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Gardening Club - what next?

 
master steward
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I got out of my comfort zone and started a gardening club a month ago. I like seeing other peoples gardens and think it will help me and other locally to have some structure in sharing plants and ideas.
We had the first meeting last month and it wasn't a great trunout. People are still worried about mixing and it does take a while to get the word out. I'm hoping to have a meeting once a month, and that numbers will pick up as word gets around. We have a little chat and agreed to do some garden visits together. Some were keen on the idea of work parties (particularly when I told then how 'sweet' the rhubarb at my secret borrowed permaculture garden is that just happens to need rejuvenating!). So this evening we're going to have a seed swap. I've been quite ruthless at sorting out my old seed packets and all my saved seeds, so I know there will be plenty of seeds there, even if we don't get a good turnout (although I'm hoping for a few to add to my 'landrace' project).
My problem is what to do at the next meeting. As I said I'm not in my comfort zone here. Talking is not my forte, I'm much better at listening. We ended up a bit sitting round looking at each other last time, although I hope this will improve with time as people get more relaxed and get to know each other better. I'm thinking it will be easier and more enjoyable if we have another activity, but it will still be dark at that time next month I think, so it is too early for garden visits, which I'm hoping will take up most of the summer meets. We could perhaps do a plant swap, but I'm feeling it will still be a little early for that too, 'planting out' time is end of May here really.
So suggestions for another ice breaker for a small group of gardening neighbours please?
 
pollinator
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I like the plans you have for later on in the year, that sounds like it'll be great. Good job getting that started, small turnout at first just means it'll be a beautiful thing once more people feel comfortable coming out!

Following along to see what ice breaker ideas others will have.
 
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Cool Nancy! I like your gumption!

I am interested in doing something like that one day when the stars align. I'm posting to follow along with your progress.
 
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Have you thought about having a meeting earlier?  Maybe on weekends?

What about having a transplant swap?  When starting seeds everyone starts a few extra to swap.

I really like the garden tour idea.  When the timing works or when you have a new member the meeting would be at their garden or plan a tour there.

Later on, when touring some gardens there might be a cutting exchange?  Everyone who sees a perennial that they would like a cutting from can get one.

Maybe have some plant sales? Or a vegetable swap?

If the seed swap works maybe do that every other meeting or every three months?

I have never been in a garden club though the little town near us has one. The only activity I know that they do is to sponsor a Donation only dumpster once a year to help people get rid of their hard to get rid of articles, like mattresses, etc.  Helpful though not related to gardening.
 
gardener
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Absolutely, activities are the best ice breakers, followed by food. Maybe combine your meeting with a garden/plant based potluck? Or an exchange of everyone's leftover bounty? (I'm thinking pickles, jam, sauce, etc.) People could also share their favorite recipes.

As far as discussion topics, what about asking each person to share their best garden wins and failures, feedback on what grows in your area and what doesn't? What are people planning to try this year that's new... Techniques, seeds, etc? If you're not comfortable talking and presenting, asking followup questions can really help with continuing discussion. Depending on how big your area is, maybe you could find speakers to teach something?
 
gardener
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seed swap seems like a great start.
Anne has a whole list of good subsequent ideas.
Another good one might be a season problem-shoot: bring your problem with you for others to help you sort out. Everyone always loves to talk about what`s going wrong and to get some solutions.
 
gardener
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Nice job! This time of the year maybe people still have produce from last year to share and swap. For example something fermented/ dried goods/ jam or stuffs that keep really well like garlics or squashes. If there is such an event in my area, I'd bring my 30 lbs galeux d'eysines and any one interested can have a slice to try and grow their own.
 
pollinator
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Been there, done that. I hope you have more luck than I did. People just dropped off and events I scheduled had no turn out. Sadness.

Can you get some other things than just gardening in? Like a bee talk where you have a local beekeeper talk beekeeping. Tools talk where everyone brings their favorite gardening tool and explains why it's their favorite. Mulch talk, gardening book talk. I actually really like that one. You can all read the same book or a different one and discuss the best parts of the books.
 
Tereza Okava
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Elle's got a good point for the future: these groups have life cycles and trends over time (been there, done that, don't really talk to any of my old group anymore!!!) Hopefully in the current situation people are eager to get out and be social again, though, and you dont have to worry about attrition for a while!!
 
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What Sonja said, " If you're not comfortable talking and presenting, asking followup questions can really help with continuing discussion." Just plain asking questions instead of trying to present anything more than an intro. Maybe asking people to write down 3-5 questions or subjects they'd like the group to explore at a future time?

