Gardens: A Refuge in the Pandemic

Last spring we asked members to submit reflections on how our gardens help us cope with the isolation we may feel due to the Covid-19 virus. We received several responses which will be posted during the next few months. The submission from Harriet Magee below is perfect for Thanksgiving.

With Thanksgiving approaching, it’s time to thank our gardens for keeping us somewhat sane through the pandemic. Unlike nearly every other aspect of our lives since last winter—working, shopping, socializing, volunteering, taking classes—gardening has allowed us to experience real, not virtual, life. So much of the pandemic has seemed like a delusion. Efforts to bypass the terror of catching COVID 19 have driven some to spraying and wiping groceries and quarantining trick or treat candy. Such efforts seemed nutty and like whistling in the dark. People seemingly aren’t satisfied with the droplet theory of transmission, which has held its own over these long months.

Let’s celebrate that our gardens didn’t need to get cancelled, Zoomified, sanitized. Instead, as always, we dealt with poor dirt, weeds, the odd groundhog, and the endless rocks the New England soil never stops gifting. We produced lots of beauty and happiness using the same old tools and techniques. And we’re planning on making next year’s garden finally perfect. Or almost.

Meanwhile, should the desperate hope for a vaccine in the second quarter prove naïve, we’ll need to remember that the low-grade loneliness and boredom the pandemic has infected us all with has a powerful antidote. Come April and May, we’ll not need to social distance in our gardens. Unmasked, we can get real close to our beloved plants, and open up our needy, lonely selves to green shoots in the brown dirt.

The two photos are of Harriet’s garden.

If you would like to submit reflections on how your garden restored your spirit during the past months please send your thoughts to: driftwoodgardenclub50@gmail.com

Your Body In The Garden

The Driftwood Garden Club of Marblehead’s November 2020 meeting was a robust Zoom presentation by Susan Guest entitled “Your Body in the Garden.” Susan, who has a background in physical fitness, highlighted practical information to keep us injury-free while we work in the garden. We all know gardening can be demanding on the body. She showed us a variety of ergonomic tools to bring more awareness to our posture, improve our strength and flexibility, and avoid muscle strain. Don’t forget your wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen! She also emphasized the importance of enjoying the experience, and walking barefoot on your grass to connect with nature.  As always, our meeting was a time for us to learn valuable information and to reconnect with fellow garden club members.

Halloween Snow

Snow arrived early this year, in time to decorate the Abbot gardens for Halloween; or provide picture perfect images for Christmas cards. With often ignored details outlined in new ways and limbs hanging heavy, the spaces become magical. Luckily the temps over the next few days will melt the snow and we will once again be greeted with the normal late fall views.

Putting Your Garden To Bed

On a crisp fall morning, two groups of Driftwood Garden Club members gathered at the homes of Ginny Von Rueden and Margaret Bowen for practical demonstrations on putting our gardens to bed for the winter.  Many thanks to speakers Kathy Bradford, Ginny Von Rueden, and Laurie Boggis.  We learned which plants to bring inside, which to cut back now and which to leave until spring. According to speaker Kathy Bradford, “If it is yellow or brown, cut it down. If it is green, leave it alone!”  We also discussed cleaning our tools at the end of the season: wash your tools, then dry and coat with a light layer of linseed or mineral oil to prevent rust.  Putting your garden to bed is a process over several months, and will result in less spring cleanup and healthy plants to enjoy next year!

Who Are These Masked Gardeners?

The Driftwood Garden Club of Marblehead found a creative solution when their annual plant sale was cancelled due to the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic. Wearing face masks and maintaining social-distancing guidelines, members dug and divided plants in their yards, then listed those plants available to other members. Members virtually shopped for a special plant, and arranged for socially-distanced pickup. This member-only plant sale fostered camaraderie and hope for a healthy future in the spring of this pandemic time.

Organic and Native Garden thoughts as we Stay Home

Even though it is still so cold and wet, Spring is arriving. Our person-to-person plant sale will be happening shortly and gardening will be more fun with a bit of warmth.

Beyond what we can exchange with our fellow DGC members, what kind of plants might we want to add? Are people wondering about food shortages and whether it’s time to order raised bed frames for new veggies? The first is a definite concern and latter is a real “maybe” for small Marblehead plots. Perhaps there is a solution in planting perennial vegetables that can also give us interesting landscapes.

