Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Notes from Around Town: the Garden at PS 57

The following images are from a celebration we had at PS 57 on June 24, 2008.

PS 57 is also known as The James Weldon Johnson School. Mr. Israel Soto is the acting Principal. The school is located at 176 East 115th Street, between Lexington and 3rd Avenues, New York, NY, 10029.

The Horticultural Society is connected to PS 57 thanks to our Apple Seed program. Apple Seed offers innovative, hands-on environmental education and activities to expand science, math, and literacy skills in elementary students throughout New York City. The curriculum is based on the National Science Education Standards and serves public schools during and after school in some of New York City’s most underserved neighborhoods.

This is Apple Seed’s fifth year with PS 57. Our relationship started in 1996 when we taught several third grade classes for two years. More recently, Mr. Paul Forbes, Youth Development Manager at the Department of Education, reunited HSNY with PS57. Principal Soto was looking for an educationally based group to help him build a “Garden of Dreams” in a quiet schoolyard. And so, The Horticultural Society of New York installed this beautiful courtyard garden in the Spring of 2005. Students in our Green Team Internship Program built planters and created the waterfall. Apple Seed students then assisted with planting and maintaining a garden on the second floor deck of the school. This year “field trips” to the garden occurred with three classes to encourage garden art, planting annuals, fertilizing the soil, and increasing butterfly populations in the garden.

This garden is a living laboratory that demonstrates the marvels of plant life, its interconnection with the water cycle and the animals who depend on them. It is a vision of Principal Israel Soto, who wants all students to dream and dream BIG. It was designed by HSNY’s John Cannizzo and built by HSNY’s Green Team. This dream became a reality through the generous support of Bob Silver Family Foundation, The City Gardens Club of New York City, and Rodale.

John Cannizzo in the distance working with the students at PS 57 planting a new container.

The garden and outdoor learning facility is loved and utilized by students and teachers alike.

On the day of the celebration the kids were helping to pass out amazing tomato plants.

The new shade structure being unveiled is not only a new outdoor classroom space, but it also incorporates a rain water harvesting system to be used by the local gardeners.

HSNY's first rainwater harvesting system in a New York City public school helps to conserve our public drinking water by capturing rainwater from the roof of the outdoor learning center and storing it for use in the garden. This simple knowledge and technology we hope to introduce to other public school students throughout the city.

A little information about the students at PS57:
Student Population:
69% of students are Latino
23% of students are African-American
23% English Language Learners
90% of the students are receiving free lunch – from low-income families

Kate Chura, President and CEO of The Horticultural Society of New York, (above) and Principal Israel Soto (below) were among the many speakers who helped to welcome the students, parents, and guests to this amazing oasis of learning and discovery.

Also present for the ribbon cutting were Edie Loening from The City Gardens Club of New York City, Scott Meyer from Organic Gardening Magazine (a Rodale publication), and of course, the students.

Following the formal ceremony the students wasted no time getting to work watering the garden.

Healthy and nutritional snacks were provided to make sure we all kept our energy up during the hot summer day.

On-going maintenance of the garden is done by the third graders with the direction of HSNY’s weekly gardening classes. If you have questions about HSNY’s Apple Seed program, contact Pam Ito, Director of Children’s Education, at

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Reminder: Intro to Green Walls Thursday Evening 6/19

(image courtesy of

Introduction to Green Walls: A Presentation by G-Sky
Thursday, June 19, 2008, 6:00 – 7:30pm
Free for members, $10 for nonmembers

You have heard about the green roof movement, but have you heard about green walls? G-Sky's Living Wall product is a Japanese-developed modular system that has been installed worldwide for nearly 10 years. On June 19th, join representatives from G-Sky's New York office and Corporate office in Vancouver, including the company’s president, Chad Sichello, for an informative presentation on green walls. Learn about the components involved, the benefits, and how easy it is to incorporate their system into your own work. A living wall will be on display, and there will be an interactive presentation with plenty of time for questions.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