It's really easy for things like this to eat up a lot of the organizer's time, unless the organizer is diligent about asking for volunteers to do prep work. My initial thought about seed swapping was those nifty folded paper seed packets (somewhere here on permies there's a diagram - I'll chase it down if you're interested). One evening I put on some music and folded 10 of them. But you'd need 10 squares (yes, fairly accurate square also) for each member - that's a lot of cutting! They could easily be made out of what we call "good one side" paper which we set aside. Ideally, I'd make two sizes - I made 4"x4" which would be fine for a few small seeds - peppers, parsley etc - but for bean seeds I'd want 8"x8". Similarly, I make paper pots all the time, and although a friend gave me a fancy wooden one years ago, they aren't required - for extra tall ones I use a chunk of thick-walled metal pipe ~2 1/4" OD - a decently straight piece of dead tree that size would do, but it does need to be straight and smooth so the pot slides off easily. I've been known to go to my friend's for tea and sit at her table rolling these things and dropping the finished ones into a paper bag! Way more fun to chat and drink while getting a repetitive job done!

I've also read about a group of several couples that once every 1-2 mnths, spent most of a day being a "work party" for one of the couples, with a pot-luck afterwards. There are so many jobs where extra hands are a real asset - being on the small side, there are many things too heavy for me, that I and one other woman could do safely and easily, but I'm usually working on my own. If you find you can get a group reliably meeting, that might be an option. Talking about stuff has its place, but at some point I think too many people are great at talking, but not so good about follow-up and doing! Permies might be the exception!
 
Tereza Okava
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Jay Angler wrote:those nifty folded paper seed packets (somewhere here on permies there's a diagram - I'll chase it down if you're interested).


This is a FABULOUS idea for an activity. And you don't even have to pre-cut the paper. Bring some paper, bring as many scissors as you can gather (mark them all with a big dopey ribbon is my suggestion from experience), suggest others bring their own scissors and paper, and just go for it.
 
Nancy Reading
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Thanks everyone for your suggestions! I'll definitely have a go with the seed packet idea - I've seen that locally already so was making those for my seeds - I'm finding that a page torn out of a magazine seems to work reasonably well, it doesn't have to be perfect to work well for most seeds. I know that I'll have plenty of seeds for people to take with just mine, but I'm hoping for others to bring some as I said above, but a practical thing to do as well is a good idea.
We did use to have gardening club, but as you say it faded out before as the organiser got tired of organising. we are quite a small community (c.220 houses) but most have a fair amount of space, and quite a few retired people with time on their hands so gardening is a popular hobby. If I don't get at least as many to this event I'll just do it on an informal basis with work parties and visits with those who are interested.
I'm just finishing off at home before going down, so wish me luck!
 
pollinator
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elle sagenev wrote:Tools talk where everyone brings their favorite gardening tool and explains why it's their favorite.  



Tools? Did someone say tools? Now you have my attention!

If there was a garden club close by, I would show up with my sharpening and repair gear and talk about basic maintenance that anyone can learn to do. Good tools make gardening much more pleasant.
 
pollinator
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I'm planning an Earth Day workshop next month with seed sharing origami as one of the workstations.  Here are some GIFs I made to serve as instructions...

How to make origami seed sharing packets.  

You will need:
[  ] Scissors
[  ] Paper (can be junk mail even!  Cut to square sizes)
[  ] A sharpie
[  ] Fun seeds from around the world (or neighborhood) worth sharing!
[  ] A post-it note (just to serve as a template, to cut squares 3"x3", but you can make them bigger.)

Steps:
1. Arrange the little square paper as a diamond or compass rose: think North South East West...then fold South corner to the North corner along the "equator".
2. Fold East to the Northwest.
3. Fold West to the Northeast, making a pentagon shape.
4. The tricky part:
     -Split the two "leaves" of the North (one is on top of the other), taking that uppermost one...
     -Folding that leaf point which is on top, tuck it down into the Southern pocket you just created from Step 3.  It's the one that "bisects" the pentagon like a hand over one's heart.
     -Give it a good crease to make a little paper thimble.
5. Open the paper origami thimble:
     -The "pocket" portion of the origami thimble opens from the North of the pentagon.
     -Before adding seeds, write the name of the variety/species on the back!
     - Add seeds, and fold the second northern "leaf" over your seeds, and tuck it into the crease.  

