vision of sustainable waterfront living. With vegetable gardens, chickens, bee hives, and too many creative sustainable features to list here, this floating art installation is buzzing with inspiration.

This is your last weekend to see WETLAND before it closes for good. A visit is free, but one of the many educational and music events there may cost a little more.

Friday 9/19 - yoga at 6 pm, $20
Saturday 9/20 - performance of High Tide, Holy Water at 7 pm, free
Sunday 9/21 - class on beekeeping at 2 pm, free

For more information, check out:

Monday, September 15, 2014

New Master Gardener Classes Beginning

Master Gardener Class of 2015 training begins September 30, 2014 and runs Tuesday evenings through January.   Training is a combination of classes, workshops, self-study, group projects, and guided tours.  Successful graduates will have volunteer opportunities in educational garden programming for adults and youth throughout the city.

Interested in learning more about what it takes to become a Master Gardener volunteer?.    Come to an orientation on September 16th 5-6:30.

Orientation & Classes will be held at the offices of Penn State Extension,  in the Penn State Center, 675 Sansom Street.

For More information or to apply to the program visit
Link to Penn State Extension Philadelphia Master Gardeners Application and informationor email Anna Herman, Coordinator PS Extension Philadelphia Master Gardeners at

Upcoming MG Training Classes.

September 30   Intro, Communications
October 7         Soil 101 & then some
October 14       Botany
October 21       Growing Vegetables in the City
October 28       Green Infrastructure
November 4     Diagnosing Pests and Pathology – Hortline 101
November 11   Permaculture
November 18   Entomology/Integrated Pest Management
December 2     Fruit, Urban Orchards & Pruning
December 9     Urban Forestry & City Trees
December 16   Native Plants, Planting for Wildlife, Restoration Ecology
January 6        Soil 201

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pickling vegetables

Michele Koskinen

Summer canning and preserving for me is a wonderful hobby that I have been doing since I helped my mother in her kitchen as a child. A few weeks ago in my email box was an article from Organic Gardening about vegetables to pickle. Since I love pickled foods I took a look and found new ideas for this foray into the world of pickling. This seems to be the newest, found, old way, of preserving foods.

Many cultures uses fermentation and pickling in their everyday food choices. Pickling has been traditionally used to preserve fruits that do not store well in their natural state. Thus far, I have pickled beets, string beans, cucumbers 3 ways, 3 kinds of hot peppers and today with 2 zucchini staring at me I am trying zucchini pickles.

I am attaching the link to the article for all of you home canners. Have fun.


The USDA guides are also a great resource for beginning canners as well as extension sites and of course food blogs. Remember that all safety precautions should be followed to prevent spoilage of food and botulism.