HSNY Tours: A Word of Thanks

Thanks to all the HSNY members that came out and joined me for the recent tours I have led around the city. They were all great fun and I really enjoyed sharing with you some of the special green destinations I love in Manhattan. I had a great group with me yesterday in the Flower District for a two-hour tour and container gardening talk and demonstration. People asked excellent questions and brought interesting ideas to the table and that was really enjoyable. Congratulations too to Joani for winning the packed container I put together and raffled off at the end of the class (pictured above - an $80 value). She'll get to enjoy this shade tolerant container of elephant ear, impatiens, begonias, ivy, and ferns outside on a table or in a garden for the rest of the summer and then can move a few things inside as houseplants for the winter if she chooses. Thanks especially to George Vallo and Robb Moss of the New York Studio of Floral Arts for being so generous with their space and allowing me to set up shop right there on 28th Street. For those interested in taking phenomenal floral design classes right in the middle of the Flower District action on 28th Street I urge you to visit their website and treat yourself to a class soon. I took a quick class with Robb once and learned so much I can't tell you. Given the success yesterday was I will certainly try and organize more Flower District tours for the future.

And thanks too to all those that have sent me such kind compliments regarding the tours atop the High Line on June 7th. It was so hot up there under that full sun with no protection but the 80 or so members of HSNY and Friends of the High Line were real troopers and I applaud you all for braving the heat and joining Meredith Taylor from Friends of the High Line and I for that amazing day of naturalist walks. For those that were not aware I led a number of tours of the third section of the High Line, over the west-side rail yards, educating people about the environment and the plants up there, from flowering trees to inconspicuous grasses, natives and invasives, their characteristics and how they've adapted over the years, the different microclimates, etc, etc. We discovered some great plants, and again, people brought strong questions to each of the tours and made it really enjoyable for me. So, thank you!

Finally, I am thinking through some more enjoyable and educational green tours we might be able to do around the city later this summer so stay tuned. To receive information about all of our events and outreach programs, become an HSNY member.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Why No Flowers?

I live in south-east Ontario, near Peterborough and found several bulbs in my garden this spring that were planted by the previous owner of the property. They are 2 to 2-and-a-half inches in size and had quite thick roots. The foliage was about 8-10 inches tall, the colour of daffodils and the leaves very similar too…but less pointed. They didn’t flower. Have you any idea what they might be? I am enclosing shots of the plant and hope that you will be able to use them.


It does look to me like those are daffodils you have in your garden. Of course there are many bulbs that have that same foliage and habit, and without a flower IDing them can be tough. As far as why no blooms, my best guess is that it has to do with the nutrients in the soil. Certainly there is enough nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen is one the macronutrients that a plant relies on, and it helps a plant to produce healthy green foliage and photosynthesize. Another macronutrient that plants rely on is phosphorous, and adding phosphorous to the soil typically helps a plant to produce a larger and more profuse flower. Having a number of bulbs produce foliage but no flower I’m guessing there is either not enough sun or not enough phosphorous. From the photos it seems like the bulbs are getting plenty of light and they ought to be flowering. So, therefore, this is what I would do. This fall when your local garden center or nursery puts out all of their bulb displays, look at the fertilizers they are selling. Each fertilizer has three numbers printed on the label, and those are the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash (potassium) respectively in each dose. What you want to find and apply to your yard is a fertilizer with a high middle number. I am guessing you will most likely find it in a granular form. You can apply it this fall and it should break down and leach into the soil over the winter months so that as the roots of the daffodils begin to grow early spring they can get the much needed boost and then go back to their flowering selves. Of course, if you feel your soil has been properly amended and has all of the necessary nutrients then it might be worth getting a soil test done. In fact, if it is a new property a soil test is probably worth doing regardless. It can help you avoid a lot of guessing in the long run.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Double Headed" Daisy?

Could you please tell me if it is possible to get a double or triple headed daisy? I have enclosed a photograph in the attachment.

That photograph you sent is really wild looking, no pun intended. In short, I do not know of any growers that try to produce or specialize in bizarrely mutated plant forms like the one photographed. I am guessing that flower, obviously a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae), grew and blossomed as it did because of either a genetic mutation or perhaps some bizarre damage (insect related?) to the emerging flower bud which then allowed two flowers to bloom fused together. To be honest I do not think I have ever seen a mutation like this, but a coworker just mentioned over my shoulder that she has seen in the past tomato plant flowers fused together and produce some sort of “Siamese twin” tomatoes. What can I say, genetics and mutation is truly a fascinating aspect of science and horticulture. But again, sorry, I have to say that finding a flower like that in the trade is probably going to be pretty close to impossible. And trust me, I know some pretty nontraditional gardeners out there. But, if you do find a source, please pass it along!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Recent Photos: HSNY Green Screen

