Despite our inability to meet in person, EAGC members have been connecting in many ways during the past few months. Our November general meeting via Zoom was well attended, especially for our first venture into remote meetings. Necessary business was conducted and members participated in a discussion of a video we were able to view ahead of time. Our Program chair, Vicki, managed to find an interesting replacement program for the meeting and then facilitate a successful meeting, along with help from Linda S. and Pat N.
The job of Programs has been challenging this season. The schedule of speakers Vicki had so carefully arranged has been tentatively cancelled and she is making plans on a month-by-month basis. Vicki’s been working extra hours to keep our meeting schedule on track and deserves a pat on the back (when we finally get close enough to do so!) Plans for the January 21 meeting are already finalized. You should have received an email with the details. Be sure to check with Vicki if you have any questions about using Zoom.
Not all our traditional activities have been put on hiatus. Jan C. and her Civic Beautification committee did a stellar job of decorating the Exeter Historical Society again this year. EAGC has been making the Historical Society building festive for years and also has provided hand-decorated wreaths for the door of Folsom Tavern.
Jan says “Thanks to all for their help to create a lovely Christmas display at the Historical society!”
The Promise Tree has been unseasonably leafy this fall. Lee sponsored a greens sale, sharing cuttings of greens from her enormous garden. Mary Jo offered some of her colorful holly to members for the holidays. And Johann and Edie, from the Promise Tree committee, arranged for a Cookie Swap that even included delivery. All these activities benefited the Promise Tree and everyone’s participation is very much appreciated.
This is a sampling of beautiful (and scrumptious, I’m certain) holiday cookies that were swapped on December 15.
Johann and Edie asked that these messages be sent to everyone who participated in the Cookie Swap:
“Many thanks to all the bakers. What a wonderful assortment we got, and no duplicates. Enjoy the cookies and thank you for the success.” Edie
“A big THANK YOU to the members who baked a great variety of holiday treats for the cookie swap. There were no duplicates! Most assortments were delivered today. And aren’t we lucky to fit this in before the snow comes. Enjoy those treats and Merry Christmas from the committee.” Johann
Vicki B has recommended the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts quarterly publication and their website as an interesting resource, especially their current winter edition. You can find it here: https://www.gcfm.org/mayflower
Just a reminder to members that the minutes of each general and board meeting are posted on the website. The board has had periodic virtual meetings since September. If you’d like to see the minutes, please clickhere.
It’s been several months since I’ve sent out a Happenings update. Other than cancellations and postponements, there hasn’t been much “happening” to report. Thanks to Ann H. and her EAGC Connections, however, we’ve been able to stay in touch virtually and enjoy the beauty of each other’s gardens. What an inspiration Ann’s emails have been! The photos are proof positive of what a superlative group of gardeners we are!
Interspersed throughout this Happenings you’ll find club photos from Septembers past. Test your memory. Do you remember these people and events?
Although it was technically an August Happening, the Promise Tree Garden Party & Social offered a great photo op for this month’s update. Lee had a perfect day for hosting members and did an outstanding job of potting up plants and marking her beds for plant digging. It wasn’t all work though – members had a long-awaited chance to chat and catch up, socially distanced in Lee’s welcoming gardens. Thanks to Johann and Edie for arranging this fun kick-off to our Promise Tree year. And thanks, especially, to Lee for her hospitality and preparation.
And speaking of the Promise Tree — please consider what you can offer to the Tree this fall. Unfortunately, fundraisers our club had planned for last fall and the upcoming year are impossible to implement right now. So our Promise Tree has become more important than ever for financial reasons. But more importantly, we’ve been isolated from each other for months and small Promise Tree events and offerings will help bring us back together. If you’re looking for ideas for your own leaf on the Tree, check the Promise Tree page of the website here for suggestions.
Our first General Meeting of the 2020-2021 year will be held as originally planned on Thursday, Sept. 17 at 9:30. But the venue has changed – we’ll be meeting at the Stratham Hill Park Pavillion. As always, members are welcome at 9 a.m. and refreshments will be served. Please bring your own hot beverage. At this meeting we’ll be installing our officers for the year, since we were unable to do that at the June Luncheon. We’ll also be breaking into committees to discuss our plans for the coming year. Don’t miss it!
