Horticulture Volunteer Day in the Queens Botanical Garden

As a member of the PDFoundation I find it particularly important to take part in environmental protection or conservationist activities. And I also encourage everybody to do the same since this is how we actually have a positive impact in the world. This is our aim and our dream, so let’s go out and find the nearest place where you can do some volunteering! There are plenty of opportunities around, just need to look for it.

So I was really happy and motivated to attend my first volunteer day in the QBG (Queens Botanical Garden). The reason I chose gardening and planting this time is that this exercise is not only beneficial to the garden but to the gardener as well! Working with the soil, the plants help improve ourselves, listening to the voice of our souls, while enjoying the amazing view and scents. Physically connecting with the plants while carefully planning their next season in their beds feels like we became “friends” somehow.  

Wednesday morning the volunteer team met at the Wedding Garden in QBG. A kind coordinator lady presented the day’s schedule, introduced the gardeners who led the different activities and let us choose a type of work we would do. Luckily I joined the team that went to the rose garden to do some planting. I saw the roses from the distance and they looked amazing, so I was quite delighted to spend some time among them. Our team leader was Karl, who works in the QBG as a gardener. He greeted us very friendly, talked a lot about the botanical garden, which was indeed entertaining and interesting. Then showed us around the storage where we picked up our shovels. The rose garden, we chose, has four corner beds and we had to do planting in two of them. Two beds out of the four, the previously prepared ones, served as role models for our small "garden". We had to plan the location of the seven different types of flowers in the bed so that all of them can grow peacefully, have enough space and of course look good. Karl explained us what are the most important criteria we must consider and in general the behavior of the flowers. Once we pointed the right spot for the plants, we started digging them a hole in the ground and placed them into their new home. To support their thrive we brought mulch to apply to the surface of the soil. Many materials are used as mulches (grass, leaf, hay, wood, straw etc.) which are used to retain soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, suppress weed growth, and for aesthetics. We used wood chips this time which they produce on the spot, so it is reliable and fresh. Lastly we watered the plants and admired their happiness with satisfaction.  

I was very pleased to hear that this is the only botanical garden in New York which doesn’t use chemical fertilizers or insecticides! They consciously chose this environmentally friendly and sustainable way of gardening, knowing that they would need more manpower to keep the garden as beautiful as it is now. We also got to know about a fungus we saw in the mulch which lives in a symbiosis with the roots of the plants in the soil. The structure of the fungi allows them to transfer the nutrients as a vivid network between the roots. Recent researches are about to nurture the ancient, symbiotic relationship between the so called mycorrhizal fungi and plants’ roots for increased garden harvests and healthier soil. At PDFoundation, we all vote for the eco-friendly and chemical-free way of farming, as you can read in our article about eco-gardening.

We had a jolly good time with my team in QBG. We shared our stories, our connections with nature, our plans and views. This lovely event had a positive effect on the garden and on us, volunteers too. And when we return to the garden in a few weeks we will see the plants happily growing - and we will be glad for the chance to have been involved in their well-being.

As it turned out QBG is looking for helping hands to do weeding and planting in the Bees Garden during the summer. Of course I was more than happy to apply this weekly adventure where I can even learn special skills from a lifelong beekeeper. The honey bees and the honey they produce are very important for humans. It is well known that the sizes of territories to collect nectars are diminishing therefore it is crucial to increase the melliferous flora.