Garden Club learns about seed starting

Submitted photos ESGC member Christina Sanders plants seeds in soil blocks in order to begin germination.

ELKINS — Sara Phares, master gardener and member of the Emma Scott Garden Club, presented the program during the regular March meeting “Seed Starting Made Easy.”

The objective of her presentation was to demonstrate simple and fun tricks to start flower and vegetable plants at home while the snow flies outside. When spring arrives, plants will be ready to transplant.

While garden club members watched and listened, members of the associated Horticulture and Design Club from Elkins Mountain School attended the meeting by Zoom. The ESGC club had recently purchased a 5′ by 5′ greenhouse for the Mountain Schools’ program and Sara Phares has volunteered to oversee the greenhouse project in conjunction with EMS program director, Georgann Davis.

Phares began her presentation telling the two groups that starting you own seeds may have its positives and negatives, but related that it keeps one busy during the winter months and it is fulfilling watching the plants grow and then move them outside to enjoy for the spring into late summer or early fall seasons.

Phares went on to elaborate that there are six main issues to consider for the best end product: types of seed, variety of containers, soil, light, temperature and water. She instructed the gardeners to know their seed types and follow written directions to match seeds and correct conditions and climate. Reading the seed packets and consulting other sources are recommended. Containers can be anything from a paper tube covered in newspaper, a plastic butter dish, teacups or terra cotta pots, the latter being the best because of their breathability.

Program presenter Sara Phares shows an Aerogarden, a unit that provides conditions needed to germinate seeds and grow seedlings.

The main issue is that there has to be adequate drainage through holes in the bottom. The presenter buys window screens to cut and line any type of container she uses so soil does not fall through drainage openings. In the beginning, soil should be light enough to allow root growth and water drainage. Seeds should be watered from the bottom while establishing themselves. Sunlight is important but may not be adequate at times. Different types of artificial light are available with those using both red and blue lights being preferred by young plants. The gardener should be aware of the temperature needs of their plants. Temperature readings can be taken and the use of a plant heat mat was demonstrated.

A process of soil blocking was exhibited and handouts were provided to explain soil mixtures, how to form individual blocks of soil with a blocking tool, and planting of seeds. While the students were preparing their soil blocks, members were provided samples in a plastic container to operate as mini greenhouses. Seeds were planted and follow-up directions were given to members and students, alike.

The business section of the meeting was called to order by president, Pat Mayes. The following was the order of business for the evening:

Thanks was expressed to those preparing the evening’s refreshments, to those who assisted in the charitable giving for Randolph County Humane Society and Elkins Mountain Schools holiday party, and to the 10 members who painted and decorated flowers for the Our Town’s Sprout Into Spring project.

It was announced by member, Katy McClane, that the Arbor Day celebration will be at the Davis Street Park on April 30. Tentative plans are being made for the annual plant sale on May 15 and the Rose Luncheon on June 12 at the Kump House. Members were encouraged to participate in the 59th Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage scheduled for May 6 through May 8 at the Canaan Valley Resort.

The update on Elkins Mountain School Horticulture Club included further details on the greenhouse project and the fact that five virtual classroom teaching opportunities had been completed to date with three more currently scheduled. Katy McClane will begin the outdoor landscaping part of the program which will meet on the first and third Mondays of the month.

Area residents and businesses were recognized as 2020 winners of yards of the month with certificates of recognition and gift certificates provided by Mary’s Greenhouse to be mailed to the following:

July 2020: Kathy and Hugh Hitchcock, Burley Woods, Linda and Charles Shomo, Bob and Donna Jones, Mountain Hospice.

August 2020: Shellie and John Waybright, Sherry and John Metheny, Schell and Kurt Hopwood, Gail and Ronnie Peacock, Mama Mia’s Restaurant and Johnson Real Estate. Regional award: Jeanie and Vic Pingley.

Fall Yards 2020: Merllene and Jim Yorkey, Lisa and Todd Biller, Summer Swanson and Cameron Kirk, Randolph County Courthouse and Annex (Designer Doug Starcher).

The next official meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on April 12 in the Fellowship Hall of Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church. The program will provide information about the FFA program at Elkins School Anyone interested in membership in ESGC should contact Membership Chair, BJ McKenzie at 304-614-3079.


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