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The wonders of water

“A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.” — Liberty Hyde Bailey

A special “thank you” to all the Cultivate Catskill volunteers who have spent countless hours planting, deadheading, weeding, mulching and watering the flowers around town. And an extra special “thanks” to the DPW workers who water the hanging baskets and pots along Main Street, a well as the Greene County workers who cut the grass in our parks.

As I was watering Leggio Park this morning, I had a chance to contemplate the wonders of water. Did you know that water covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and is vital to all known forms of life? It is a transparent, tasteless, odorless and nearly colorless chemical substance that is the main constituent of the Earth’s streams, lakes and oceans. It is also the fluid of most living organisms, including plants.

Like all life on Earth, plants need water to survive and grow. Indeed, like humans, water is the primary element that makes up the structure of plants. Human bodies are comprised of about 70 percent water, but in plants, this proportion can be as high as 95 percent. In plants, water is used for structure, photosynthesis, translocation and transportation.

Water helps plants move nutrients from the soil through its stems and leaves. It also keeps the plant moist, flexible, and helps the plant make its own food. Photosynthesis is what plants do to create their food and water is critical to this process. Water enters a plant’s stem (via the roots), and travels up to its leaves where photosynthesis takes place. Once in the leaves, water evaporates, as the plant exchanges water for carbon dioxide. The combination of sunlight, healthy soil, clean air, and water all work together to help keep a plant healthy.

So what’s the best way to water? One key is to focus on the root zone … not the leaves. Wetting the foliage is a waste of water and can promote the spread of disease. Also, remember to water only when needed. Too much water can be just as damaging to plants as too little. Make sure to water deeply and thoroughly. Lawns and annuals concentrate their roots in the top six inches of the soil. For perennials and shrubs, it’s the top 12 inches. Water in the morning to allow any moisture on the leaves to dry out. And to conserve water evaporation in the soil, mulch everything.

In Catskill, we are most fortunate to be surrounded by water in our lakes, streams. creeks and of course the Hudson River. But while 96.5 percent of our plant’s water supply is found in seas and oceans, only 1.77 percent is in groundwater. (The rest can be found in glaciers, ice caps in Antarctica and Greenland and a very small amount in vapor, clouds and precipitation.

The current dry spell is a reminder to conserve our drinking water and appreciate the life sustaining properties of this vital fluid. Consider installing a rain barrel to water your flower garden. Also, keep trash away from and out of our waterways to help ensure the beauty and viability of our ecosystem. Being cognizant of the role water plays in our environment, you can help us continue to Cultivate Catskill.

“June is bustin’ out all over…”

The title of the 1958 Rodgers and Hammerstein’s song from Carousel is appropriate as one walks down Main Street or Bridge Street in the Village of Catskill. The Cultivate Catskill volunteers were busy last month planting a swath of color in gardens, pots, urns and baskets. Thanks to plants purchased from Story’s Nursery and Story Farms (made possible through donations from local businesses and foundations) and the help of the Department of Public Works (DPW)), we’ve been able to add a splash of color to the sidewalks, pocket parks and Uncle Sam’s Bridge for the enjoyment of the residents and visitors to our area.

William Kent perhaps said it best with “All gardening is landscape painting.” Luther Burbank went a bit further when he stated “Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” In my conversations with many people around town as we’ve been planting this season, there seems to be a consistent appreciation of the benefits of having an attractive downtown area. It’s gratifying when we see people enjoying lunch in the parks or hear visitors exclaiming how nice everything looks. The fiberglass cats with the added flowers around town seems to be a winning combination!

That said, “a garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.” — Liberty Hyde Bailey.

After a lot of effort expended last month planting the flowers, the work is not over. Now the watering and weeding starts. Thankfully, the DPW has agreed to water the baskets on Main Street and the planters on Uncle Sam’s Bridge. However, we are always looking for volunteers to help to water and weed the parks including Policeman’s Park, Blue Star Memorial Park, Leggio Park, Mott Street and Howard Street. By staying on top of the weeds, the focus can remain on enjoying the beauty of the colors and textures of the other plants. Lou Erickson correctly stated that “gardening requires lots of water, most of it in the form of perspiration.”

