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Gardening, Horticulture and Environmental Concerns

National Garden Clubs encourages our members to educate others on the benefits of gardening with nature and to make sustainable gardening a community focus. 

Gardening

In the past, community gardens have solved economic or environmental need-based problems in our country. Today, we utilize community gardens for different, yet equally important reasons. While the Americans who lived through the eras of the Great Depression and the World Wars harvested their own produce as a means to survive, city dwellers in the 1970s revitalized the trend as a response to urban abandonment and an aspiration to forge neighborly relationships. This version of community gardens more closely resembles the gardens that one can find all across America today.

A community garden can take many forms. On the surface, it's a food source. But, deeper than that, it's a gathering place for people with shared interests and passions. Some gardens have individual and assigned plots, while others are communal, where everyone shares the labor and the fruits that will come from it (quite literally). They can be established for specific purposes, like food pantries or youth education, while others have a more generic purpose: providing food and strengthening community ties.

Beginning a community garden takes careful planning and time. First, reach out to community organizations and see if there is wide interest in gardening. Research potential sponsors to help cover the cost of gardening supplies and rent, if needed. When location scouting, try to find a spot that will accommodate the garden for the long term. The longer the garden is around, the more time there is to establish a community around it. Make sure the spot has good sun exposure and water access. Finally, start organizing. Will the garden have assigned plots? Will certain roles be assigned to certain garden members? When designing the garden, don't forget to leave space for a compost pile and designated tool area. If you really want to rally around the community aspect of your garden, consider sending out a newsletter to keep all the club members updated. Don't forget-- you can't do it alone! Don't be afraid to draw in help!

For more information, contact:

Debi Harrington, Chairman: Community Gardens

For more information, contact:

Charlotte Croft, Chairman: Commemorative Gardens

In May 1999, a partnership was formed between National Garden Clubs, Inc. and Habitat for Humanity. HFH's mission is to eliminate poverty housing from the face of the earth. NGC's goal is to encourage local garden clubs to share their expertise in gardening and landscaping with the owners of Habitat homes. In some cases, local businesses will provide materials to encourage beautification of the properties. In a recent example, the Florida Federation of Garden Club members successfully had graduates of NGC Schools teach a landscaping maintenance seminar to 18 new Habitat for Humanity homeowners. Ames tools, an NGC corporate partner, provided a hose and hose reel for each homeowner.

Habitat for Humanity Garden’s philosophy is that no commitment, physical or monetary, is too small. All endeavors and contributions will be gratefully acknowledged. State chairmen, please contact the Habitat for Humanity Chairman and share fun facts and stories. We hope to build a nationwide community through social media with this project.

A direct line of communication has been put in place for one-on-one networking between HFH Affiliates and garden club representatives. The more than 1,500 HFH Affiliates have been made aware of the NGC and HFH partnership.

The program's emphasis is on enhancing the environment by landscaping HFH homes with hearty native trees, shrubs, plants, and flowers that also attract butterflies. It is the hope of NGC to have the community, both adult and young gardeners, involved in this very worthy project. NGC's goal is 100% state participation, in some manner, across the nation.

Resources:

For more information, contact:
Angie Raitano, Chairman: Habitat for Humanity Gardens 

Healing gardens are spaces to promote recovery from illness, to provide an improvement in overall well‐being. These gardens incorporate both the physical and spiritual. This is nothing new. Gardens have been used from ancient times as a place for healing. Now, in the last few years, gardens are being planted at hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices because patients tend to recover faster and require less medication.

Gardens are being planted at schools to allow students with disabilities to socialize with their typically functioning peers. Sensory gardens have a variety of plants that engage the five senses and goes beyond that. With physical limitations in mind, gardens can be designed to help improve motor skills and allow disabled children to play with their peers.

Some gardens are planted to honor persons whose lives have been touched by a specific illness, promoting awareness, and providing information on prevention, detection, and treatments. Other gardens have been planted to provide healing of the heart. The actual planting and caring for the garden by a grieving parent can comfort in a special way, honoring the child while reflecting on happy memories…and hope for a future day.

Resources:

Why Create a Healing Garden?

For more information, or to submit photos and project descriptions, contact:
Carol Vallens,
Chairman: Healing Gardens for Hope and Awareness

 

Gardening does not have to just be a summertime activity. With a little preparation, you can enjoy fresh herbs and produce throughout the year! Whether you plan on having an indoor garden for the duration of the winter, or you're just looking to get a head start before your transplant your sprouts outdoors, having an indoor garden is easy and offers plenty of benefits.

