As I hung our wreaths this year, I wondered about family and friends also creating, bringing out family heirlooms or purchasing wreaths to decorate and hang both inside and out. Why this is so important to all at this time of year ? Is it a family tradition we continue? Is it connected to our spiritual beliefs ? Perhaps, for many, it is both.
The beautiful Christmas Wreaths in our community hold personal meaning for those who take special care to display them. Many are simply done of greenery like pine and fir, adorned with a bow. Others have individual artistic qualities, and are made of materials like grapevine, berries and simply or lavishly created and decorated.
Common to them all is the circular shape , an emblem not only of perfection and unity but also symbolizes connection, joy and love.
Whether lovingly handmade from natural materials, passed down or store-bought and cherished through the years, our wreaths communicate a sense of joy and a desire for family & community support and peace.
Continuing the tradition, Chester Garden Club wrapped up it’s 2018 season with the annual Christmas potluck dinner party hosted by member residents of Chandler’s Cove. The weather cooperated allowing for members, spouses and friends, numbering more than 30 to share the festivities.
Members brought a favourite appetizer, main dish, or dessert to share. It was an evening of beautiful decorations, festive outfits, overflowing tables of food and friendly conversation.
AND … Happy Birthday wishes were energetically sung to Duncan, Ted and Walter.
Click on pictures (thanks to Myra and Brenda) which tell their own story.
The club now takes a break and just like members gardens, will be dormant until March.
In light of the upcoming holiday season, which seems to be quickly approaching, Chester Garden Club members and guests were invited to put on their creative hats, give each other inspiration and encouragement and create a seasonal arrangement.
In preparation for Monday evening’s workshop, on a beautiful cool crisp morning with snow flurries in the air, woodland and garden treasures were gathered. Gorgeous greenery such as Fir, Pine, Hemlock, Cedar, Juniper, Euonymus, Boxwood and Holly predominated.
Members also gathered dried garden and roadside perennials and woody stems to share. Ribbons, baubles and glitter helped complete the works of art.
Focusing on enjoying each others company, having a great time choosing materials and of course learning, ( Next you’ll start “Greening it up”) we created together using a mixture of the seasons best greenery, woodland treasures and seasonal accents.
Best of all, we all got to take home our unique designs.
Many gardeners take late winter or early spring vacations in countries where weather is warmer. Cuba is one of those recovering from last falls hurricane. Those who have committed both time and energy deserve congratulations. Resorts were devastated and are now operating as well as completing repairs or reconstruction.
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Birds are returning to their usual habitats
The plant life is also showing how nature copes with unexpected changes and challenges.
Congratulations to all of the Caribbean communities who smile as they continue to pick up their lives.
Coincidentally, late winter is the best time to prune deciduous trees and large shrubs. We usually head out into the yard with pruners in hand starting in late February or early March. We get a jump-start on our pruning along with an early gift of spring color inside our house. We prune our trees and shrubs for shape and to remove crossing branches and old or diseased wood. From the wood we have cut off the plant we can select branches for forcing that are less than 1/2 inch in diameter and cut them to the desired length.
Many ornamental trees and shrubs set their flower buds during the previous growing season. These buds will usually come out of dormancy after two to three weeks of being exposed to warmth and moisture.
Forsythia, pussy willow, quince, cherry, apple, peach, magnolia, are all good candidates.
Choose branches that have lots of buds and put them in water as you work. After bringing the branches inside, fill a sink with very warm water—as hot as you can stand it without scalding your hands. Very warm water is important because it contains the least amount of oxygen. If oxygen gets into the stems it can block water from being taken up, thus preventing hydration.
Hold the stems underwater and recut them at a severe angle an inch or two above the original cut. The stems will quickly absorb the water. Arrange the branches in your vase, which should be filled with warm water so the ends are submerged. Place in a cool room or if you want the process to go more quickly in a warmer room. At this time of year, it may take only a few days for pussy willow to bloom and look their best. Forsythia takes a few days more and the other varieties can take up to several weeks.
It is very satisfying to sit and observe the daily progress of buds as they swell and burst open bringing a bit of spring blossom inside.
Our garden plants are still dormant, waiting for spring. But there is life in and around our gardens right now.
Are Your Pruners as Sharp as mine ? Do you ask yourself:
When do I prune my plants ? How do I do it ? What result am I hoping to achieve ?
A general rule of thumb is to prune out dying, diseased, damaged or dead as you see it. The other times, pruning is usually done for training, restricting, balancing or creating a pattern of growth, controlling flower and fruit quality & maintaining plant health and are season and plant dependant. The times chosen are late winter when things are dormant, spring as buds emerge & pruning following spring bloom. There are many books & on line sites/blogs that describe methods for pruning trees and shrubs. Also, closer to home, many garden clubs have members who have horticultural backgrounds or life long experience who are willing to give a little coaching.
