Schenectady County Horticulture Education Center

Horticulture Center Seedling

By Liz Clancy Lerner

Good things come from the Schenectady County Horticulture Education Center.

Good in the form of thousands of flowering plants that go back into the community, job training for adults who need assistance, and horticultural classes for the general public.

It's tucked away in Schenectady's Central Park, but its impact on the community is everywhere. And you can be involved too.

Horticulture Center Sign

The Horticulture Education Center is a partnership of three different entities: The Cornell University Cooperative Extension, the Schenectady County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Schenectady job training agency.

What's there: On three acres of land sit two high-tunnel greenhouses, three heated greenhouses, an educational building, a bird and butterfly garden, turf grass research plots and a home composting demonstration site.

Horticulture Center Greenhouse

The center, which is open year-round, employs two full-time and one part-time staff members.

What they grow: Flowering plants, herbs, vegetables, ornamentals -- mostly all from seedlings. They're not normally for sale to the public, but you can purchase them during the center's open house on May 4.

Some of the programs they offer:

Horticulture Center Job Training

Job Training -- The center provides free horticultural training and job experience for adults through TANF, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. When Senior Extension Resource Manager Laura Milak started working at the center eight years ago, only two people went through the job training program. Last year there were 98 -- and this year they've already trained 42 people.

Roots and Wisdom -- It's a youth agriculture and community service program at the site that brings together urban, suburban and rural Schenectady County residents to grow organic vegetables for donation to local food pantries and for sale within the county.

Horticulture Center Inside Greenhouse

Adopt-a-Public-Space program -- The center grows more than 10,000 flowering plants each year that help to beautify boulevard islands, parks and public spaces within Schenectady County.

Little Diggers -- A program for pre-schoolers where they can dig, plant and learn. The classes fill up quickly so once they're announced (on the website) be sure to sign up.

Horticulture Center Raised Bed Cover

Classes for the public -- "Demystifying Soils" will be offered from 6:30 to 8:30 April 19. You can learn about soil texture and structure and how pH affects plant nutrition. If you're curious about your own soil, you can bring a soil sample to be tested.

On May 10 from 6:30 to 8:30 there'll be a "Vegetable Planting Party": It's a hands-on class that teaches basic vegetable gardening, including transplanting, seed sowing, fertilizing, mulching and watering. Participants will take home a selection of transplants.

The classes cost $15 each.

How you can get involved: You have to apply for most volunteer positions at the center, including the master composter recycling program and master gardener program. Roots and Wisdom asks you to give them a call if you're interested with working with that program.

Horticulture Center Compost Sign

Also good to know:

If you'd like to visit the site there will be an open house on Wednesday, May 4, from 3-7 pm. There will be a tomato plant giveaway, soil testing, kids activities and a plant sale.

You're also welcome to stop by the center if the gate's open. If you're coming with a group, they ask that you call ahead.

And, if you have any sort of gardening question, there's a master gardener hotline that you can call: (518) 372-1622.

Find It

Schenectady County Horticulture Education Center
PTL Arthur Chaires Lane
Schenectady, NY 12309


Looks like public money well spent, for a change.

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