Here at The Horticultural Society of New York (148 W. 37th Street - 13th Floor) our Green Screen is looking really good these days so I wanted to post and share some images for those of you that have not had the chance to visit recently. Designed by Marpillero Pollak Architects, installed by David Melrose, and maintained by yours truly, the HSNY Green Screen includes plants of all shapes and sizes situated in a series of shallow troughs covering most of our south-facing windows. A mixture of herbaceous tropicals, succulents, bromeliads, epiphytes, ferns and vines, the Screen has become a great living experiment right here in our public headquarters and I urge anyone and everyone to come and visit. Above is a Tillandsia concolor, commonly call an air plant, and with all the sun and humidity recently it has begun blooming profusely.

The staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) in the background and the crocodile fern (Microsorium 'Crocodyllus') in the foreground require regular misting but have held up very well since I planted them a year ago. If you have ever tried to grow a staghorn fern in your home you know how challenging it can be so I love showing people how we have been able to keep it going here in an office environment.

One of our newest additions is this amazing plant with contrasting hairy, reddish stems and bright chartreuse terminal growth. It appears that the flowers are pure white, tiny and emerge from the chartreuse bracts of the plant, but we are still learning as it continues to come into flower. I have yet to identify it to genus and/or species.

In the center of this shot, in front of the thin, tubular Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' and behind the Hedera 'Round Leaf' is Neoregelia 'Tiger Cub', a staff favorite which we have a number of throughout the Screen. With plenty of sun and enough moisture kept in their cups the Tiger Cub neoregelia continues to put out its pups (new growth in the form of side shoots) even when the office gets very dry.

You can see some things are containerized within the screen like the Peperomia maypurensis with its thick bronze leaves. You can't see it in this photo but the creeping fig (Ficus pumila) in the foreground has begun clinging and climbing up the nearby windowsill. Again, we enjoy the screen as a horticultural experiment and love to see how the plants grow and spread by their own accord.

With its cylindrical creeping leaves, the Sansevieria ballyi has been a Green Screen staple from its installation in 2006. Beyond it Sedum 'Angelina' has adapted well to the indoors here at HSNY even though most people know it as a reliable and winter-hardy green roof plant in New York City. Overall the succulents, such as the Sedum, love the Screen because they do most of their water and nutrient storage in their leaf tissue and therefore do not need tons of space for their roots. Beyond those the large leafed plants in the distance are a combination of Begonia conchifolia 'Bulls Eye' and Syngonium podophyllum 'Roxana', commonly called Bulls Eye begonia and Roxana arrowhead vine respectively.

Over the winter the rex begonia vine, Cissus discolor, died back and I wasn't sure if it would come back again. However, I pruned it back hard, continued to water minimally through winter, and did my best to be patient. To all of our surprise, not to mention the surprise of the amazing growers out at Landcraft Environmentals who raised most of these plants, spring came and the vine has bounced back tremendously. I do think they would prefer a home with greater humidity but a regular early morning misting is keeping them colorful and cascading all over.

The containerized plant in the foreground is Homalocladium platycladum, commonly called a ribbon plant. Some times you will also find it referred to by its other, less attractive name of tapeworm plant. It too prefers quite a bit of humidity given the thin "ribbon" leaves and stems but when happy they grow quite big. Beyond it the Echeveria 'Milk Chocolate' put up a large spire of flowers last year and I can't wait for it to bloom again. When you visit you will see how we have easily propagated broken-off succulent leaves and allowed them to grow into plants of their own.

Under two pieces of the Screen are large radiators so we improvised and filled those sections with moisture retentive gravel and containerized succulents and epiphytes. In the winter its just a matter of keep the gravel moist on a regular basis and the result is a nice dose of humidity that rises up and helps all of the other layers deal with the dry heat.

HSNY is open to the public Monday - Friday from 10am - 6pm. With a mission to improve the quality of life through horticulture, HSNY is a horticultural resource and community outreach provider intended for all, and we love to help foster growth and education every chance we get. Usually Katherine Powis, HSNY Librarian, and I are here, but if not there is signage and other staff to help you identify what you are looking at. There is also the living example of an extensive green roof (below) and plenty of sensational reference books to keep you enthralled so do come and visit us soon.

