Get Growing: Volunteers to plant 100 new vegetable gardens this season

Last modified: Thursday, May 16, 2013

By Cheryl B. Wilson

A consortium of Amherst groups is urging 350 area residents to join in creating at least 100 new vegetable gardens this year. The idea is to establish new gardens in public and private spaces for growing healthy and affordable food.

In addition to the local residents participating in the “350 Challenge,” Stephanie Ciccarello, sustainability coordinator for the town, is working with John Gerber of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, UMass Permaculture Group, UMass Auxiliary Enterprises, Hampshire College and Transition Amherst.

The kickoff event is a “Gardening 101” workshop on April 18, 6-9 p.m., at Amherst Town Hall. Charlotte Vesel, a trained volunteer with the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association, will present an hour-long overview of vegetable gardening basics. After a question and answer session, participants can visit four information stations to learn about container and trellis gardening, how to build raised beds, techniques for building a “lasagna” garden and how to get your soil tested. The event is free. However, if you bring a soil sample to be tested, there is a $1 charge for supplies.

Two other events are scheduled for April 27 at the town’s Sustainability Festival on the town common and on May 5 in a living classroom workshop on installing a permaculture garden. At the sustainability festival, Tree Warden Alan Snow will demonstrate tree pruning at 10:30 a.m. Hope Crolius and her Goat Girls will talk, at 11:30 a.m., about how goats can control invasive species. Charlotte Vesel will demonstrate lasagna gardening at 12:30 p.m. and “Dr. Worm,” David Lovler, will explain composting at 1:30 p.m. The final demonstration will be basics of permaculture by the UMass Permaculture Group at 2:30 p.m.

To sign up for the 350 Challenge and for more information, go to or contact Ciccarello at 259-3149 or

SPRING HAS SPRUNG: After a long winter, spring has finally arrived. Overnight, it seems, the glory-of-the-snow changed from tiny bits of foliage to a pool of blue. Daffodils are “bustin’ out all over” and the star magnolia is trying to bloom. Pansies grace the town planters in Northampton and Amherst, although they are struggling through the cold. A bit of rain this week will be welcome because the soils are dry. So are the woods and meadows, so refrain from burning without permission from the local fire department. It’s windy most days and that’s a recipe for disaster. Most area nurseries are now open for the season. Spend some time exploring new and old sources of good plants. Even the outdoor farmers markets are opening. Amherst starts on April 20. Do some stretching before raking, digging and dividing. Your muscles will thank you.

REJUVENATING SHRUBS: Ken Gooch will demonstrate how to rejuvenate leggy shrubs like lilac, forsythia and others tomorrow at 10 a.m. at the Berkshire Botanical Center in Stockbridge. Learn about tools and the all-important issue of timing. Fee is $42. To register call 298-3926.

HADLEY GARDEN CENTER: “Vegetable Gardening and Organic Fertilizers” is the “Learn About” topic Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hadley Garden Center on Route 9 in Hadley. Charlie Shields of Espoma natural fertilizers is the demonstrator. The Learn About seminars and the Thursday evening “Walk-Abouts” in the nursery yard are part of the garden center’s 50th anniversary celebration. The topic of the 6 p.m. Walk About this Thursday is “Taking the Fear Out of Fruit Trees” with Dan Ward of Hollybrook Orchards. All programs are free.

ECOLOGICAL LANDSCAPE RESTORATION: Todd Lynch, landscape architect, will give a free lecture at the Sunderland Public Library on Wednesday at 7 p.m. on how to encourage people to connect to the landscape and learn about medicinal plants that can enhance health.

GREEN HOUSE CRAWL: The Hitchcock Center for the Environment will present “Green House Crawl: A Tour of Homes Retrofitted for Energy Conservation” on April 20 from 9 a.m. to noon in the Greenfield area. The guide is Bick Corsa, local builder and energy-efficiency consultant. The fee is $20; members, $15. Space is limited. Call 256-6006 to register.

SMALL-SCALE ORCHARDS: Alan Surprenant of Ashfield will offer the second workshop in a four-part series on small-scale orchards in two sessions on April 20 and 27 at Brook Farm Orchard in Ashfield. The topics are tree planting, spraying for diseases and pests, and grafting. Fee for the workshop, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is $85 and includes lunch, cider tasting and a tree you graft yourself during the workshop. Call Surprenant at 625-9615 or email him at for details and registration.

FRUIT GROWING WITH LEE REICH: Nationally-known garden writer Lee Reich will offer a day-long series of seminars on growing fruits at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge on April 20. Reich has written extensively on fruit-growing and has a farm in upstate New York. Fee for the entire day is $85. You can choose to take individual seminars for $30 each. Steve McKay will assist. For details on times of the individual seminars check or call 298-3926.

LOW MAINTENANCE DESIGN: Owen Wormser of Abound Design in Shellburne Falls will offer a workshop on low-maintenance design strategies using native plants, April 28, 1-4 p.m. at Nasami Farm in Whately. Bring photographs, plans and ideas to enrich your landscape with native plants. Fee is $43; members, $34. The cosponsor is the Hitchcock Center for the Environment. Call 256-6006 to register. 

PLANT SALES:It’s time now for local plant sales benefiting nonprofits: an opportunity for gardeners to get locally-grown plants that have proven to survive our climate and all its crazy changes. The first sale of the season is April 27 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Florence Congregational Church, 130 Pine St., Florence. Plants, which range in price from $3 to $6, are from gardens of church members and friends and include perennials, annuals, vegetables, trees and shrubs. Plant donations are gratefully accepted. There is also a tag sale, hot dog lunch and a bake sale. Call the church 584-1325 or Nancy 587-0327 for more information or to donate plants.

More listings next week. If your nonprofit is holding a sale, please send information to

Contact Cheryl B. Wilson at


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