We recognize, however, that everyone is busy and/or may not have the time or inclination to help us with this ‘manual labor”. That said, there are other ways to get involved. As you can imagine, the purchase of all the plant materials costs a significant amount of money. Cultivate Catskill hosts a variety of fundraisers (e.g. the Trunk Sales – like the one being held tomorrow) to defray these costs but we would love to do more and extend the reach of our efforts. If you would like to help, please visit our website at http://cultivatecatskill.org to learn more about our non-profit organization, mission and how you can help.

A is for Allium; B is for….

Have you ever wondered what the name of a plant was? Or been interested in what kind of flower a plant produced? If so, Catskill may just have the right garden for you!

Newly installed at Leggio Park on Main Street in the Village of Catskill is an Alphabet and Pollinator Garden. For the last few years, Cultivate Catskill planted a vegetable garden in the raised beds of this pocket park. This year, we decided to do something different.

America in Bloom, an organization that comes to Catskill and judges our gardens, parks, historic preservation, urban forests and the overall impression of our community, had suggested for the last couple of years that we install a pollinator garden. When visiting Fort Ticonderoga last summer, one of our members stumbled upon an alphabet garden which was both a demonstration garden and an educational vehicle to help visitors learn about gardening. This triggered the idea of trying this approach locally.

The planning started last year which led to the planting of tulips (T) and daffodils (D) last fall. Daffodils are members of the Narcissus family which is why you’ll also see them planted by the letter ‘N’. Coneflowers (C), also known by their Botanical name Echinacea (E), were also planted last fall in addition to other perennials (e.g salvia, sedum, sea holly (S), hosta (H), iris (I), lavender (L), yarrow (Y) and monarda (M) –which is commonly known as bee balm (B)).

Over the last week, more plants have been added including pansies, petunias, phlox and portulaca (P), zinnias and zebra grass (Z), geraniums and Gaillardia (G), Joe Pye Weed (J), knautia (K), verbena (V), among others. Seeds have been sown for Queen Anne’s Lace (L), nasturtium (N), and four o’clocks (F) so it will take some time before you will see them germinate and flower. X is for xeriscaping plants (those that thrive in dry conditions) so there you will eventually find Yucca, Mallow and beardtongue added to the ice plants that are already there.

Many of these plants are pollinator friendly which means that birds, bees and butterflies feed of the nectar that the flowers produce. Thus, you’ll get a chance to learn about plants, enjoy the flowers and watch the pollinators all during the same visit.

Cultivate Catskill invites you to visit our new garden and return frequently as the plants grow, mature and flower for your enjoyment.

Over the next few weeks, watch for the flowers that will start to appear in the planters on Main Street as well as the return of the hanging baskets that will add a touch of beauty to our community over the summer months. In addition, look for a scavenger hunt that’s been created for children to enjoy the Alphabet and Pollinator garden too. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Cultivate Catskill’s Trunk Sale

The saying goes that “April showers bring May flowers” but we say that May brings back Cultivate Catskill’s “Trunk Sale”. It starts on Saturday, May 5, 2018 (rain or shine) from 9AM to 1PM in the parking lot at the corner of Bridge and Water Streets in the Village of Catskill.

It all started when two Cultivate Catskill founders, Shelly Pulver and Robin Smith, were on a trip to England. They heard about a “boot sale” from some locals. Expecting to find some new footwear, they discovered that the event was actually what Americans might describe as a flea market or garage sale where vendors sold their wares from the back of their cars, vans or pickup trucks…. hence our ‘trunk sale’.

Vendors are invited to pack their treasures in their trunks and join us to sell (and shop) at this unique venue. For a nominal fee ($5.00 per car or $10.00 per van/pickup), this is a great opportunity to clean out any unused or slightly used items that you might have lying around and help them find new homes. Craft makers may find this a great venue to reach potential new buyers.