Grasses, Perrienels and shrubs with seeds that have been left for the birds can be cut back just before new growth .
In the meantime, while waiting, enjoy the warmth in the February sunshine and have a look at the critters who are reminding us that we can learn a lot from the plants and critters in our gardens. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have wierd names and all are different in color, shape and size, but they all live in and contribute to the beauty in the same community.
Our Garden Club members are encouraged “to help grow gardeners”.
Children are natural gardeners, are curious, like to learn by doing, and love to play in the dirt. Gardening gives children a chance to learn an important life skill, one that is overlooked in standard school curriculum.
A child can experience the satisfaction that comes from caring for something over time, while observing the cycle of life firsthand. It usually sparks children to ask questions like: Why do the plants need sun? How does the plant “drink” water? Why are worms good for the plants? These questions challenge adult mentors to think about their gardening practices, helping children learn gardening principles & environmental awareness by exploring the workings of nature. The concepts learned while gardening, like composting food scraps for fertilizer or using gathered rainwater, can show kids a deep respect and responsibility for taking care of our planet.
Children may be more interested in tasting and trying the foods they grow which will train their taste buds to enjoy the bounty of their garden. The self-esteem a child gets from eating a perfect tomato that he grew himself is priceless.
What to plant
Although there are many crops suitable for the young gardener, here are some suggestions which are relatively easy to grow, have short growing seasons and are fun to harvest.
A must for a child’s garden. Plant just a few, since they take a lot of room. Sunflowers will sprout in 1 week, become a small seedling in 2 weeks, and should be 2′ tall in a month. In 8 weeks, the buds will flower revealing hundreds of seed kernels. Be sure to grow ‘confectionery’ sunflowers, the type grown for food. They will dry naturally in the late summer sun; the seeds, rich in protein and iron, can be roasted for snacks. Save a few for the birds and for next summers’ planting.
A quick and reliable crop to give the child fast results, and also a good way to interest kids in salads. Lettuce likes part shade; keep soil moist especially during the first two weeks. The seeds will germinate in 7-10 days; growing season is 40-50 days. You can grow ‘head’ (space 8″ apart) or ‘leaf’ (space 4″ apart) varieties; the leaf varieties will mature sooner, about 30-35 days.
Quick results for the young gardener. Radishes germinate in 3-10 days, and have a very short growing season of 20-30 days. They can be planted closely, 4-6″ apart. Plant in cool weather for a mild radish, or hot weather for a hotter radish.
A quick-growing early crop, and fun for kids to eat right off the vine. They take about 10 days to germinate and mature in about 60 days. Peas prefer cooler, partially shaded locations in the garden; they should be sown closely, about 1″ apart at most. Snow peas are popular because the pod is edible and if they are a dwarf plant they can be grown without a trellis.
Gotta have ’em! These may be the most fun crop for a child. Plant in full sun and use seedlings rather than planting from seed. Put in a 2′ stake alongside each seedling; they need to be tied loosely to stakes as they get taller. Add lots of compost. Water at ground level, trying to keep leaves dry. Growing season is 50-75 days. Cherry tomatoes can also be grown in containers.
These flowers are easy to grow and yield results quickly, which encourages the young gardener. Nasturtiums bloom about 50 days after the seeds are planted, with orange, yellow and red flowers. They prefer sunny, dry locations and do well in poor soil. Choose the shorter varieties for garden beds. Nasturtiums are also pest resistant, which ensures a successful planting. The flowers are also edible, and can be used to add colour to a fresh garden salad.
Fast, easy, high yield and, because they do not grow tall, they are easy for kids to harvest. Bush beans germinate in 4-8 days, and mature in 40-65 days. It’s best to plant a small patch, then another in a few weeks. This will extend the harvest. When choosing seeds, select the “low bush” varieties because these will be easier for children to harvest. Plant closely spaced, about 4″ apart. Grow in direct sun; water the soil but try to keep the leaves dry. Bush beans don’t need poles or trellises to grow.
Scarlet Runner Beans
Fun, especially if they are grown on a T P support frame and the large colourful seeds need to be planted 2 to 3 inches apart to minimize overcrowding and should be planted in soil that is high in organic matter and in full sun. They will twine around the support and anything close by. The blossoms are especially attractive to pollinator bees and hummingbirds.