Reminder: All photographs taken by Alex Feleppa and should not be used or reproduced in any form without written consent. Thank you. -AEF

Caring for a Michelia figo

(Michelia figo image courtesy of

Quick question- I have a Michelia figo, not very big, in a 4" clay pot. I have it on a windowsill where it gets full blazing sun- do you think that's too much? It doesn't seem to be growing much and the leaves look ever so slightly yellowish. (I have kept it watered and fed). Thoughts?

I love it when people ask me about a plant I don’t know! Excuse my snooping, but where did you get it?

According to Flora: A Gardener’s Encyclopedia (Timber Press, 2003) the genus Michelia includes about 45 species of mostly evergreen shrubs native to tropical and subtropical Asia. Named after an early eighteenth-century Italian botanist, Pietro Antonio Michele, Michelias are members of the Magnolia family (Magnoliaceae) and those amazingly beautiful and fragrant blossoms are supposed to bloom during summer. They grow best in fertile, well-drained soil and situated in full sun and sheltered from strong wind. Michelia figo is commonly called port-wine magnolia or banana shrub, again because of the rich fragrance, and in its native habitat it can grow to 15 feet tall.

It sounds to me like the sunny spot it is in was the right choice. Depending on when you got it and what the light conditions were like before, it might still be acclimating to its new environment. Luckily you bought it young and small and that is a good thing since younger plants are often more adaptable and can recuperate more quickly to new environments. Just last week I moved some tropical seedlings out to my front stoop and even though I lost a few leaves to scorch, they seem to be quite happy and holding up fine. If it is in a 4” pot then I am assuming you didn’t repot it when you bought it. I would probably do that. In fact I often repot new plants right away just to make sure I know they are then set up for success. Transplanting it into a slightly larger container, say 5-6” in diameter, and giving it some rich, fresh soil you can be a little more certain that it has both the nutrients and the drainage it requires. If the slight yellowing is any kind of nutrient deficiency the repotting should take care of that. Since this is a tropical shrub I would also do whatever I could to increase the humidity. Avoid any drafts from A/C as that can be a quick killer of humidity-loving tropicals. If you have the window open so it can get a little humidity from the outside I bet that would help. Then of course there is what I call “the saucer trick”. Place a layer of pebbles in the saucer so that excess water can collect in that “buffer zone” and evaporate to provide more humidity to the area right around the plant. Even if the soil is moist I might add a little water to my saucers just to make sure I’m keeping the humidity level increased. I’m not typically one that mists my plants, but if you do then an early morning misting before the hot midday sun might not be a bad thing. Lastly, you could incorporate a balance fertilizer into your watering regiment for the summer, but in the long run I would just rely on regular watering and transplanting again with fresh soil in a few years.

Hope this helps. If you get your Michelia figo to flower be sure and send a photo my way!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Companion Panting in NYC Community Gardens

I am a new community gardener in New York City. I will be planting vegetables , and I wanted to know are there any companion plants I could include in my garden plot in order to keep pest(insects) away from my vegetables?

That is an excellent question! For those of you that do not know, companion planting is a proper horticultural practice that can be a natural preventative step to fend off various pest and disease issues that can affect a vegetable garden. With the right diversity of plants and proper care you can grow a large and healthy crop without having to rely on using strong chemicals. Of course weeding and scouting for pests is still something you have to do in a garden through summer, but knowing a few reliable combinations can be really invaluable. At this moment I must admit that we do not have an updated companion planting list on hand but here at the HSNY Library we have a tremendous selection of books that would be of great assistance for your vegetable gardening efforts. In particular, Katherine Powis, HSNY Librarian, found these titles for you:

A-Z of companion planting / Pamela Allardice ; illustrations by Sue Ninham. Pymble NSW : Angus & Robertson ; New York NY : Distributed in the U.S. of America by HarperCollins Call Number: SB453.6 .A43 1993

Bob Flowerdew's complete book of companion gardening / photographs by Jacqui Hurst. London : Kyle Cathie Call Number: SB453.6 .F64 1993

Carrots love tomatoes : secrets of companion planting for successful gardening / Louise Riotte. Pownal Vt. : Storey Pub. Call Number: S603.5 .R56 1998

