After a year of limited and mainly remote public outreach, the Landscape and Garden Division of the Roosevelt Vanderbilt NHS was delighted to welcome visitors and groups to the park for in-person tours and activities. Students in the Farm to Table Concentration and the Sustainable Food Systems class from the Culinary Institute of America, members of the Poughkeepsie Public Library book club reading Doug Tallamy’s Nature’s Best Hope, and the staff from Wethersfield Gardens in Amenia, NY were among the groups touring the garden. High school students participating in the City of Poughkeepsie’s Nubian Directions Summer Youth Employment program capped off their season with a visit to the garden for education and career exploration.
Vassar College Community Engaged Learning Fellow, Meg Ritzau, developed an audio tour for the vegetable garden, which has allowed visitors to learn about the garden even when staff is not present. Meg also assembled photos and a script for a new wayside for the garden and updated information for the NPS’s website.
For the past three years, the garden program has participated in meetings of the Hudson Valley Food System Coalition, which focuses on food equity, community health, and sustainability. This participation has enhanced the awareness of food and its availability to those in the Hudson Valley and to all associated with managing the garden.
With a return to on-site programming this year, the first park-wide Roosevelt Home Garden BLT Lunch was hosted! A variety of heirloom tomatoes, lettuce, and a perfectly ripe Tom Watson watermelon were on the menu.
Volunteers play many important roles in the Home Garden. In 2021, 647 volunteer hours were contributed in the gardens at the Home of FDR. As an integral part of the workforce engaged in planting, maintaining, and harvesting, they connect the garden with the community at large in significant and meaningful ways. We look forward to expanding our volunteer corps in 2022.
When the garden was re-established in 2016, park staff recognized that improvements to the soil (reducing compaction and improving soil quality and drainage) were needed prior to the introduction of perennial crops. With the 5-year goal met in this regard, perennial crops were introduced to the garden this year. In spring 2021, asparagus, raspberries, strawberries, and rhubarb were planted. Grapes and currants will be added in 2022.
Climate, the Environment, and our Garden Strategies
The Landscape and Garden teams are committed to organic practices to fertilize and control pests in the garden. Only pest control products that protect the crops while minimizing human health and environmental risks are used. Choice products and timely applications reduce impacts to beneficial insects, including pollinators. In addition to the weekly organic spray program, a biodegradable film mulch (to control weeds and reduce insect pest populations), kaolin clay (a white, chalky material applied to foliage to reduce heat stress and deter insects), and a fine mesh netting to exclude insect pests, have been integrated into the grading practices. Also, staff and volunteers are trained to recognize plant pests and beneficial insects. This year a large population of helpful blue scolid wasps were found in the garden; these feed on and help to control grubs of Japanese Beetles and June Beetles.
The Landscape and Garden Division of the Roosevelt Vanderbilt NHS thanks the Franklin D. Roosevelt Hyde Park Foundation for their continued support of the Home Garden Restoration. Their support ensures the interpretation of an important legacy of the Roosevelt family in Hyde Park and allows us to connect our community and visitors to their stories.