Last May, EAGC awarded its $1000 Scholarship to Nicole Berry of Newmarket. She graduated from the Seacoast School of Technology Animal and Plant Science Program in May. In addition to being involved in many school and community activities, including being on the leadership team for the National Future Farmers of America (FFA), Nicole also worked part time.
She considers herself a lifelong learner who always strives to do her best. According to her scholarship application letter, she states, “her career goal is to achieve a job as an entry level environmental scientist, in the field that deals with sustainable agriculture. I want to make the world a more productive place for nature, the current population and future generations”. This fall, Nicole is attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she will study environmental science.
Our Awards Committee has decided to postpone the process of choosing and awarding the Outstanding Garden Awards until a later time. The presentation of these awards at our October meeting is always highly anticipated, but committee members realized during the summer that coronavirus restrictions made viewing of gardens and the presentation ceremony impossible. This gives members more time to be on the lookout for especially beautiful gardens – and to pass the addresses on to Awards Committee members for the next awards.
Our new vice president, Pat. N is taking inventory of all things EAGC. If you have any club supplies, notecards, equipment, etc. would you please let Pat know so she can finalize her list?
Some members may not be aware that EAGC has an excellent Facebook page, maintained by the very knowledgeble Patti E. In addition to making EAGC’s presence known to the Facebook world, Patti posts links to some fascinating gardening articles and adds interesting garden tidbits. If you’re not a Facebook user, click here for an example of what you can find on EAGC’s Facebook page. Then click “Like” and follow the page on a regular basis. If anyone would like a little help navigating Facebook, contact Patti. She’ll gladly give some guidance.
The fall months here in New Hampshire bring us so much beauty — by way of both fall colors and perfect weather. They also bring us some creepy-crawly roommates. For more about these invaders, check out Linda V’s October Hort Tips.
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At our September General Meeting, Betsy, Linda V. and their Environment & Conservation committee gave a short presentation about the 2019 Beautification Mini-Grant award recipients. Seven grants, for a total of $1800, were awarded. The recipients were:
Portsmouth – Greengard Center for Autism, entrance planters
North Hampton – Rye Beach Little Boar’s Head Garden Club, North Hampton Beach parking lot restoration part 2
Exeter – Folsom Acres Condo Association, planting to screen compost area
Exeter – Yoga Life Institute, plant herbs and edibles
Exeter – Intersection of Drinkwater and Hampton Rd., add stone perimeter to garden begun last year
Exeter – Tenant’s Council of the Exeter Housing Authority, add a perennial cutting garden for residents
Isle of Shoals – Star Island Flagpole Garden Sustainability Project
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Speaking of General Meetings, Susan has in introduced an interesting new project for our meetings:
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How does sipping wine & tasting cheese on a chilly fall evening in a lovely home, surrounded by happy friends, sound? If you’re curious, go the the Promise Tree Page to have your questions answered.
Lee C. has shared some shots of her late season gardens…
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And finally, mysterious aliens were spotted admiring our flower boxes at the Exeter Bandstand. Probably snipped some cuttings to take back home with them.
Our garden club year is winding down (already?!) and the calendars for May & June has been filled with Promise Tree parties and field trips, not to mention our regular meetings and the upcoming Annual Spring Luncheon & Auction.
Even though the cool, wet May weather may not have tempted us to tiptoe through the tulips, Max put many of us in the mood to garden with her May Garden Party. Max’s surprisingly lush gardens (Newburyport IS south after all) was a beautiful backdrop for a fun afternoon of refreshments and good company.
Ann H. reports that it was a beautiful mid-May day that we visited Max’s gardens. Following a smorgasbord of treats and delicious drinks on the patio, we were invited to explore her healthy and well-tended gardens. Paths led in several different directions to plant discoveries and wonderful art in all the borders. Every artist has their unique vision and Max’s bright art and whimsey add charm and creativity at every turn. It’s always an inspiration to visit her gardens and fun to return home with new and creative ideas for our own gardens. Thank you, Max, for a wonderful afternoon!
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May’s General Meeting featured Speaker, Penny O’Sullivan, who delivered an enthusiastic presentation on “Spatial Garden Design”. She shared some of her extensive knowledge of garden design, along with beautiful slides of some of her favorite garden designs, some of which were surprising.