When planning your indoor garden, make sure you choose your seeds wisely. Seeds that thrive with artificial light include lettuce, spinach, carrots, and herbs. Keep in mind that herbs are slow growers; you may want to start off with an established plant rather than seeds.

Collect all your equipment. You will want grow lights, pots or containers, soil, fertilizer, and seeds.

You can establish your own grow light system with wire shelving, shop lights, fluorescent light tubes, and a power strip with a timer. You can also purchase a pre-constructed lighting system. Be sure to set up your grow lights in a cool location to get the most out of your harvest.

Consider growing out of recycled materials like egg cartons, folded newspaper, or paper cups-- it works, and you will be doing a little extra to help the environment. Consider that the depth of your container depends on what you are growing. Greens typically only need about four inches, while carrots will need six inches or more.

Make sure your soil and fertilizer are organic-- you will be eating those little seeds later.

An indoor garden can improve your health in several ways. Plants clean the air of toxins, thus reducing the risk of headaches and respiratory problems. In addition, you can eat your food with confidence, even throughout the winter, knowing that it is free of pesticides or other harmful chemicals.

Resources:

For more information, contact:
Julie Schoenike, Chairman: Gardening Indoors

A beautiful, sustainable garden requires some out-of-the-box thinking. Xeric landscapes aim to be mindful of water conservation with careful planning and utilization of every drop of water. While xeriscape gardening relies heavily on the gardener's personal style and artistry choices, they can still serve a more basic purpose if the gardener makes smart choices.

Xeriscape gardens are mostly planted in arid areas, typically the southwest, to conserve water. However, that does not mean that is the only place one can find them.

The most important part of xeriscaping is being water conscious. Take care to grade soil so that water runoff is led towards plants, rather than a sidewalk, street, or home. Rainwater should also be conserved in decorative barrels-- it is free water, so take advantage. While it is difficult to start a xeriscape garden without a drip irrigation system, it can be watered by hand with careful maintenance and attention.

Picking appropriate plants is also essential, but the selection is not limited only to cacti and succulents. Many herbs, like lavender, oregano, thyme, and rosemary, can thrive in xeriscape gardens. Try to plant trees to shade other plants, especially if the garden is in an arid climate.

Replacing a lawn with gravel or other stone not only saves water, but it also opens style and creative opportunities. Decor can become the focal point of a xeric garden due to cutting back on green space, offering the gardener to add more personality than a typical garden.

It is common to find xeriscape gardens in the southwestern area of the United States, but that is not the only place they can thrive! NGC encourages its members to send in photos or xeriscape gardens, no matter where it is located.

Resources:

Steps for Xeriscaping

Explore plantselect.org a nonprofit collaboration of Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens and horticultures from around the world for more information about xeriscape.

For more information, contact:
Diane Hughes, Chairman: Sustainable & Xeriscape Gardening

Homeowners cultivate food for their family or processes and distributes surplus food to their neighbors or food banks. Growing their own fruit, vegetables and herbs is an increasingly popular activity for city dwellers as well. These gardens give more control over their sources of food and how it is handled. They are less dependent on packaged and processed food from grocery stores.

The new revolution of organic, fresh food on a larger scale has evolved in the term Urban Homesteading/Farms. Some raise chickens for meat or fresh eggs and to control insect problems, bees for honey and pollinating crops, and small livestock in their yards. Whether you live in a subdivision or not, be sure to check with your local extension service or government agency, especially if you plan to raise chickens, bees or livestock along with gardening.

Lawns are being turned into gardens, eliminating mowing, watering, harmful pesticides and excessive fertilizing. Organic compost, fertilizers and pesticides are gaining interest at nurseries and big box stores, along with the use of collected rain or gray water and taking advantage of solar and wind energy.

Apartment and condo residents, with no yard to garden in, have turned to Balcony Gardening, using everything from antique water tubs to modern colorful planters. Patio tomatoes are easy to grow in containers. A small trellis could support vines of beans, cucumbers, and melons for example. Clean five-gallon buckets can be purchased from Home Depot or Lowes and can be a great place to introduce a child to gardening such as starting a lasagna or spaghetti garden. Be sure to drill a few holes in the bottom of the bucket for drainage before filling it with potting or garden soil.

