Hudson Valley Garden Association Newsletter Features Sustainable Gardening Blog Post by College's Sustainability Coordinator

This article has been reprinted with permission of the Hudson Valley Garden Association. Blog post and photos.

PHOTO: Students work in the College's gardensMIDDLETOWN, N.Y. – Sustainability has been an integral part of SUNY Orange since 2007 when college President Dr. Richards signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). Subsequently, in 2009, a college wide Sustainability Master Plan was developed and a year later a Sustainability Committee was created. With the addition of a Sustainability Coordinator (yours truly) and with support and enthusiasm from all levels of the college community, we have been able to move forward on projects related to recycling, energy and water usage, curriculum development, composting, and inclusion of several green infrastructures and educational gardens at both the Middletown and Newburgh campuses.

As we continually strive to decrease our carbon footprint, some of the most rewarding and pleasurable projects have been related to our campus grounds where we have made a commitment to use educational gardens as a tool to educate students, faculty, staff and the public at large about sustainable gardening. We currently have three distinct gardens which all demonstrate sustainable gardening methods:

The Native Woodland Garden, located on the Middletown campus by Hudson Hall, was developed using sustainable and repurposed materials such as cardboard for weed control, natural wood chips for mulch, and field stones for path edging. The plants used in this area are all native straight species creating benefits to birds and insect while at the same time providing great beauty from early spring through late fall. The plants were chosen by Biology Department faculty and Orange County CCE Master Gardeners assisted in designing the garden.

The Xeriscape Garden, right next to the Woodland Garden, is installed in a south facing, partly covered location which up until this installation consisted of a few yucca, cacti, and weeds. The Xeriscape area now includes large rocks, gravel mulch, a small bench and native cacti, succulents, grasses, and small shrubs.

Choosing the right plants for the Xeriscape Garden was important and we are now able to show how an area, otherwise designated as a “trouble area”, can be transformed by proper planning and design. We were all amazed at how quickly this area looked well established.

PHOTO: SUNY Orange Rain Garden on Middletown campusThe Rain Gardens, one at Middletown and one at the Newburgh campus, are part of the college’s commitment to storm water management practices, also known as Green Infrastructure practices. Both of the rain gardens were designed and built by Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District folks and plant design was done by Orange County CCE Master Gardeners. Funding for both projects was secured via OC Soil and Water.

Plants for the garden projects are purchased from our Wild Ones nursery partners, Catskill Native Nursery in Kerhonkson, NY and Shawangunk Growers in Middletown, NY. Funding comes from proceeds from the college’s participation in the TerraCycle program, individual donations and Earth Day tree seedling sales. In addition, we have been fortunate to receive a Wild Ones Seeds for Education grant. All work related to the garden installations and maintenance is done by volunteer students, faculty, staff, and community members who will often meet on a weekly basis for 3-4 hour work sessions.

In addition to the Educational Gardens, the college unveiled the Devitt Center for Botany and Horticulture in 2011. The center, funded by the Devitt Family, consists of two restored greenhouses, one for plants and one consisting of a lab/classroom space, plus the surrounding Devitt Center Gardens. The Devitt Center PlantDivisionWorkShopserves both the college’s academic and Continuing Education sides.

Last spring, we hosted the inaugural Garden Workshop Series consisting of three workshops presented by Orange County CCE Master Gardeners. In order to complement hands-on horticulture workshops in the future, a large cold frame has been restored and several raised planting beds are being installed this spring. We look forward to presenting workshops on topics such as pruning, backyard stewardship, invasive insects and plants and much more. All future programs will be posted on the SUNY Orange Sustainability Facebook Page, Hudson Valley Garden Calendar Calendar, and in local newspapers.

In closing, I’d like to invite you to visit both our campuses and explore the Educational Gardens and the campus grounds as a whole. As you walk around campus you’ll notice informational “Campus Sustainability” signage by the various gardens and also notice signage for a newly developed Middletown Campus International Tree Tour. A walking map is available in the Library Lobby and additional information can be found here.

For grounds information and a comprehensive list of the campus plantings that can be discovered at both the Middletown and Newburgh campuses, please visit the SUNY Orange website.

If you have any question or would like additional information on SUNY Orange’s Sustainability efforts and Garden Projects, please feel free to contact me at

SUNY Orange - Middletown Campus
115 South St., Middletown, NY 10940
(845) 344-6222

SUNY Orange - Newburgh Campus
1 Washington Center, Newburgh, NY 12550
(845) 562-2454

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Mike Albright
Communications Officer
115 South Street
Middletown, NY 10940