Happy seed sharing & Earth Day!
You-will-need.jpg
seed-swap-things-You-will-need
Step1-South-to-North.gif
[Thumbnail for Step1-South-to-North.gif]
Step2-East-to-Northwest.gif
[Thumbnail for Step2-East-to-Northwest.gif]
Step3-West-to-Northeast.gif
[Thumbnail for Step3-West-to-Northeast.gif]
Step4-Split-the-North-tuck-in-the-pocket.gif
[Thumbnail for Step4-Split-the-North-tuck-in-the-pocket.gif]
Step5-Open-the-pocket-add-seeds-close.gif
[Thumbnail for Step5-Open-the-pocket-add-seeds-close.gif]
 
gardener
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Seed/cutting/plant exchanges are great.  Our local garden club (also a tiny rural community) was sort of out of action, We had done two zoom meetings in the past year, but the interest seemed to have faded.  In November I requested that we do the seed exchange outdoors, and immediately, before seed ordering time.  For some reason, they had normally done their seed exchanges in spring.  For me, I'd rather do it before I place my orders, so I can potentially save some money.  The gathering really enlivened things, people shared a wide variety of food, native and ornamental plants and herbs.  I think we are back on track a bit to having a lively group here.

Here are some suggested topics:

1. What's the most challenging thing to grow there?  What varieties have worked best for people? Can we make a list of those varieties and techniques to share with new gardeners?

For example, here in the desert SW, it's a serious challenge to grow certain things - tomatoes, heading brassicas like broccoli, some others.  I'd like to hear from everyone which varieties of those plants have worked for them, and if there are any special things they do to help them grow.

2. Compost methods - what has everyone used, what has been your favorite, and why?  Piles? Containers?  In garden beds? Animals or no animals (chickens, worms black soldier flies, etc)?

3. I have a longer term goal of making a seed starting/planting chart for our specific area. We live in an area of the high desert that defies most university ag extension recommendations. ha  

I'd like the chart to not only have date recommendations, but also reference natural occurrences, phenology - and this is going to take a lot more observation as I've only lived here a few years.  I think with other's input, we could really speed the process.  So what I mean is, instead of just saying "plant your peas 4 weeks before the last estimated frost date", something like "plant peas when the first butterflies come out".  That's one I've noticed that may work here in the high desert, but I can give better examples for coastal mountain Oregon - ie plant your peas (in well draining beds) when the nettles come up.

I'm thinking I will start the list/chart, and then email it to others in the group and ask for input.  Then maybe bring it to a future meeting and see if there is more feedback to gather.

4. Once people ease up about germs and all, and if garden tours aren't convenient, you could also do show-and-tells. Have people bring herbs/plants/flowers they have and tell what they like about them.  What's nice about that is they can be handed around, looked at, and sniffed.  It's also a great way to help more introverted people feel comfortable talking because the focus is on the plants being handed around.

I could go on and on, but my biggest recommendation whenever you are stumped and don't know how to get people to share, ask open ended questions.  Also it's good to set guidelines ahead of time.  One can be that we give each person 5 minutes to talk, so that everyone gets a chance.  That sort of thing.

And I will give you one of my realizations I had years ago to help overcome stage fright when speaking in front of others.  You know the "imagine everyone naked" concept?  One day I thought about how that wouldn't work for me at all...I almost blush just considering it.  Instead it occurred to me "What am I most comfortable around?" And I realized that dogs are a great one for me.  I've been around dogs all my life, lots of them.  So I looked out on the audience and imagined everyone as a dog, looking eagerly like dogs do when they want to understand what's going on, and I felt the most relaxing sense of warmth and happiness.  Obviously, you want to pick your own thing that makes you feel welcome, warm, and invited.


 
gardener
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Teaching skills? This weekend we have brought in a beekeeper to teach a beginning bee class. We have a hugel bed class coming up, a greywater harvesting class. Not everyone is interested in every class, so it brings in new faces. See what skills members have, it gives them ownership/connection to the group when they can share. It also relieves you of having to do everything.
 
Nancy Reading
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Well I had a lovely time sorting all my seeds into trays, and did win a few varieties to add to my landrace mix. Unfortunately though we still had a very poor turn out, not even as many as last time..... :(
We decided for me to keep the seeds and have another swap event in a months time. I was going to pass then on to a local gardening open shed where people leave seeds, plants, pots etc. that are surplus. It's a bit out of my normal range in the next door slightly bigger community.  Next time I'm going to try a different weekday evening, make more of an effort with publicity and if that doesn't work just try and do more "networking" for myself. For me the winter is better for doing this sort of thing, since I am less busy at work, although when the daylight is longer garden visits will be easier...
Thanks for all the suggestions (and the great animations George!) I'm hoping that we can still get this off the ground.
 
Nancy Reading
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I've been sorting out my magazine cuttings and disposing of most of them....One titbit I read was the suggestion of a get together of a tomato tasting - everyone bringing samples of the varieties they're growing so people can try lots of different varieties - it could act as a seed swap/saving event as well I think. Maybe if we're still going it could be a late summer event.
 
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I started a homesteading club 4ish years ago.  Some of the things that work for me are putting up fliers for meetings if we have a good presenter.

