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Garden Club offers education, opportunities to save money

By CORINNE BORREL
cborel@umaryland.edu

The Mount Washington Garden Club was founded a year ago by Christine Corbitt and Deborah Kleiner as a place for anyone to come learn and share ideas, information, plants, and seeds. Members do not have to know anything about gardening, and there are no dues.

The club meets monthly – typically the second or third Sunday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. (regular attendance is not required) – to cover topics such as native perennial plants, compost, permaculture, seeds, garden design, and strategies to minimize weeding. The club responds to the interests of its members, who drink wine, eat, and usually have a speaker talk for an hour before taking questions.

One recent topic of discussion was leaf disposal. Bagging and disposing of leaves requires the City to use gas to haul away plastic bags (another petroleum product) just to have them lay in landfills, and then in the spring compost must be bought to nourish soil.

Instead, members learned to leave at least some of the leaves around for the winter (such as in the backyard). Native butterflies and various insects lay their eggs in them, which in turn supports birds.

Native plants also help support the food web and minimize watering and the cost of replacements. With the right soil, moisture, and light for native plants to succeed, yards come alive with birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators.

Leaves can also be shredded with a lawn mower or shredder and spread on perennial beds or put in compost piles, along with kitchen scraps such as egg shells (an excellent source of calcium, which many plants need), coffee grounds (nitrogen), fruit, and vegetable peels. Members were told to set their compost on the ground – attracting earthworms and other soil critters to come do their great work (for rotating barrel composters, garden soil should be used to get them in there) – and in the sun for more heat.

Adding sugar water and green matter such as grass clippings, allowing the pile to get rained on, and turning the compost frequently helps get oxygen to accelerate the breakdown process. It is all part of the philosophy of permaculture: sustainably supporting the ecosystem in all household choices.

Members also get together for outings to explore nurseries or try to save money buying in bulk. For example, on May 13, there will be three once-a-year sales in Baltimore at which some plants can be up to half the cost at commercial nurseries. For those that plan to buy a lot of plants, it is worth spending the $30 to support Cylburn Arboretum on Friday, May 12, at a party (with food and music) to preview and select the best plants that will be on sale there – and leave time for all the other sales happening the next day! And don’t forget that, at Green Fields Nursery at Falls Road and Northern Parkway, MWIA members get 20 percent off a single item.

To get on the Garden Club listserv, or to find out about meetings and activities, contact Debbie Kleiner at Debkleiner1@comcast.net.

Composting Benefits