Volunteers with the local nonprofit HomeGrown Change were busy building vegetable and pollinator gardens behind the Carnegie Library in Patchogue on Saturday.
About 30 people spent the day hauling dirt, digging holes and planting seeds for the project, meant to help teach young people and adults about gardening and local food sources.
The pollinator garden was built to aid the area’s bees and butterflies.
“It’s kind of like an outdoor library and we want this to be accessible,” said Eva Rodiguez-Greguski, HomeGrown Change’s founder and executive director.
For example, someone might find a disease on their eggplants at home, and if that same issue is effecting eggplants behind the library, perhaps Rodiguez-Greguski or others involved in the garden can help them to identify it.
Those others include master gardener volunteers through the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.
Among them Saturday morning was Brian Smith of Port Jefferson, also a board member of Homegrown Change, and Louann Rothe of Patchogue.
“Natives understand their growing conditions,” Smith said. “They don’t require excess fertilizers, water. And, more importantly, they’re providing food and habitat for our wildlife, namely butterflies, bees and migrating birds.”
Kaetlyn Jackson, a park planner with the National Park Service and a Patchogue resident, had also showed up to work Saturday as well.
She was especially excited about the pollinator garden, which is on the side of the West Main Street property that’s closer to West Avenue.
“It’s important for us to plant natives and support the native bees and butterflies,” Jackson said. “Between the use pesticides and loss of habitat, they’re all on the decline.”
The gardens were made possible using money from last summer’s inaugural Island to Table outdoor dinner fundraiser in Patchogue Village. Knights of Columbus Council 6520 of Medford also made a donation, and Councilman Neil Foley’s office secured the compost from the Town of Brookhaven.
Rothe, the other master gardener, was also there with her 6-year-old granddaughter Zoe Gledhill, who was busy planting green bean seeds when we found her.
“She was so excited to come with me this morning, so we had a sleepover,” Rothe said. “She likes to garden and she’s really good at it. When she heard that I was going to do this, she jumped right up. It’s such a great idea to have a garden here.”
The two even planted tomato plants they grew together from seeds at home.
“I’m hoping this can be an intergenerational space for young adults, small kids, parents and grandparents to come out here and garden,” Rodiguez-Greguski said. “And I can help [Patchogue-Medford Library] develop some programming as well.”
Top: Jean Kaleda of Patchogue-Medford Library with 6-year-old Zoe Gledhill at the garden Saturday. Zoe grew the tomato plant she’s holding with her grandmother, Louann Rothe, a master gardener. (Credit: Benny Migliorino of Benny Migs Photo)