Next Saturday promises to be a comfortable day in the low 70 degrees, so it’s a a great opportunity to get outdoors and potentially get inspired for a new project. In past years, shoppers have been able to find, furniture, books, records and tapes, tools, collectibles and jewelry among other great finds. Note that there is no charge to shoppers, so stop by and take a look and you might find a new treasure perfect for your home!

To help you plan ahead, other Trunk Sale dates this year will include June 2, June 9, July 7, August 4 and September 8… Same time and location. We hope to see you there!

Cultivate Catskill is all about planting Pride I. Our community. It is an entirely volunteer effort for all of us, by all of us. But it does need your participation and/or donation to make it Flower!

Check us out on Facebook and at http://www.CultivateCatskill.org or email us at CultivateCatskill@gmail.com. For further information, please call Shelly at 518-653-1381.

Reflections on the Catskill Roadside Cleanup

Over 35 community members participated in picking up litter along our county, town and village roadways last weekend. There is a noticeable improvement to our roads when I drive around this week, compared to last. It’s amazing how a few dedicated individuals can make such a huge difference to the appearance of our local landscape.

Special thanks go to members of Cultivate Catskill, The Fortnightly Club, Plant Palenville and the Bank of Greene County who all contributed to the success of this event. In addition, the Town and Village of Catskill all played a key role in helping to plan, publicize and participate in this cleanup. A special thanks goes to the Catskill Highway Department and Department of Public Works for their help in disposing of all the filled trash bags. It truly was a team effort.

As I walked along a stretch of Cauterskill Road picking up trash, some random thoughts came to mind. We’ve all been reading a lot about how plastic is polluting our waterways, including the oceans. It was amazing to me how much plastic finds it way to our roadsides…. including those right next to the many creeks in the area. Plastic water bottles contribute to much of the litter as do plastic bags (Walmart and Price Chopper seem to be favorites), fast food cups, tops of coffee cups and the occasional salad container. If left long enough outside, the plastic starts to disintegrate with these smaller pieces ultimately finding their way into our waterways. Thus picking up litter is not only helping to improve the appearance of our roadsides but also reducing the amount of plastic that eventually finds its way into our creeks.

It was also astonishing how many glass bottle and cans were added to our trash bags during the cleanup. Corona and Budweiser Beer were clear favorites along with multiple brands of soft drinks. Drinking while driving is a clear problem, especially along our roads with lots of hills and curves. That said, it completely puzzles me why these cans and bottles are not properly disposed of instead of thrown out of a car window or pickup bed or simply left on the roadsides. The volume of this debris is so great that one has to conclude that this disposal approach was intentional versus accidental. What baffles me is what these individuals must think happens to these items. Don’t they see the clutter that is created? Why is it expected for someone else to dispose of them? Keeping a small trash bag in their vehicles would be a simple answer to contain the ’empties’. Another option is to increase the bottle and can deposit to something more than a nickel. That would make it more worthwhile to return bottles and cans rather than littering or dumping them.

Other ‘intentional’ trash we found included a tire from a riding mower or small tractor, carpet remnants, car brake shoes, fluorescent light tubes, and insulation. These items were clearly not left accidentally. Our roadways are not dumping grounds. It is relatively inexpensive to bring these items to the transfer station to be disposed of properly. Homeowners doing renovations should ensure that their contractors dispose of materials properly — which does not mean dumping them on rural roadways.

Finally, as you might expect we found many cigarette lighters and innumerable empty cigarette packs. Newport was the most popular brand. Based on this volume, it’s evident that many individuals have not yet gotten the message that smoking causes cancer. While they have the right to smoke, they do not have the right to litter. And those that regularly throw out their empties should feel a responsibility to help to clean up their garbage by participating in future roadside cleanups.

While considerable progress was made, there are still many roadsides that still need attention. If every homeowner took the time to pick up litter on their property and maybe even on the shoulder of the road across the street, it would go a long way to keep Catskill looking great — as a place that the community takes pride in.

Until next time……