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Local Gardens Catching Up After A Slow Start



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From the weather to efforts at The Victory Garden, representatives of Newtown’s three garden clubs — Horticulture Club of Newtown, Town and Country Garden Club, and The Garden Club of Newtown — weighed in on all this year’s efforts so far.

Horticulture Club Of Newtown

This year gardens are “fickle,” Horticulture Club of Newtown President and Treasurer Tammara McMahon-Schriefer related in a recent phone interview.

Last year, she said, McMahon-Schriefer grew a row of peas at The Victory Garden in Newtown. This year, peas are having a hard time germinating.

She planted them in March, like she always does, but she just did not get the normal growth she is used to. McMahon-Schriefer said she knows other gardeners who have noticed the same thing.

The pea problem is hard to puzzle out, with seeds coming from different places. Local gardeners, she said, have been eyeing this year’s weather, with its slower-than-normal start to warm days as a possible cause.

Other plants are doing well though, like lettuces, herbs, and irises, McMahon-Schriefer observed. She planted 50 bulbs of garlic at The Victory Garden this year, so those will be maturing later this season along with tomatoes, peppers, and more.

McMahon-Schriefer said she also normally plants potatoes at The Victory Garden for the club, but this year she is skipping that, due to the Colorado potato beetle. Skipping one year, she said, can break the cycle of feeding for the beetles. She is also holding off planting squash this year due to another type of beetle.

The COVID-19 pandemic put all of the Horticulture Club of Newtown’s programs on hold this year. The club is now planning its first meeting of the year for when the fourth meeting would have been held. A Victory Garden Picking Picnic is still on schedule for July 10, when members of the public are invited to meet club members at the garden to harvest, weed, and mulch for one hour before a picnic is held. From the July 10 date forward, McMahon-Schriefer said future programs will be posted to the Horticulture Club of Newtown’s website, newtownhorticultureclub.blogspot.com/p/home.html.

The Horticulture Club of Newtown also had to put a fundraiser bulb sale on hold due to the pandemic, and McMahon-Schriefer said fundraising typically helps to offset the cost of public programs. Otherwise club members fund the programs and frequently ask for $5 donations from the public at events.

Town And Country Garden Club

For Town and Country Garden Club President Judy Beers, this year as been great for her own gardens, where perennials — like bleeding hearts, brunnera, hostas, and daffodils — are growing. Irises, lilies, and roses are starting to come out now, with lots of buds on the lilies.

Beers also noted that her hostas are about two to three times larger than normal, and that is a bit of a mystery. Again, this year’s weather is thought to have played a role, with a warmer winter than normal.

Regarding other plants that may be behind this year, Beers said she expects them to catch up soon.

“The spring really was a long time coming,” Beers observed.

The Town and Country Garden Club has also not been able to hold meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Usually it hosts meetings once a month, roughly six months of the year, at Newtown Senior Center.

The pandemic, however, did not halt the club’s efforts to maintain its three traffic islands, located between at the intersections of Church Hill Road at Queen Street, Queen Street at Glover Avenue, and Glover Avenue at Main Street.

Beers said club members focus on planting perennials at the traffic islands, as upkeep can be a lot of work.

Some plants residents may spot in the islands are spirea, hostas, and alliums, which Beers said people always ask about.

“They are kind of spectacular,” Beers said of the tall and round crowd-pleasing alliums.

Beers also mentioned local gardeners should make sure to plant native plants to help feed pollinators.

The club, she said, is “always looking for more members.” Anybody who is interested in becoming a member of the Town and Country Garden Club can call member Jan Gardner, 203-788-0341, and ask her for a brochure and/or a membership form, Beers said.

The Garden Club Of Newtown

Speaking for the The Garden Club of Newtown, Louise Zierzow said the club tends four rows at The Victory Garden and it recently donated spinach, carrots, and potatoes, which were left in the ground from last season, to FAITH Food Pantry. Soon she expects peas, Swiss chard, beets, tomatoes, peppers, beans, eggplant, squash, and cucumbers to be added to the donation haul.

“Everything is doing fine, now that it has finally gotten warm,” Zierzow shared.

Her home garden is “doing very well” too. Everything is organic and she has plans to test the soil next year. While home more often these days, she has been watching plants, like her perennials, emerge.

And, Zierzow said, her first gardening effort every year is to tend to a special flower bed, which she plants for the enjoyment of her mail carrier, near her mailbox.

Overall, Zierzow said she had to be patient this year with the weather. She also noted that by being home more, she has noticed very active animals. She has seen skunks, squirrels, mice, and chipmunks outdoors. One scene from her home was “just missing Snow White,” she said.

Another endeavor Zierzow does each year is to move plants from flower beds she thins out into pots for her neighbors to walk by and choose from.

For those stuck inside on their computers this year, Zierzow said, “It’s a very good thing to get outside, out of the house.”

For more information about the Horticulture Club of Newtown see its website newtownhorticultureclub.blogspot.com; for more information about the Town and Country Garden Club visit tcgardenclub.org; and for more information about The Garden Club of Newtown visit gardenclubofnewtown.com.

A view of the Town and Country Garden Club-maintained traffic island at the intersection of Church Hill Road and Queen Street. —Bee Photo, Hicks
Poppies are growing in Garden Club of Newtown member Louise Zierzow’s home garden. —photo courtesy Louise Zierzow
Garden Club of Newtown member Louise Zierzow works on a recent sunny day at The Victory Garden. —photo courtesy Louise Zierzow
Garden Club of Newtown Former President Peggy Townsend waters plants at The Victory Garden. —photo courtesy Louise Zierzow
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