There’s Always Something To Learn About Gardening

Sallie McNeill Rynd, VP Jonathan Grimm, President Dean Yoder with CCE speaker John Deignan. The flowers are samples from Sallie’s September horticultural talk. (Photo caption Dagmar Fors Karppi)

It’s wonderful to hear a good speaker: one who explains things with just the right words to make them memorable. That was the case as Cornell Cooperative Extension speaker, John Deignan, a board member at Old Westbury Gardens, talked about Putting the Garden to Bed at the September meeting of the Locust Valley Garden Club (LVGC).
He characterized a compost pile as “making Lasagna”.
Deignan said that it is made up of layers of leaves, vegetable food scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells and paper. Even cardboard can be used, LVGC President Dean Yoder added.
Hip to the latest trends in gardening Deignan said simply, “Never throw out your leaves,” but store them up for use as mulch for your winter garden. They are a valuable asset in building up your soil. Dump them in a convenient area until you have two or three hard frosts and them mulch you garden area, but at no more than two”.
Your trees should “sit” in a bowl-shaped circle of mulch, with 6” of the area around the base, clear of leaves. Tree roots need oxygen and gas needs to escape from underground so that area should be mulch free.
Deignan asked for a show of hands of those who had their soil tested, but few hands went up. One was Dean’s as he said he did annual soil checks in about four different areas of his garden.
Different areas of a garden need different nutrients and in explaining what we need for good soil, Deignan made it simple. The numbers on a bag of fertilizer refer to what you aim for from your garden.
When you see the three numbers on a fertilizer bag, for example 12-3-10, you should pick the biggest number that relates to what you want to happen in your garden. Fertilizers contain Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. The Nitrogen is for green growth; Phosphorous is for fruits, flowers, tomatoes and nuts; Potassium is the daily vitamin for overall plant health.
He suggested lawns should be cut to only 2” in their last mowing in the fall. He cautioned, “Read the labels on plants,” and follow the directions. He said check plants on sale, to be sure they are not rootbound by looking at the root ball: if it is surrounded by roots, cut off about 3” from the bottom of the plant, and shred the sides.
Everyone enjoyed his talk so much the hope is that he would come back in the spring to talk on Waking Up the Garden.
Raynham Hall Museum (RHM) is the October venue for the next LVGC meeting. RHM Board President Yoder and Jonathan Grimm are giving a tour of the historic house museum. They recently worked on restoration of the house and newly opened annex and will share the house’s history starting from its colonial beginnings.
As the meeting ended, members were signing up for the November Thanksgiving luncheon and discussing recipes they were considering, another very special part of the club members participation. That includes volunteers bringing floral decorations for the tables at each event.
The LVGC meets the second Wednesday of the month, at Mill Neck Manor. The program starts at 10 a.m. and includes lunch. The donation is $15. New members are truly welcome as we share our knowledge and love of horticulture. Contact Dean Yoder at for more information.

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