Also at the May meeting, members voted unanimously to approve our revised ByLaws and our Slate of Officers for 2019-2020. Congratulations to our newly elected Officers: Susan C., President; Linda S., Vice President; Recording Secretary, Lee C.; Corresponding Secretary, Florence W.; and Treasurer, Jill C. The revised ByLaws can be found here.
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Upcoming Club Events
Wednesday, June 5, 9:30 AM. Tour of the Woodman Museum in Dover.
Thursday, June 13, 11 AM. Vicki Burns is hosting a Lunch & Landscape Discussion.
Tuesday, June 18, 10:30 a.m. Our Annual Spring Luncheon and Auction.
Please check thecalendar for details about these events.
Looking for a garden tour? 2019 is the 40th anniversary of the Museum of Old Newbury’s (MA) annual garden tour. Dates are Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 9, from 10 AM to 4 PM. Start the tour at the museum’s Cushing Garden, then set out with a detailed guidebook and map to see Newburyport area gardens. Details can be found here.
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How To Care for the Soil in a Raised Bed
As thoughts of spring enter our minds, many people are starting to design and develop their perfect spring and summer gardens. For many vegetable growers, beds are a great choice because the soil they contain warms up more quickly than ground soil, which can prolong the growing season. Raised beds promote soil drainage, provide adequate space for root growth and they can also be quite beautiful. Lastly, individual raised beds can be managed differently, which allows for growing plants that require specific soil conditions, such as blueberries that need acidic soil.
Temporary raised beds are tilled plots of land that extend 12 or more inches above the ground surface. They are not reinforced, so they must be reshaped over time, especially before each growing season. Permanent raised beds, on the other hand, are boxes made of brick, untreated wood or other safe, rot-resistant material. These beds can be developed to any height, but like temporary beds, they should contain at least 12 inches of soil.
Which choice is best for me? Temporary beds are fitting for gardeners who can easily bend over for prolonged periods and who have plenty of yard space. These also work well where soils are uncontaminated, productive and easy to manage.
Permanent raised beds suit gardeners with limited yard space and soil that contains contaminants (such as lead) or presents challenges like a high clay content, low fertility, poor drainage, compaction and so on. Permanent raised beds are also a boon to those with physical limitations that make bending over a challenge, and those who simply enjoy the look of a contained bed.
Soil Maintenance Once you’ve created your perfect raised bed, it is important that you maintain the health of its soil. The Natural Resource Conservation Service defines soil health as a soil’s capacity to function as an ecosystem that supports plants, animals and humans. Indicators of healthy soil include a loose granular structure, good drainage, moisture retention and a relatively dark color (influenced by organic matter). Here’s how to maintain soil health in your raised beds:
Avoid soil compaction. Compaction is the process of increasing the soil’s density by removing pores and damaging soil structure. This makes it difficult for roots to grow and limits roots’ access to water, air and nutrients. The number-one rule for reducing compaction is to never step or kneel on your garden soil. To reduce this desire, design garden beds that are no more than four feet wide. Also, mulch the paths surrounding your beds. This will highlight their location and will provide padding for the soil.
Promote soil drainage. For both temporary and permanent raised beds, this can be done by digging beds that are deeper than 12 inches. Tilling to deeper depths may prevent water from ponding around the root zone, unless you are already working with very wet soils. (If you’re dealing with contaminated soils, please first seek professional guidance before developing a permanent raised bed.)
Amend your soil with organic matter every spring. Organic matter is a great source of slow-released plant nutrients. It encourages soil structure to develop by holding soil particles together like glue. It also attracts beneficial organisms, which also help develop soil structure. Structural development improves water infiltration, gas exchange and increases soil’s resilience to compaction.
Cover your soil, especially during the off-season. Naked soil is vulnerable to wind and water erosion. Both processes effect soils in different ways, but both lead to loss of soil and organic matter, reduced water infiltration and structural loss. Cover crops are a great solution, as they also provide additional nutrients to your soil when they are tilled into the garden bed before planting crops in the spring. Mulching with leaves or straw is another viable option, as these are easily accessible, decompose relatively quickly and effectively cover soil.
Managing for soil health is one key step toward having a successful garden this summer. Avoiding compaction, digging deep, applying organic matter and keeping the soil covered are simple measures that will reap great rewards.
Soil scientist Mary Tiedeman is a Research Assistant at Florida International University. This article is presented by the Soil Science Society of America. Learn more at soilsmatter.wordpress.com.