What is a perennial vegetable, you ask? A classic example would be asparagus. I’ve tried to grow asparagus in my space but it didn’t take well at all. Luckily, there are several others to consider. Scarlet Runner Beans are a great example as well as the Walking Onion, Sea Kale, Wall-Rocket, Welsh Onion, and Sorrel. Varieties of Cress are perennial, most of which do not require bogs or ponds to survive.

Perennial crops have become a rapidly growing focus for ecological gardening and agriculture. The purpose for replacing annual crops with perennials is soil health and fertility retention — the less soil is forked and disturbed, the more the natural and beneficial organisms can function to improve outcomes. English gardeners are particularly interested in this at a personal level but increasingly our farms are starting to realize that it is more cost effective to reduce the soil disturbance.

I read about this a couple years ago and didn’t think it was more than an interesting theory until last year when I went morel mushroom picking with my dairy farmer friends. I had noticed that John had tilled one field down by the main road and planted his cattle corn but then other fields did not look tilled. As we walked between one overgrown old fieldstone woods to another across one of the untilled corn fields I asked if he was going to let this one go fallow. “Oh, no, it’s planted — see the little shoots coming up from the holes?” Sure enough, there were lines in the dirt with puncture holes. I got a gentle education — saves on gasoline (one pass through the field rather than at least 2), reduces the number and types of equipment needed ($$ saved), lowers the fertilizer needs (another set of passes and $$ resources), allows the soil to rest and use its own biology to help seedlings (carbon fixing), and keeps dust and weeds to a minimum.

So here’s the challenge — how about Scarlet Runner Beans? They grow tall up a fence, have lovely red flowers, are perenniel, and quite tasty as both new green and dried mature beans that prefer the cool climate we offer here. https://www.rareseeds.com/store/vegetables/beans/runner-beans/scarlet-runner-bean

Or perhaps you like Kale? There are several varieties of perenniel kale that can add color and function to our gardens. https://store.experimentalfarmnetwork.org/collections/perennial-vegetables/products/kaleidescope-perennial-kale-grex

The list goes on — Egyptian Walking Onion, Garlic Cress, Sorrel, Groundnut (definite Native), Wall-Rocket, Skirret, Good King Henry (a perennial spinach), and others. Some of these are carried by Burpee and other commercial growers but most are in the Rare category and need a bit of searching to find. Unfortunately, most of this kind of seed are located on UK sites but there are plenty in the US to handle our interests.

If people are interested in combining efforts (how many seeds does one small garden need), perhaps we can pool resources on ordering a few seed packets.

Happy Gardening and Stay Safe

Pal

March 2020 Welcoming Native Plants and Insects to your Garden

Driftwood Garden Club members welcomed author and speaker Rebecca Warner to our March 2020 meeting at Abbot Public Library. Rebecca’s ‘Sustainable Enough’ philosophy recommends making environmentally-friendly changes when and where we can. Seek to add native plants and let fallen leaves stay over the winter to provide food and habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators. She recommends the Missouri Botanical Garden website to search for information on a plant’s native range, height, bloom time, leaf, sun and water requirements.  Ms. Warner signed copies of her book “The Sustainable Enough Garden” for our members to purchase.

Art in Bloom at the MFA — Canceled

Dear Members – On March 13, 2020 we received notice from the MFA that Art in Bloom has been canceled this year due to all of the concern over the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The MFA has provided this link with more information on their response to this pandemic.  https://www.mfa.org/visit/covid-19-response. Take care – there are green sprouts showing in my garden! Barbie

The MFA is once again presenting their annual Art in Bloom exhibit May 2-4. DGC has requested a Guided Group Tour for Saturday, May 2nd at 10:30. We need 10-15 attendees to be considered a Group. Advanced Payment is $35 per person which also provides a re-entry ticket per person within 10 days (May 12th).

There are options for lunch which include the casual (the cafeteria and 3 cafes) to the more formal restaurant (reservations required).

There are also several additional special events which you all might be interested in attending independently including a Member Night, the Preview, and afternoon Floral Designer demonstrations. For those interested in the Floral Design demonstrations, there 2 included in the price of the ticket (Ikebana & Designing with Flowers) and 3 demonstrations for additional cost by Philippa Craddock, floral designer for Prince Harry and Megan Markle.

Click on this image to see more details.

An Evite will be sent out shortly for you to reserve your place in the Group tour. If more than 15 sign up, we will be looking to build 2 groups of 10 each.