Rooftop Gardening on apartments or condos with a flat roof can be an oasis with small fruit trees and berry bushes where you can grow vegetables, herbs and some flowers while raising bees for honey as well as pollinating plants and trees. An outdoor Vertical Wall of succulents and small plants are easy to maintain and adds drama to a rooftop or a patio. Check the internet for photographs and ideas.

Small Backyard Gardens using raised beds or square foot gardening is a great way to meet your neighbors and share your excess vegetables or herbs and maybe to start a new garden club. Many vegetables can be grown in just one raised bed using the square foot method. An elevated gardening bed on wheels can be on a patio and moved with the sun. They can be most helpful for our disabled seniors to grow their favorite vegetables or flowers with no bending.

Resources:

Books:

  • All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition by Mel Bartholonew
  • Beginners Backyard Chickens by Jim Filpatrick
  • Keeping Chickens by Abigail R. Gehring
  • The Edible Balcony by Alex Mitchell
  • The Urban Farm Handbook: City Slickers by Annette Cottrell
  • Urban Gardening by Will Cook
  • Vertical Gardening: The Beginner’s Guide by Olivia Abby

For more information, contact:
Teresa Speight, Chairman: Urban Gardening


STATE CLUBS

Learn about garden related news, events and clubs in your area.

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Environmental Concerns & Conservation

This committee’s chairmen deal with individual areas, but there is no aspect of garden club that does not touch on the environment. We welcome questions and suggestions from any garden club members.

Our new project Gardening with Nature is a joint project with the NGC Horticulture Committee.

Coordinator

Victoria Bergesen

Air Quality & Water Protection

   Jacqueline Connell

Climate Change

Victoria Bergesen

Invasive Species

Michelle Mensinger

Land & Wildlife Conservation

Bonnie Rosenthall

Penny Pines

Heather White

Pollinator Gardening

Michelle Mensinger

Sustainable Consumption

Gail Vanderhorst

Hank Vanderhorst

International Affiliate Liaison

Jennifer Herz

 

NGC’s Air Quality and Water Protection Conservation Committees focus on investigating and sharing helpful solutions to some of our most pressing environmental issues. We help our members to interact with their home landscapes and their communities to aid the planet and protect our air and water for future generations. Whether filling our interiors with air-cleaning plants, limiting pesticides, or choosing garden plants to save water we can all do our part. We ask our members to contact us and share innovations they hear about so we can inform our global NGC family.

The Climate Crisis affects us all whether or not we are in immediate danger from fire, storm and flood. NGC has worked for nearly a century to protect and conserve our environment, but we are learning more about everyday actions that endanger wildlife, warm our climates and create erratic weather patterns. There are two NGC projects that address these issues. Each One Plant One aims to plant a native tree for each member every year. Details on this program will be found on the Horticulture Committee section below.

Every gardener has struggled with invasive species. Some, like the Japanese beetle or Dutch Elm disease, have been around for many years, others are popping up all the time. Invasive plants may be nuisances in our gardens, but in the wild they are using resources that our native plants desperately need. Exotic species are not part of the food chain. We need to educate the public not to plant invasives and to eradicate them.

The greatest threat to wildlife is habitat loss, but there are many ways we can preserve and even increase habitat. Our Gardening with Nature project will help you turn even a small garden into valuable habitat.

Find out more about this longstanding NGC program working with the National Forestry Service:

Learn More

Pollinators are essential to the continued existence of 80% of all plants and 90% of all flowering plants. Pollinator gardens need host plants as well as nectar plants. The single best host plant is an oak tree, but many native herbaceous plants like butterfly weed are great hosts and provide nectar.

Recycle, reuse, repurpose has been an NGC mantra for decades, but it is not enough. We have a non-recyclable plastics explosion that can only be addressed by working for sustainable consumption. Because garden clubs hold so many events, we can make a difference by holding sustainable events that will also educate our membership. Contact us for more information.


Horticulture

Why is Horticulture so socially important? Because it improves how we use plants, for food and other human purposes, as well as repairing the environment and personal aesthetics. Horticulture includes not just the actual hands on work but the study of that work.

NGC members are encouraged to plant a tree and reach out to their communities as we hope to plant at least 165,000 trees in each year of the 2021-2023 administration. All it takes is for “Each ONE” (member) to “Plant ONE” (native tree).