Companion planting : successful gardening the organic way / by Gertrud Franck : Distributed by Sterling Pub. Co. Call Number: 635 Fra

Great garden companions : a companion planting system for a beautiful, chemical-free vegetable garden / Sally Jean Cunningham. Emmaus Pa. : Rodale Press ; [New York] Call Number: SB321 .C9 1998

Planting companions / Jill Billington ; with photography by Clive Nichols. New York : Stewart Tabori & Chang. Call Number: SB453.6 .B54 1997

prepared by Katherine Powis, Librarian
The Horticultural Society of New York
148 West 37th St., 13 floor
New York, NY 10018
212 757-0915 x 109

The top two books I have used a lot and really enjoy. The others I do not know so well but I am sure they will have things to add. You are always welcome to come to the HSNY Library to read through any of these titles and discuss your vegetable garden with me if I am around. We are open 10-6 Monday through Friday and Katherine is typically here Monday through Thursday. Anyone is invited in to read and research in the library, and to borrow the books we just have to sign you up as an HSNY Member, but that takes no time. Hope this helps. Also, if you have specific pest issues or questions as the season progresses you can feel free to ask me those as well as entomology was part of my horticultural training.

Moving to NYC, a Balcony Question

I'm planning to move to New York from Seattle and have been lucky enough to get an apartment with a balcony. Sadly it is a North-facing balcony which means that it probably gets very little sun. I'm going to be moving to it in November and I was wondering what I could do to transform it into a green space. Specifically, what container plants would do well and is there anything I can put there in November or must I wait until the spring? I would like it to be as colorful as possible as well! Thanks for any advice that you might have for me. I can't wait to get started!

Thanks for writing. We can definitely help you green up your balcony once you get out here. What you should definitely do is once you get settled come and visit us here at The Horticultural Society. I will show you around the library and point out a number of books specific to container gardening and gardening in NYC. We can also discuss the aspects of plants that you love and how to best incorporate them into your planting scheme. With the part sun or dappled shade you get there is no question that you will have plenty of options of things to grow. You can even hire me for a private consultation at your home if you would prefer to design on-site. Of course, first you will have to approach your building and ask if they have a policy about containers and/or weight restrictions for the balcony. I'd hate for you to install a whole bunch of beautiful things to then have the building super come and tell you you have to remove them. (Sounds absurd, I know, but I've definitely seen it happen before). We can work with you to plan through the winter and by spring your home should be good and green. And yes, I imagine that you could begin to acquire a few containers and plants to start yourself off in the fall, but let's cross that bridge when we get to it. Have a safe and successful move and we will look forward to meeting you this fall.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Japanese Holly in Distress in Eastern Massachusetts

I planted a japanese holly about a month ago in the northeast corner of my house. I was watering it pretty regularly but went away for a week. When I watered it today, almost all of the leaves fell of. All I had to do was touch a leaf and it would drop although the leaves were still green and not browned. There are some tiny bud/flowers and the plant looks green. Has it been underwatered? overwatered? underfertilized? not enough sun? I would appreciate any advice.
Oh, and it might help if I told you I live in eastern massachusetts.

