Getting a Garden Education: Planters obtain free seeds, advice about growing

Nicole M. Caldwell of Better Farm, Redwood, cleans up after a worm compost exhibit Saturday at Garden Day in Alexandria Bay. Photo/Justin Sorensen
ALEXANDRIA  BAY  — Garden  aficionados  walked away with the beginnings of lettuce, peas, squash and other produce for free at the MacSherry Library this weekend.

Saturday was the library’s fourth annual Garden Day, and it drew dozens looking for free seeds,  gardening advice and children’s Garden Day in Alexandria Bay.

“It’s about  educating the community,” said herbalist and library trustee Sue-Ryn Burns.

Several trustees have gardens of their own and dug up sprouting tomatoes to raise money for the  library. As a testament to the gardener’s fever possessed by some of the trustees, an herb garden sat
in the building’s back.

“We’re trying to encourage people to grow things,” said Steven L. Burns. “We were all getting asked a lot about gardening.”

Representatives from Better Farm LLC, a sustainability education center and artists' retreat facility  in Redwood, demonstrated composting to show how produce that normally lands in the trash could be reused. The business uses produce that would normally be tossed away at local grocery stores such as Big M and The Mustard Seed.

“The end result will be organic compost and organic worm casings, which make an excellent fertilizer,” said Matthew K.  Smith, Better Farm agriculturalist.

After a village tree walk led by Cornell Cooperative Extension horticulture educator Susan J.  Gwise, children hunted in the grass for clothespin fairies dressed in silk flower petals.

Several packets of donated pumpkin seeds were placed on a table to encourage locals to plant the
squash for the library’s annual Harvest Festival in the fall. Every year, there is a contest for the village’s biggest pumpkin.

“We wanted to see what seeds they have so we can start our garden,” said Alexandria Bay resident Cathy A. Dickhaut. She held seeds for squash, beets and white watermelon. “I’ve never had good luck with lettuce,” she said.

[Originally published Monday, May 14, 2012, for the Watertown Daily Times]


Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.