I try to find presenters every other month.  Next month is Vermicomposting, May will be a gentleman talking about alliums.

We do a seed swap in our Feb meeting and a seedling swap in our May meeting.

Maybe a good topic for this time of year would be seed starting.

I guess it depends if your target audience is established gardeners or newbies or some combination.  Established gardeners might like to hear focused tips on particular crops/flowers/techniques.  Newbies need more broad info.

Despite having 190 people on my email list, I usually get 10 at a meeting.  People are funny and the "regulars" seem to change every year.  So bringing in new folks is critical to keep it from petering out.
 
pollinator
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One thing I'm seeing in my online gardening groups, is that more people are asking "how do I plan my garden so I'm ready for food shortages?" You might be able to tap into that by advertising this club as a way for new gardeners to get advice from experienced ones, and for even experienced gardeners to share ideas. "Gardening in Troubled Times" could even be your theme for the month.
 
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Have you considered the group listening to a garden podcast, then discuss the content of the podcast. One you might enjoy, “The Gestalt Gardener”, Felder Rushing is the “expert”, he a native of Mississippi, but, he spends about 5-6 months each year in England.
If nothing else, you’ll entertain the group for an hour.
 
Tereza Okava
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Lane Douglas wrote:Felder Rushing.


A chat after everyone listens to Felder and a bottle tree workshop would be my idea of heaven!! (a plant-your-pickup-truck event might be a harder sell....)
I would LOVE to have people I could talk about Felder Rushing with.
 
Lane Douglas
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Tereza
I like the spelling of your name with a z, you must be one well balanced lady, NY native, in SA, who enjoys an old garden dude from Mississippi!
Come see me in Tennessee one day!
Lane
 
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A thing that my mom's garden club did was have people bring in unknown plants and work to identify them.  Maybe a meeting themed something like "favorite plant, worst weed (and tips for controlling it), and what is this?"

Of course, I only know about this from her story about someone bringing in something, no one being able to ID it, and people starting to ask for cuttings... and then the county weed control officer happening to pass the open door, rushing in, and saying, "Noooooo! That's English Ivy!  For the love of God please don't plant that!"  So, uh, do try very hard to ID plants once they've been brought in.
 
Robert Ray
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Picture of our beekeeping class, Hugel bed class coming up.
BEEKEEPING-CLASS.jpg
BEEKEEPING-CLASS
 
Nancy Reading
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So third meeting is now arranged for next week.

I was going to just revisit the seed swap and try a different evening, but I think it's getting a bit late in the season, so in addition we're going to talk about slugs. I'm a bit worried they'll turn out to be a problem in my new natural farming area (close to where this picture was taken):



I'm suggesting people bring along their favourite methods/traps etc. to discuss...

So I need to drum up a bit of publicity since this could be my final effort if I don't get more interest:
  • Ring/email previous attendants to remind them
  • Get another poster up in the Community Hall (One in the shop window for about a week)
  • Post it up on local FB sites.

  •  
    Mike Haasl
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    Flier at the library, local grocery store and where people buy their tomato plants (if it's near by)
     
    Tereza Okava
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    this sounds like the perfect opportunity for disgusting and/or hysterical posters. Attack of the Slugs!!!
     
    George Yacus
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    Nancy Reading wrote:So third meeting is now arranged for next week.

    I was going to just revisit the seed swap and try a different evening, but I think it's getting a bit late in the season, so in addition we're going to talk about slugs. I'm a bit worried they'll turn out to be a problem in my new natural farming area (close to where this picture was taken):

    I'm suggesting people bring along their favourite methods/traps etc. to discuss...



    So gotta ask, how many gardeners out there would take this as an open invitation to bring a six-pack of beer to a garden club meeting? 😂
     
    Jay Angler
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    I'm jealous on behalf of my ducks - the slugs in that picture wouldn't stand a chance! Unfortunately, the slugs come out at night and I can't let my ducks forage at night as they would get eaten by racoon!
     
    Nancy Reading
    master steward
    Posts: 6544
    Location: Isle of Skye, Scotland. Nearly 70 inches rain a year
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    Well, My gardening club is officially defunct now through lack of interest. There's just not enough people locally that are prepared to come out in the evening to talk about gardening at the moment. We are a small community and many are still nervous of socialising. I'll just have to carry on my networking in a less organised way.....
    We did have a pretty good chat about slugs, although nothing new that I felt would help me. One couple brought along their spare seed potatoes, so I now have a dozen 'pink fir apple' potatoes to plant, which I'm very pleased about, and one gentleman did very well out of the seeds left over from last meeting, so not a failure all in all.
    At least I don't have to get back out of my comfort zone again for a bit now!
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