How do I make a social impact with my garden? I would like to combine what I love with actually helping others.
I commend you for thinking this way. If all gardeners did, we would make such a HUGE impact-we’d be reeling from it and so many would benefit. There are many, many ways that you can combine your love of gardening with your love of helping others. Here are a few:
- Go Green- “The Green Gardener’s Guide” by Joe Lamp’l is a great start to reading about how we as gardeners affect our environment and how a few positive changes in our gardening habits can impact the entire earth for the greater good. Talk about a direct impact for generations to come!
- Plant a Row for the Hungry-Why not? It doesn’t add much to your workload, and the people who must visit your local food bank will appreciate the donation more than you know. Get the whole family involved from planting to caring to harvesting to dropping your donation off. Read an article about it by Ann Lovejoy.
- Plant Extra to Give-My mom feeds all three kid’s families and her neighbors with her multitudes of delicious tomatoes each year. All of us are grateful as it saves on the grocery bills and tastes like heaven on earth. My youngest goes directly to the garden to snack (the only person I’ve ever known to eat a tomato like an apple and put the remainder in the fridge!) when we visit during growing season. My extra peas and cucumbers last year went to some of my neighbors.
- Sell Harvest and Give-Make sure and check with your local government for laws on selling your harvest but I know a family who runs a roadside stand with home-grown veggies and home-baked goods, and donates the proceeds to various causes.
- Think Far-Reach- Third-world hunger makes me sad, and angry too. Because it doesn’t have to be that way. People in our country and even other countries can be taught to be more self-sufficient, even in the worst of conditions. With training and mentoring, they could grow their own food and eat or sell it. Or, they could turn the donation of livestock or two into nourishment, income and an ongoing source of food for their families. How can you get involved? Rural Family Nutrition Initiative in Zimbabwe is an example of one way to do this.
- Community Gardens-More than just a spot to rent, community gardens provide opportunities for socialization, teamwork, cooperation and a positive learning activity for all. They also work to train people in self-sufficiency and reaching out to others around them. Start a plot even if you have a home garden and use your time to reach out to other gardeners. Don’t have one locally? Consider starting one.
- Reach Out- Use your garden to reach out to children in your neighborhood and teach them when they ask questions. Invite them to help as they can and watch a whole new crop of gardeners grow up because you reached out-and made an impact. Better yet, organize and help maintain a school garden for children in your community. You may have a Master Gardener look you up someday to thank you.
OK, readers! Your turn. Please comment and share other ways that we can combine our love of gardening with helping others.
Back to helpful organizations, I enjoyed talking to the representatives of the King County Iris Society. I don’t know as much about Irises as I would like to and I found it very helpful to ask them questions of all kinds.
March is the start of the Iris Growing Season and the group recommends that you accomplish the following for your irises during March:
- Fertilize if you haven’t already.
- Watch out for aphids, they can spread viral disease and deform buds.
- First MDB’s (miniature dwarf bearded) will bloom around this time.
And for April:
- First SDB’s will bloom.
- Siberians, Japanese and PCN’s can be transplanted.
This society has so many wonderful events scheduled that there is plenty opportunity to work around your schedule and still attend a few. See them all here, including Iris sales.
And here are a couple of other societies that you may find helpful:
Lot’s of information on all these links. Enjoy the tour!
The Feb/March Birds & Blooms magazine has an interesting and educational article about orchids written by Tom Krischan from Wisconsin. He recommends several varieties for the beginning orchid gardener. What I know is this-you can’t beat the colors that these flowers produce. It’s amazing and gives my mood a lift every time that I look at them. The booths filled with orchids at the show grab my look-see every time. It’s a magnetic thing-just try and pull me away!
- Phalaenopsis- Commonly called Moth Orchids. Bloom for months with lots of flowers. One of the few that rebloom on an old flower spike.
- Paphiopedium- Commonly called Lady Slipper Orchids. Flowers have larger lips than other varieties and also vivid colors.
