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Master Gardeners start spring season working on pollination garden, straw bale gardening

by Lori Dunn | April 23, 2022 at 10:00 p.m.
Members of the Miller County Red Dirt Master Gardeners are shown with their straw gardening beds near the Gateway Farmer's Market. Photo by Clyde Davis

TEXARKANA, Ark. --The arrival of spring has the Miller County Red Dirt Gardeners working on projects aimed at creating beauty for the area but also educating people on local plants and gardening techniques.

The gardeners are working on paths and irrigation at the pollinator garden near Gateway Farmers Market downtown.

"We need to do that first, we need a fence to define the garden and have it ready for things pollinators like," said Annette Lachowsky, past president of Miller County Red Dirt Gardeners.

The Miller County Conservation District used a grant to create and maintain the pollinator garden. The Conservation District worked with Miller County Red Dirt Master Gardeners, University of Arkansas Extension Service and the City of Texarkana to bring the project to life.

The garden will include plants that attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies. It also will provide educational opportunities to learn about pollinators.

"It's an educational tool," Lachowsky said.

Fruit trees are early bloomers and typically attract the first pollinators, she said.

Gardeners are also planning on creating part of the fence from apple trees with horizontal branches.

"We have three apple trees for a living fence," Lachowsky said.

Members hope the pollinator garden will be a beautiful backdrop for photography or nature demonstrations, or just a place to find a moment of peace with nature.

The group has also added a straw bale garden to the area near the Farmers Market.

Any type of raised bed makes for convenient gardening, but straw bale gardening is especially effective. A straw bale garden uses ordinary farmer's straw as the main growing medium. Conditioned with a small amount of potting soil, compost, and fertilizer, the straw breaks down gradually, providing its own nutrients over the course of the growing season.

It's a good way to grow herbs and vegetables and is easier on the back for people with mobility issues.

The Red Dirt Master Gardeners will be giving demonstrations at the farmers market this year.

More people found time for gardening while they were home during the COVID-19 pandemic and many hope to continue growing their own vegetables, Lachowsky said.

"They like knowing where their food comes from."

Tomatoes, along with other typical summer produce such as squash, eggplant and zucchini are common garden fare in this area, Lachowsky said.

A lot of space is not always necessary to make spring flowers bloom or for plants to grow.

Container gardening, the practice of growing plants exclusively in containers instead of planting them in the ground, is an ideal type of gardening for those who live in apartments or have very small lawns.

Pots are traditionally made of terracotta but also plastic, and window boxes are common containers.

The Sweet 'n' Neat tomato variety is perfect for small outdoor spaces. The cherry tomato is compact enough to grow in containers on the patio or back porch and reaches just 10 to 12 inches high. The little tomatoes bloom in huge clumps like grapes and will continue as long as the warm summer weather holds out.

One Southwest Arkansas gardener said spinach leaves don't get as large in pots, but baby spinach grows well in pots and can be picked earlier.

She also grows cilantro in pots and has been pleased with how well it does.

"Cilantro is very hardy," she said.

Earth boxes are very popular for container gardening. These are portable boxes that come with fertilizer included and are on wheels so they can be easily moved where the sun is best. They are ideal for several vegetables, including cucumbers and squash.

Many types of plants are suitable for containers, including decorative flowers, herbs, cacti, vegetables and small trees. There are many advantages to growing plants in containers, namely:

-- Less risk of soilborne disease

-- Virtually eliminates weed problems

-- Ability to move plants means more control over moisture, sunlight and temperature

Anyone interested in joining Red Dirt Master Gardeners can call 870-779-3609. The group participates in different educational programs throughout the year.

photo Straw gardening beds near the Gateway Farmer's Market. Photo by Clyde Davis
photo Herbs and cilantro plants growing in a container garden in Southwest Arkansas (staff photo)

Print Headline: Master Gardeners start spring season working on pollination garden, straw bale gardening


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