Roots and Shoots: Back to School in the Garden

By Pamela Doan

Since we live an area that is so rich with outdoor recreation, it comes along with some fantastic gardens and organizations that offer events and classes focused on the natural environment. Some are practical for immediate use, like DIY rain barrels and landscape design using native plants, others are more about building a knowledge base to understand the natural world, like botany and taxonomy. Whatever your budget, schedule and interests, there are lots of opportunities to enrich your life with plants.

Here are a few upcoming classes and organizations that have quality programming. Although this listing is focused on adults, many offer learning opportunities for kids, too.

The Cornell Cooperative Extension office in Putnam County has ongoing classes for families and adults. In September, learn how to make a rain barrel and take one home at the end on Sept. 14, or attend the Garden to Table Fall Vegetable Workshop on Sept. 9, and learn how to keep your harvest going into early winter. The CCE website for Putnam County lists all the details for both of these.

Right here in Philipstown, visit Stonecrop Gardens for a guided tour of the English-style garden on Sept. 11. Led by a staff horticulturist, it’s an interactive experience. It’s free for members and $10 for non-members. Stonecrop is an amazing local resource for gardeners who want to discover new plants and examine landscape design. By continually visiting throughout the season, you can see how to put together beds that flourish in every stage of spring and summer into the fall. I love it for inspiration and ideas. After seeing a cup plant there three years ago, I was on the lookout and finally found one at a plant sale. It’s a 7-foot centerpiece for one of my flowerbeds now and covered in bees and butterflies.

The Native Plant Center, located on Westchester Community College campus, offers a certificate program for professionals and home gardeners alike that covers all aspects of growing native plants and the myriad possibilities for using them in the landscape, including design fundamentals. On Oct. 4, Back-to-School: Intro to Native Plants is a full-day workshop covering perennials and conifers and providing a good basic understanding of native plants in our area. They use their gardens as a learning space and other classes cover identifying plants and design concepts.

The Hudson Highlands Nature Museum has several locations with unique learning experiences. The Wildlife Education Center in Cornwall-on-Hudson has live animals, birds and snakes that are found in our forests. The Outdoor Discovery Center uses the grounds surrounding it for hands-on classes. On Sept. 14, a walking tour focuses on Majestic Monarchs and how to create habitat for these lovely butterflies in your own landscape. Classes at Hubbard Lodge in Fahnestock State Park this fall will cover different animals, including coyotes and turkeys.

For anyone with a wooded area to manage, Green Chimneys on the east side of the county in Carmel has a Model Forest series that has a range of classes on agroforestry and forest management. On Sept. 23, Forest Farming: Maple, Mushroom & Ginseng will feature how-tos for tapping maple trees and growing mushrooms and ginseng in the woods. I’ve got their Winter Tree Identification class on my radar. While I’ve gotten somewhat proficient at spotting leaves, I want to learn more about observing other characteristics of trees to identify them.

Last but not least, we’re lucky to live near one of the best botanical gardens in the country. The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx is valuable for more than just its extensive and beautiful grounds, though. They have a rich educational program where you can earn certificates in an area of study or just take a single class. Some classes are offered at Bard College, too. Upcoming possibilities include Landscape Design and Plant Propagation among the many choices. They have a comprehensive and formal education program with a full range of focus areas in both floral and landscape design, botany, and health and wellness.

Other classes or resources to share? Let us know in the comments or email [email protected].

One thought on “Roots and Shoots: Back to School in the Garden

  1. Dan Kittredge, son of the founders of the Northeastern Organic Farming Association (NOFA), will be giving a free lecture previewing his soil workshops on growing nutrient dense food at the Desmond-Fish library Tuesday, September 10 at 6:30 p.m.

    By remineralizing his soils and compost, Dan has achieved incredible flavor in his vegetables, and is able to grow pest-resistant plants. He was able to grow blight-free tomatoes when everyone in the region lost their crop to the disease. This lecture is not just for farmers (scholarships available), but for gardeners and parents seeking to grow healthy food for their families. We have a health crisis in our country due to deficiencies of minerals and phytonutrients in our food supply, not just the chemical contamination with herbicides and pesticides.

    Come be inspired by Dan’s knowledge, drawing on quantum theory and the work of scientists such as Mae-Wan Ho and Philip Callahan. You will be thrilled by what you hear and see why Dan is a rock star to the new generation of young organic farmers!