Worms and Berries!

I was out in the garden again this week. I saw so many worms! A sure sign of healthy soil. Worms help aerate the ground, relieves soil compaction and their movements create water channels. Earthworms ingest and breakdown organic matter like fallen leaves. Their castings (worm poop) are valuable fertilizer. Red Wiggler Worms are the best

for composting organics and I have many of them. I took a video of one. It looked like the worm was 9 inches long, I’m not kidding! Check it out.

I wonder though – how did the earthworms get there? When I built out the front garden three years ago, there were no wrigglers in sight. I was talking to my husband about it and said, “Maybe birds dropped them in the garden!” He thought that was ridiculous but it’s plausible, right? I tried to find the answer online but didn’t read anything clear-cut. On one blog, someone mentioned that compost often has worm eggs within. I do compost every year so perhaps that’s how they arrived. Generally what was said in the garden-verse is, if you create the right conditions for worms they will naturally appear.To make the perfect worm home add compost to your soil, keep leaf debris on the ground and make sure the soil is moist. Keep tilling to a minimum.  A PH of 7 is perfect for worms. Since I have so many, I’m thinking about bringing them over to the Beach 91st Street Community Garden where I grow my vegetables in the summer.


In other garden news, both of my Serviceberry trees are starting to bud. Have I told you about this wonderful shrub before? It blooms showy white flowers in the spring, followed by bright red edible berries. They are similar to blueberries but a bit more tart. They are delicious raw! The fruit can be used in cakes, jams or they can be dried. The tree is native to North America and was used by the Native Americans not only for its fruit but the leaves were used for teas. Speaking of the foliage, in the fall, the tree turns bright orange and gold. All season long the Serviceberry delivers beauty. It’s low maintenance, growing well in low-nutrient soil like our sandy mix here in Rockaway. Part-sun or full sun works, but the best tasting fruits will come from trees with full exposure. Also known as a Juneberry, the tree will attract many birds, but don’t worry, at maturity you’ll have enough fruit for you and the songbirds.Last year my nieces were entertained for the afternoon harvesting all the berries from our trees. Once they finished clearing the berries in my front garden, they moved to the backyard. The Serviceberry can grow up to 10ft tall. Matt had to get on a ladder to gather the berries from the high branches, the kids insisted!  Harvesting the fruits kept the children occupied for hours and saved us a lot of harvest time.I want to grow more edibles in the garden, imagine not having to by produce all summer – garden goals!

tagged in garden, gardening

Get in the Garden


There was a paper shredder explosion in front of my house after recycling day last Thursday. It inspired me to get outside and clean up. I couldn’t pick up each tiny piece of paper so I started clearing out leaves and cutting back all the old plant debris from last year. I got the rake and shovel out. It felt so good to be in the garden! With a sweater, it was comfortable outside. After some clearing, I noticed my perennials have begun to sprout!

The Daylilies are two inches tall already! This plant is low maintenance. It tolerates many soil types including our sandy mix here in Rockaway.  Do you know where the name comes from? Hemerocallis, means “beauty for a day”. The flower opens early morning and dies by nightfall, lasting only one precious day. But so many flowers appear consecutively that you’ll have a constant sunny sea of yellow from late May throughout all of June. Deadhead the old flowers to insure the best possible blooms.


After removing the wiry remains of my Nepeta Walker’s Low, I saw a half inch of purple and green pushing its way out of the earth! Walker’s Low you’ll see all around Rockaway. It’s the dark lavender-blue flowers. It looks like a small bush. Find them along the boardwalk garden beds, the 100th precinct and across the way at  the library, to name a few locations. Walker’s Low is another great plant for our coastal environment. It does well in all soil types and is drought tolerant. It will bloom in late spring through late summer. Cut the plant back leaving three inches after the first bloom ends. You’ll get more flowers in a few weeks after that.  The perennial is aromatic. I use it to make cold tea with lemon, it’s so refreshing on hot summer days. The plant is also a favorite for our felines. It’s commonly known as catmint and your kitty will go wild over it.

Towards the right side of the garden I saw bulbs sprouting. I was confused for a minute because I don’t have bulbs in the front yard but then I remembered my friend Josh Gallagher gave me a bag full of tulips and I planted them late last fall! We don’t know what color they’ll be but I’m looking forward to the surprise!

I spent about 2 ½ hours outside. I would have worked in the garden longer but it started to rain. There’s much more work to be down and I’m eager to get out there again. Clearing out old organics, turning the soil and adding compost to your garden beds should be taken care of now, as your perennials are waking up from winter. More importantly,  If you’re going to transplant perennials or shrubs or prune trees, don’t waste a minute! After moving them to the new location, give the plants a healthy watering and they’ll do just fine.


I’m so excited its gardening season again and now they’ll be no shortage of things to write about in my column!

Previously published in The Wave.

Composting Companions: Cuisine by Claudette and Edgemere Farm

We peninsula and Broad Channel folk share the shoreline with the natural world. I believe most of us try our best to reduce, reuse and recycle because of that.  The other day taking out my organic trash, I couldn’t believe how much waste my husband and I produce and it’s just two of us. Thankfully, NYC now composts. Speaking of which, my friend Yarden Flatow of Cuisine by Claudette recently started a unique, inspiring composting project.