Seeds can be sown directly into soil; carrots prefer cooler temperatures. They can be slow to germinate, so be patient. Carrots will mature in about 60 days. The soil should be free of rocks and easy for the carrot to grow ‘down’. Keep well-watered and thin to every 3″ because crowding will produce foliage but no root. Small varieties are recommended for children, as they’re easier to grow and more fun to eat.
A ‘must’ for a child’s garden. Plant seeds in a small hill; poke three holes in the hill and put one seed in each hole. Seeds will sprout in about 1 week; after a few days, vine leaves begin to form and creep along the ground. Once there are 3 pumpkins on the vine, pick off any new blossoms. Pumpkins take 80 – 120 days to harvest: it’s ready when it feels hard on the outside and sounds hollow when tapped. Seeds can be dried to eat, or saved for for the birds, and the pumpkin for carving.
Tips for gardening with children
Give them their own garden beds. Whether you use raised beds, containers or ground plots, be sure to give each child his or her own separate plot. Keep it small, very small for young kids. Put their plots right in the middle of the action, with the best soil and light. Set them up for success.
Give them serious tools. Cheap plastic child’s gardening tools are worse than no tools at all; they break easily and frustrate the user. With some garden tools, like a hoe or spade, you can easily saw the handle shorter.
Engage them through the entire process, from seed to table. Children learn better when they understand the context of their activity. They will learn that gardening can be fun, but far more than idle play; they are contributing to the family well-being. Besides planting and nurturing their garden beds, be sure they alone do the harvesting and preparation of their crop for the table, no matter how modest the offering.
Cheat a little. Depending on the age of the child, you may need to help out a little ‘behind the scene’. Not every garden task is pleasant, and the child may not be ready at all times for all chores. You may need to go out in the evening to pick a few slugs off the lettuce, or be the one to run out and move the sprinkler. They don’t have to know about every little help you offer – the child’s ‘ownership’ of the plot is the main thing.
Show off their work. When giving ‘garden tours’ to friends, be sure to point out the children’s garden beds. Take photos of them in their gardens and of their harvest. Teach gathering and arranging skills.
The attention given to their work is the best motivator for children to stay involved with a project.
So why encourage children to garden ? The rewards are:
An environmentally aware community member… A gardener for the future … A garden club member … and much more.
Gardeners everywhere are sometimes challenged and other times blessed by what nature and the environment delivers.
The South shore of Nova Scotia experienced an intense storm on January 4th that left not only coastal damage but also what many refer to as “ Gardeners Gold”. As we were in “Storm watch Mode”, I thought of all the seaweed that would be torn, tossed and piled on our shorelines.
In May 2017, Betsy and Bob from Bear Cove Resources explained the Storm-cast process and production of an excellent, odour free fertilizer/soil conditioner to use in our gardens and on our indoor plants.
The following are a few shots of the ocean and coastline the day following the storm. The piles of “Storm-Cast Seaweed Mix” along the coast was impressive as were the pounding seas that created the impressive views and results.
Gardens that receive a gift of seaweed compost will flourish this coming gardening season.
Chester garden club members and guests gather the third Monday each month and begin each meeting with a speaker or activity of interest. Our November, 2017 meeting included the later with early preparation of festive seasonal arrangements for the holiday. Each member provided enough materials for themselves and some to share. The tables overflowed with beautiful greenery and complementary decorations. Amidst the conversation, advice and laughter, working together and helping each other make choices, we all completed our arrangement to take home or gift to another. There were some that were donated to the seniors at Shoreham Village, a welcome addition to the seasonal decorations for our community senior residents.
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A week later, Chester Garden Club’s participation in annual Village Christmas decorations, the bandstand received it’s yearly dressing up with greenery and lights.
Bringing our 2017 garden club year to a close, and with excellent weather, our annual Pot Luck Supper was again held at Chandler Cove. Thanks, especially to Kay and Sheila and the set up crew. In beautifully decorated surroundings, members and guests enjoyed each others company, conversations and were treated to a scrumptious variety of tasty dishes.
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Warm wishes to all for a Holiday Season filled with Peace, Contentment, Love & Laughter.
We are looking forward to welcoming old and new gardener members to Chester Garden Club in 2018.
It’s November and, although we have had two heavy frosts and it is cool now, up until a few days ago gardeners have been amazed by the warm temperatures here in the Chester and surrounding area.
The following are few pictures that were taken during the last couple of weeks, some as late as the 10th of November.
Summer pots still showing off.
The last of the fragile produce, only greens left in the vegetable garden.
Winter arrangements in the near future.
We can now continue preparation for winter in our gardens, enjoy the birds as they make ready for winter and settle in with a good gardening resource for next springs plans. Fall temperatures have arrived.