A little transplant shock is typical, but this sounds much more severe. If your Japanese holly does not get quite enough sun then it will thin its lower, interior leaves. This interior thinning will also happen as plenty of new growth emerges from the tips of the stems and the plant grows larger. However, all that usually happens over a longer period of time, so I’m a little unsure as to why you are having so much leaf drop so quickly. I guess my mind then goes to other planting or cultural issues. I hope the rootball didn’t suffer too much damage when planted. Whether containerized or balled and burlapped it is important to keep the rootball as in-tact and protected through the planting as possible. You can and want to rough up the roots around the edges a bit to encourage them to grow out and down but never want to put too much pressure on the rest of the root mass. You should have planted the shrub so that it is level with the soil around it. Many used to advise to prep the hole twice as wide and twice as deep as the rootball, but now the consensus is that you do not want to dig too deep because you do not want the plant to settle and then have the crown of the plant below the soil line. If the shrub is planted too deep then you can run the risk of rot and the roots not getting the fresh air that they require. After planting I would “water in” the shrub by putting the hose on a slow trickle and letting it sit and soak the roots for an hour or so. Following that I would water a newly planted Japanese holly two or three times a week early in the day for an hour or two each time. For this, using soaker hoses with a battery operated timer can be a great help and make it easy on you. Regular and evenly spaced watering is a proper horticultural practice I can't talk up enough. If the shrub goes a week without water then obviously water it when you return, but do not then over-compensate and flood the plant. I always make the analogy that if you are dehydrated you do not then try and drink a gallon of water in one sitting, you sip, slowly and over a period of time, and then you will begin to feel normal again. In this respect plants are not all that different from humans. The dehydrated roots will not know what to do with such an excessive watering and you can do harm when you are trying to do good. Again, I might expect some leaf drop, but not like what you have described. And being away for a week should not send a woody shrub like that downhill so fast. On the remaining leaves, examine the undersides of the leaves and the nodes, the junctions where leaves and stems meet, and tell me if you see any sign of insects. Look at the base of the plant and make sure it is not too deep. If so, you might have to pull it out and replant it raised up a bit. For trees and shrubs people will tell you to err on the side of planting too high instead of planting too deep. Also, since this occurred so fast, call the nursery and explain the situation and ask if other people’s new hollies have been suffering too. There might have been something affecting the whole batch that no one had noticed before a bunch of them were sold. As far as winter hardiness, I believe that the holly should hold up where you are living. (Otherwise why would a nursery have sold it to you?). Some references say that they are only hardy to Zone 6 and I bet you might be a bit colder up there, but I am sure I have seen these broadleaf evergreens up that far.

Hmm, very interesting. Of course, if you have a digital camera you can take and email me some pictures and we can see if that helps me diagnose the situation any better. Think through the planting process you underwent and let me know if any other factors may have come into play. I’ll keep thinking too.

Starting a Kitchen Garden Indoors

I'm hoping to start an indoor kitchen garden, but of course my options -- like my space -- are limited. I'm thinking of growing a range of herbs in a pebble garden, as well as a Meyer lemon tree, and maybe a fig tree, though I've heard those aren't fruit-bearing when grown indoors. Any other suggestions for hardy indoor plants that can be put to use in the kitchen?

The room only has one window, in a corner, facing West. Not the best situation, but I was thinking of supplementing the natural light with a fluorescent bulb. The living room has better light, but there's a cat out there that'll apparently eat herbs, so unless I can figure out a way to build a shelf halfway up the window frame, it looks like I'm going to be gardening in my bedroom.

Answer (for now):
Given your limited space and light I would suggest starting your indoor kitchen garden in stages. This way you can begin with a few options that are typically easy and reliable, see how those plants fare, and then move on and branch out from there. Quickly before I forget, large fruit bearing trees can be a real challenge to grow indoors and yes, getting them to fruit properly can be extremely difficult. They need greater variation between daytime and nighttime temperatures, some seasonal temperature fluctuation as well, good airflow and circulation, and much more sunlight. I am sorry to say, but a few windows in an apartment that stays a constant 70-something degrees throughout the year is not going to be the easiest or best environment.

So, let’s talk about things that work. I have a close friend and coworker who grows a ton of herbs in her apartment in Brooklyn, specifically in an East-facing window. Every year she enjoys growing from seed or propagating from cuttings basil, cilantro, parsley and dill. When I asked her opinion she also mentioned that she enjoyed growing sweet marjoram a few times, and can keep rosemary going pretty if it is already a decent size. Depending on your level of patience you can try starting seed or you will be able to find all of these in small pots for cheap at the Farmer’s Market in Union Square (open Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays). If you opt for starting the seeds yourself, sow them as the packets suggest, water the seeds and soil well, and then cover your pots with Saran Wrap, or some such equivalent. This will seal in moisture and humidity for the period of time it takes for the seeds to germinate – essentially creating a mini greenhouse in each pot. After a few days or a week you can poke some holes in the Saran Wrap to slowly begin acclimating the seedlings to your much drier apartment. When the seedlings reach the Saran Wrap you can remove it, keep the seedlings moist on a regular basis, and perhaps the occasional misting with a fine spray bottle. Avoid direct exposure to A/C or any other strong wind source that might dry out the fragile new foliage before it matures and hardens off.

Let me know if this is helpful and any other questions you may have. Fruits and veggies will be harder to do in your conditions, but if and when you feel like taking on that challenge we can definitely help with both library references and personal testimonials.