- Cattleya- Flowers can reach 5-7 inches wide (wow) and have a strong, sweet fragrance. But the flowers only last 2-3 weeks.
- Dendrobium- Carefully grown can produce multiple spikes several times a year.
- Oncidium- Often called Dancing Ladies. Produces dozens, and often hundreds of small, yellowish flowers that might be speckled. When they catch a breeze, it does indeed look like they are dancing.
- Light-They need a few hours of sunlight every day. When it blooms, move it slightly away from warm sunshine to prolong blooms.
- Water-Hold back on it. Orchids need water only after their potting material has dried out completely. Water thoroughly but not frequently.
- Temperature-Tropical orchids are great inside but most favor temperatures between 70-85 degrees during the day and 10-15 degrees cooler at night. Keep them away from heating vents and cold doorways.
- Fertilizer- Most grow fine without any. (cool) But if you want to, simply use a balanced 20-20-20 mixture at one quarter the normal strength.
- Bugs- Inspect your plants every time you water for bugs, the most common of which are the mealy bug (look like tiny bits of cotton) and scale (looks like brown-colored flat discs stuck to leaf or stem surface).
And what a strange word, do you agree with me? Say “mulch” fast ten times-I could only do it four before laughing. It just doesn’t sound right after the first few.
Mulch is simply a 3-8 inch covering over your plants. And yet something that simple can be hugely beneficial to both you and your plants. It keeps the soil warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, retains moisture-reducing need for water, almost eliminates weeds and can protect from soil erosion.
If you use organic types of mulch, your plants will love you more. They will use those nutrients to strengthen and grow bigger and better. Our earth benefits as well.
In our area, you should wait to mulch until the soil has warmed a little and the moisture is mostly out (I know, hard in the Northwest) but I usually get the best results mulching in late March or April, after a couple days of sunny skies.
According to Rodale’s Successful Organic Gardening Herbs, here are some organic mulches to consider:
- Straw-Need about 6-8 inches worth and don’t touch the plants with it. Note: keep an eye on nitrogen levels if using straw and don’t use it for veggies.
- Leaves- Best chopped up. Need 2-5 inches.
- Pine Needles- Recommend 2-4 inches but don’t use them around non-acid-loving plants.
- Bark Chips (Shredded) – Need a 2-4 inch layer but can tie up nitrogen so don’t use for veggies.
- Grass Clippings- Why not? Beats driving it to a dump place. Use 1-4 inches around plantings and make sure clippings do not have herbicides applied. Use caution with tender seedlings.
- Compost- 1 or more inches around plants.
Ready? Mulch, mulch, mulch, mulch, mulch, mulch… (Did I trip you up?)
One of the benefits that I wanted to gain from the show this year was to help sort out meaningful gardening organizations that can help you and I with our planting goals. Many of them have free information available in print and on websites, a community of other knowledgeable people and ongoing learning opportunities. Some of them, of course, require membership fees but not all of them. Here is the first one that I will highlight.
ORGANIZATION: Seattle Tree Fruit Society
GOAL: To bring together amateur growers-beginning to experts from the Greater Seattle area-who share an interest in growing fruit and nut trees/vines.
HOW: By offering information on adapted varieties and up-to-the-minute growing techniques. Recommending of varieties hardy for our area. Also by sharing experiences and supporting fruit research.
ALSO: Holds programs and meetings tailored to Western Washington Growers, publishes/distributes newsletters, organizes field trips and guided tours to local and regional growers and participates in Fruit Shows.
MEETINGS & RECOMMENDED EVENTS: Members, guests and visitors are welcome. Schedule as follows:
March 8: Milwaukie, OR
Home Orchard Society
March 8: Mt Vernon
Western Washington Fruit Research Foundation
March 15: Vashon Island
Vashon Island Fruit Club
March 22: Seattle
Seattle Tree Fruit Society
Spring Fruit Fair and Scion Sale
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
April 19: Seattle
Friends of Piper Orchard