About 6 months ago Cuisine by Claudette began a compost partnership with Edgemere Farm. The team at Cuisine by Claudette separates all food waste into 5 gallon buckets which are then picked up every day or so by a member of the farm. The food scraps go into the compost pile where it’s processed and eventually used to enriched the soil which the farm needs to grow their delicious produce. But not all goes in the heap, some scraps are used as feed for the chickens!


Best fed chickens in NYC I dare say!

“It’s an amazing life cycle because it lends itself to demonstrating how we can all find ways to reduce our waste simply and easily. Something that is seen to us as garbage, that our waste disposal company actually charges to pick up – is a valuable commodity to another community operation. Not only that, but there are times were farms like Edgemere have to pay for chicken feed. It’s really great that we have such a symbiotic relationship.” Yarden tells me.

The idea came about from a friend at the farm, who was a restaurateur and composted at Edgemere. Yarden explains, “After a little research, we came to a quick conclusion that partnering with the farm fits perfectly with our company values. It’s an environmentally responsible decision, it’s economical, and it helps support our favorite local urban farm.”

What better way to work within our own community to find solutions that are beneficial for both parties and has a positive impact on the peninsula. If that wasn’t enough, Cuisine by Claudette purchases produce and herbs for their healthy menu items from Edgemere Farm during the spring through the fall – talk about coming full circle!

Cuisine by Claudette is located at 143 Beach 116th Street Rockaway Park NY, 11694. Know that when your eating your lunch or slurping your smoothy, the byproducts are not going to waste, thanks to the eateries sustainable practices and collaboration with Edgemere Farm. Follow Cuisine by Claudette on facebook and on instagram to learn of new menu items and to drool over food photos – @cuisinebyclaudette.

Spring just began and Edgemere Farm is gearing up for their busy season. Look for opening day announcements on their Facebook page and instagram – @edgemerefarm. In the meantime, every weekend you can shop their pop-up location at 323 beach 74th Street, Sat/Sun 9am – 2pm for produce and more.

Previously published in The Wave.

My new job!

As you probably know from Fionnuala O’Leary’s article a couple of months ago, I’m working at The Wave now as a member of the art/design team. I write about everything that’s going on in my life in this column, so I thought it was about time to write about my experience so far at my new job!

First off, going to the office has worked wonders for my mental health. I know longer feel like an old cat lady, peeking out of the lace curtains to see what the commotion is on the street. It’s refreshing to have some structure in my week – to put on a nice outfit, leave the house and have interactions with like-minded humans. A huge perk is having the best commute of anyone in NYC. I walk three blocks to get to The Wave building. I don’t pay for transportation or expensive lunches either. I almost feel bad about how good I have it.

During my day-to-day, I’m working alongside Janette Rappo, Mark Hogan and Judy Gardonyi. They’re the people behind the pages of what you’re reading right now. The graphic design team does an outstanding job, laying out our usual 56-pager. They’ve been so patient with me while I learn the ropes. I’ve interrupted Jeanette and Mark Hogan dozens of times asking questions, yet they never get flustered with me. Four weeks ago, I put a page number on the inside margin by mistake. (Yup, that was me, sorry!) Even with that doozy, Janette, Mark and Judy were very understanding.

Before the stories get to the art department, Mark Healey, Ralph Mancini, Fionnuala O’Leary and a shortlist of freelancers work their magic covering stories, conducting interviews, writing detailed accounts, fact checking, editing and proofing. Fionnuala is a witty social media pro and Ralph is a meticulous editor, not to mention they’re excellent journalists. The editorial dept. is a small operation with big determination.

When a story breaks, the news room heats up. I love that energy! The phones are ringing off the hook, conversations are happening and our Editor In Chief, Mark Healey is in the center of it all, doing what he does best… managing everything! I’ve learned a lot from Mark already, about the importance of local news reporting and the impact it has on a community. With all that’s on his plate, Mark makes sure our plates are also full, with work yes, but also with snacks from the kitchen, lunches on him and he keeps us caffeinated.

Bernadette Luina is our  “all hands on deck” secretary. She takes unending phone calls, assists walk-ins, some of whom are tipsy, looking for Ship to Shore Wine Shop. She handles the classifieds, orders us Chinese food on Wednesdays and even helps layout a few pages here and there. She has the patience of Mother Teresa I swear! You’ll here Berni’s voice calling “Carol, we need a notary”.  Carol Keenan along with lending out her “John Hancock”, is our accountant extraordinaire. Everyone loves Carol because she makes sure we get paid!

In addition to the overwhelming work involved with being a publisher, Walter Sanchez and his wife Tammy are our “pinch hitters”. They come in on Wednesdays and Thursdays to check the “big picture” of the weeks pages, helping the team get the paper to press on time. Walter and Tammy are 100% committed to the staff and The Wave Newspaper. It’s been a pleasure working for them.

A weekly publication is a fast paced environment. I don’t think people get how much work it is to produce a newspaper with pertinent content. And then you just start all over again the next week. On Thursdays when we go to print, it feels like an impossible task sometimes. But article by article, ad by ad, and page by page the paper comes together as a result of the whole team’s  feverish work ethic at The Wave. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be a part of it all!

Previously published in The Wave.

tagged in job