Each One Plant One

 

Our goal is to encourage the creation of Victory-styled gardens to accomplish several things: provide a healthy source for fresh fruits and vegetables; to teach our younger generations the joys and mechanics of creating and maintaining an edible garden; to reverse the effects of “food deserts” throughout the country that contribute to food insecurity for children and families; to shorten the trip between you and your next meal; and provide a habitat that supports pollinators and other wildlife critical to maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

For more information, contact:
Bud Qualk, Chairman: Edible Gardening

 

Trees shade and cool our homes, attract songbirds and mark the changing seasons. Children are inspired by them. Trees are a source of many products and beauty, adding value to our homes and properties while conserving energy, reducing soil erosion, cleaning the air and protecting our waterways. Planting and caring for them is something each of us can do to improve our community and the environment.

Links for more information about trees and their care:

For more information, contact:
Audrey Coyle, Chairman: Trees & Shrubs

 

each one plant one

 

The word "organic" means "relating to or derived from living matter." To be sealed with the USDA organic sticker, produce must have been grown on soil that has not been treated with synthetic fertilizer for at least three years. Organic famers use natural substances as much as possible. What this means for the home gardener is that gardening organically is easier and less expensive than not.

Growing a truly organic garden requires some thought and mindfulness from the gardener. All materials used should be as close to naturally from the earth as possible. Purchase organic soil and plant in raised beds to ensure your crop will be healthy. Plants need healthy soil to grow and thrive, and it can be timely to test your backyard soil, so it is better to purchase your soil from a trusted distributer.

When fertilizing, consider the source. If using manure, make sure it comes from organically fed livestock, preferably local.

Organic gardens must start somewhere. Buy seedlings that were organically raised, without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Without the help of pesticides, it helps to have a green thumb, or especially easy crops to grow. Tomatoes, beans, zucchini, swiss chard, sugar snap peas, carrots, radishes, and mushrooms are all great starters for a beginner gardener. Save the seeds from this year's crop to be used again next year.

To save water, use recycled rainwater. Not only does this promote a healthy ecosystem, but it will come as close to air temperature as possible, which plants prefer.

Weeding by hand is essential to an organic garden. Eliminating weeds through chemical use defeats the purpose of an organic garden and cancels out all hard work. Plus, getting outside and tending to a garden the natural way will help a gardener get more exercise and fresh air!

The same goes for dealing with pests. Releasing natural predators like frogs, ladybugs, and birds into a garden can help solve the problem of predators, naturally. Purchase cans of ladybugs at a local nursery and set out water to attract birds and frogs. Make sure the water is emptied and replaced regularly to avoid attracting mosquitos.

Going organic can be a long-term health investment. The compounds that organically grown plants produce to survive can provide health benefits for humans, as well. In an interview with NPR, Carlo Leifer, a professor of agriculture at Newcastle, said that going organic provides "significantly higher amounts of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids."

At NGC, we encourage clubs and individuals to practice organic gardening not only to benefit their own health, but to promote a healthy and safe environment.

For more information, contact:
Bette Fields, Chairman: Organic Garden Practices

Wildflower and native plant gardens provide a unique, colorful landscape that is pollinator friendly and hardy in nature. Once plants have been established, these gardens require very little maintenance, yet provide vivid color and wildlife habitat for many years. Wildflowers are generally resistant to disease, and native plants have evolved to survive in their local climate.

It is easy to introduce wildflowers and native species to outdoor gardens, especially with a little research. Plant flowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees that are native to your area for a reliable base. Then feel free to experiment with other varieties that interest you that may be native to a warmer, or colder, climate.

Wildflower and native plant gardeners do their part to ensure our pollinators are safe. Local pollinating insects and animals are particularly drawn to native plants because they have coevolved with the species. In addition to being full of beautiful color, these gardens are a haven for bees, butterflies, and birds.

Planting native flowers and plants can make for a completely unique garden- but be careful that it does not become overgrown. Sometimes wildflowers and native plants can become invasive and problematic. Mowing around the perimeter of a wild garden can help solve this problem.

A wildflower and native plant garden can be a wonderful opportunity to teach children about the animal and plant life that thrives around them. The wide variety of interesting species will draw their attention and give them a chance to better understand their native habitat.

For more information, contact:
Doris Jackson, Chairman: Wildflowers and Native Plantings