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April 3, 2010

Wabash Valley has no shortage of ways to get involved in gardening

TERRE HAUTE — So you like to get your hands dirty? Does the smell of fresh dirt make you say “aaahhh!”? It’s the time of year when many Wabash Valley residents begin thinking of gardening. And it’s fitting. April is National Garden Month – a time when communities and individuals across the country celebrate all things earthy and green.

Chances are you’ve already thought about gardening this spring – whether you’ve started growing your seeds to get a head start on your vegetable garden or started pruning back those roses and mums in your flower beds.

There are “so many subcategories,” said Jim Luzar of the Vigo County Purdue Extension Office, listing perennials, trees, vegetable gardens and water gardens as a few. It’s “one of our most popular hobbies … a common thread within the community,” he said.

Say the word “gardening” and you’ll likely find someone within earshot who is involved in some type of community organization.

Gardening’s impact is far-reaching. “It’s the best mental health therapy you can find. Also, it’s good exercise naturally – the stretching, flexibility,” said Luzar.

The Wabash Valley has no shortage of learning opportunities for individuals and families.

“We know it’s a great teaching envrionment,” said Luzar. He said it’s a great learning activity for families, “even if it’s a tomato in a pot.” He said a lot of people do container gardening. It’s “a great way for kids to learn about science.”

The St. Mary-of-the-Woods’ White Violet Center for Eco-Justice provides opportunies to get involved in growing and sustainability efforts, from organic gardening to participation in the local farmers’ market. Among the center’s planned activities is its annual Earth Day Celebration that’s coming up April 17. From 11 a.m. to 3 pm., enjoy live entertainment, a children’s area and a bake sale by the Sisters of Providence, and visit the alpacas. Vendors will be selling eco-friendly or handmade wares. For more information, call Candace Minster at (812) 535-2935 or e-mail cminster@spsmw.org.

TREES Inc. is planning its dogwood planting April 17. This year’s targeted areas include Hulman Street from 25th Street to Fruitridge Avenue and the Lincolnshire Subdivision. To sign up, call (812) 462-3371 or visit www.treesinc.org.

The Wabash Valley Herb Society is “always looking for members,” said member Larry Agee. The group meets at the Girl Scouts building behind the Family Y. It’s involved in “maintaining a garden at Deming Park,” and organizing the annual herb fair – coming up this year on May 8, Agee said. The Herb Society also contributes to the community by participating in the Vigo County Fair, awarding scholarships and donating herb-related books to libraries in the Wabash Valley.

Terre Haute’s Community Garden is off to a good start. The garden’s spring planting will kick off April 24 for warm-weather crops. Individuals or organizations can grow vegetables or other plants in the garden. For more information on the Community Garden, call Patti Weaver at (812) 231-7151, or Donna Isbell at (812) 237-2334.

Wabash Valley Master Gardeners’ Association members provide outreach activities to the community and technical support to efforts like the Community Garden. The group also maintains perennial beds at a number of parks in the Valley, including Fairbanks and Deming. A new Master Gardener project is the “Giving Garden” at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds that grows vegetables for food pantries.

Along those lines, “Grow A Row for the People of Vigo” encourages individuals and organizations to plant a little extra in their gardens and “donate some of that produce,” said Luzar.

Luzar suggests setting aside a few tomato plants in your garden and donating whatever you pick off those. This encourages people to think about “how fresh produce can benefit others,” he said.

And the impact continues through harvest time. By planting a vegetable garden in your backyard, you reap financial and health benefits. “It’s the best in terms of going local,” from cutting transportation costs to the freshness and quality of the produce, Luzar said.

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