By Molly Day
All the Dirt on Gardening
Area residents who want to find out how to sow seeds, grow plants and treat garden problems can turn to Muskogee Garden Club and the Oklahoma State University Master Gardening classes for help.
Members of the 2013 Muskogee County Master Gardener program spoke at the October Garden Club meeting about their classes, projects and plans. Community gardens are at the top of their list for helping neighborhood families have access to healthy food as well as engaging the next generation of gardeners.
Cindi Baker said she shares a community garden plot with her father whose family raised vegetables on land near the fairgrounds.
“Community gardens are a way to have a shared activity with multiple generations in every age range,” Baker said. “Muskogee is a state-leader in promoting community gardens.”
Cedric Johnson grew up helping his family grow cotton on their Creek Nation allotments and now grows vegetables at his property near Ruby Park. He also enjoys involving future generations of gardeners.
“There are 50 kids involved at our garden who really get into the fresh food,” Johnson said.
Jon Stoodley talked about the new Muskogee County Master Gardener’s Park on Chandler Rd.
“The beds in that garden are available for use by the community to grow their own herbs, vegetables or flowers,” said Stoodley. “The plots have soil in them now, water is provided by the Parks and Recreation Department and they are ready to plant. Just call Parks and Rec to sign up.”
Long-time Muskogee Garden Club member Anita Whitaker took the Master Gardener classes twice, once in the 1980s and again in 2003.
“When I did the Master Gardener program in 1980 I learned so much about all kinds of plant varieties, crops, trees, diseases and insects,” said Whitaker. “I recommend the program if you really want to learn about horticulture but it is challenging and you have to study.”
Garden club president Oyana Wilson, along with Master Gardeners Leah Cawvey and Whitaker have staffed an information table at the Farmer’s Market for ten or 15 years.
Whitaker said, “We made so many new plant friends who wanted to improve their gardens and skills. When we did not know an answer we took the question home, did research and called the gardener with the help they needed.”
William Maxey, another member of the 2013 class, has a 210-acre ranch in Porum. Maxey said he wants to help Porum-area people and will do his volunteer work there.
“On my ranch I’m applying all that I learned,” Maxey said. “All the programs were well organized and informative. The presentations were great and I learned something about everything agricultural and horticultural, including tree-pruning, raising vegetables and plant identification.”
In addition to the ten classes, Master Gardeners are asked to complete 50-hours of volunteer work in their community.
Mandy Blocker, who organizes the program, said she has been pleasantly surprised at the Muskogee response to the gardening classes.
“In the year I have been in Muskogee the desire for gardening information on how manage to start a garden has kept me busy,” said Blocker. “The best advice is to spend $10 to get an OSU Extension soil test before applying any fertilizers.”
In the short time since their May graduation, the class participants have weeded the flower beds at Eastar Hospital, planted and tended the beds at Honor Heights Park Papilion, answered questions at their Farmer’s Market table and worked with Muskogee AIM to clear out weeds at the Post Office.
Their next projects include working with Muskogee Garden Club plant 400 daffodils at the Thomas-Foreman Historic Home on Nov. 9 and planting 100 daffodils along the fence at their new community garden on Chandler Road.
If you go
WHAT: Muskogee Garden Club, Speaker: David McGee. Topic: “Growing Bonsai, Dahlias and Other Treats.”
WHEN: 9:30 to 11 a.m. Nov. 21.
WHERE: Kiwanis Senior Center, 119 Spaulding Blvd.
INFORMATION: Oyana Wilson, (918) 683-5380 and Muskogee Garden Club on Facebook.
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WHAT: 2014 Master Gardener classes.
WHEN: 1 to 5 p.m. for 10 Thursdays beginning in January.
INFORMATION: Mandy Blocker, OSU Extension (918) 686-7200.