High Line Gardeners in Winter: Plans, Preparation, and Research

High Line Gardener Kaspar Wittlinger leads a tool tune-up session for High Line Gardeners and High Line Volunteers. Here he shows the group the proper technique for sharpening a pair of pruning shears.

At this time of year, we get this question all the time: “What do the gardeners do in the winter?”

There is noticeably less activity in the planting beds on the High Line in the winter, but our gardeners are just as busy. They take advantage of the lull in the growing season to plan and prepare for the year to come, and they are also called into action to help ensure the park is safe for the public after snow and ice storms. Here’s a little insight into what the High Line Gardeners are up to in the colder months of the year.

Clearing Snow and Ice
Removing snow and ice from the High Line is a huge task. The High Line doubled in length with the opening of the new section of the High Line last June. This means there is now twice as much High Line to enjoy, and twice as much High Line to maintain, with one full mile of pathway and nine access points to clear of snow and ice during winter storms. The mild weather this winter means the High Line Maintenance & Operations Staff have been spared this task, but they’re prepared for any future snow and ice storms to come in 2012.

Pruning the Plants
Winter is the perfect time to prune back many trees and shrubs. Tackling pruning during the plants’ period of dormancy is important to ensure that trees and shrubs are healthy and beautiful during the next growing season.

Planning for the Busy Season
During the winter, the High Line Gardeners are able to catch up on important indoor tasks that they don’t have time to do in the summer, when they spend the majority of their time in the planting beds. Right now, they’re working on logging pest and plant disease activity, improving the plant database, studying and programming the irrigation system, and sorting through plant photography from the past year. These activities are important as they look ahead to making the next growing season even better than the last.

Preparing for the High Line Green-Up Spring Cutback
A big part of planning for next season is organizing the “Spring Cutback” component of our larger greening initiative known as High Line Green-Up., Cutback itself is a six-week process wherein we trim back all of the park’s plants to make way for the new season's growth. The success of the project requires substantial planning in advance, including the recruitment of nearly 100 community volunteers, scheduling of corporate volunteer teams, coordination of work days, and getting tools in good working order for the massive task ahead. With Cutback in mind, the High Line Gardeners hosted a tool tune-up session in mid-December, with some of our most dedicated horticulture volunteers to explain to them the importance of and procedures for cleaning and sharpening tools on a regular basis. Led by Gardener Kaspar Wittlinger, they learned new techniques which were applied to our arsenal of tools. Thanks to their hard work, we made good headway towards having all of our tools ready for the kick-off the High Line Green-Up Spring Cutback on March 5, weather permitting.

Enlarge10th Avenue Square

We need your help to get the planting beds ready for spring. Read more about how to volunteer during this year’s High Line Green-Up Spring Cutback.

Horticultural work on the High Line is made possible with funding from Greenacre Foundation. Volunteer programs are supported by REI and, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

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