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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 18, 2018

Master Gardener draws crowd to wellness workshop

Chuck Albright discusses dealing with cold spring, gardening tools
Apr 04, 2018
Photo by: Grace King Master Gardener Chuck Albright led a Q&A with residents during the Community Wellness Workshop at the Fellowship Cup Tuesday, April 3.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News

 

Even before the Community Wellness Workshop started Tuesday night at The Fellowship Cup, Master Gardener Chuck Albright was engrossed in conversation with an attendee about when to start expecting shoots poking through the still very cold spring ground.

Although the Master Gardener came prepared with a presentation on gardening tools, the session was mostly a time for the dozen gardeners present to ask questions and talk to each other about what they’re planting this year.

While standing in front of other gardeners and giving a presentation might intimidate some, Albright has experience leading a class. Having taught at Southeastern Community College (SCC) for 20 years in their agriculture program, it was just before retirement that he decided to expand his knowledge to become a Master Gardener.

One thought led into another as Albright’s passion for growing shone throughout the workshop. He began by stressing the need for potting soil, saying that even with the rains like Henry County has been seeing this past week if a garden is plain soil, it will just be “muck.”

“You could be out planting in potting soil right now,” Albright continued. “I’m not sure I’d recommend it because it’s cold out yet, but it could be done.”

Albright said that potting soil is also easy to work with and easy to pull weeds out of, which begged the question, “What is a weed?”

Albright challenged attendees to consider that a weed is any nuisance they don’t want to grow in that plot of the garden. “Anything out of place,” one person answered.

Albright defined it as anything that can interfere with what he wants to grow or anything he doesn’t want. When he was teaching at SCC, his students used to argue that something like soybeans couldn’t be weeds. He countered, “What if it’s in your cornfield? Then it’s a weed, isn’t it? Or vice versa.”

“Are weeds edible?” Albright continued his train of thought. While some weeds are edible, he warned people not to eat them if they spray any sort of chemicals in their garden.

As Albright opened up the conversation for other questions, Brian Morris asked how to ensure good rhubarb growth. Morris, who taught a community wellness workshop last summer on how to BBQ, said that as a longtime gardener, he still took a lot away from the discussion. “It was very informative,” he said after the workshop concluded.

In answer to Morris’ question about rhubarb, Albright said that they should do just fine even after the frost. “Rhubarb is a hard plant to kill. My grandmother used to say that when the leaves get flat, it’s time to pick them,” Albright said.

As they discussed other edible plants, even Albright admitted he has had problems with asparagus, saying that he thinks his biggest problem is they get too much shade at his house and would benefit from more sunshine. “I would not be taking them to any farmers market. I don’t get money from them,” Albright joked with his audience.

Tomatoes are another plant people had questions about, particularly what to do with tomato worms. Albright suggested planting an extra tomato plant to place them on when you pick the worms off the good plants.

Sharing an antidote from his childhood, Albright said that growing up, he had tried to convince his grandmother one-time tomato worms could be cooked. This elicited a drawn out “ew” from the audience.

As questions died down, Albright turned the conversation to the garden tools he had brought with him. Some of the items were every day household items he had turned into useful gardening tricks, such as using a meat thermometer to test the temperature of his soil two inches deep or cutting up an old venetian blind to use as an identification card for plants.

Albright said the best time to catch the temperature of soil is at 9 a.m., between the coolest part of the night and the hottest part of the afternoon. “On a sunny day on my deck, (the temperature) may run up 15 degrees,” he said.

When it comes to using blinds as identification cards, Albright said the ones he uses now he picked up off the side of the road during a spring community clean up. While some people may be inclined to use permanent marker, so the identification cards are bold and legible, Albright said that permanent marker fades after a few weeks.

“Lead pencil won’t disappear,” Albright advised, saying that the markers he wrote last fall are still legible.

Although attendees were still engaged in the discussion an hour after Albright kicked off the workshop, Fellowship Cup director Ken Brown eventually drew it to a close, saying that the Master Gardeners community workshop is always known to go long and draw the biggest crowd.

“The garden class is always a passionate subject. We could answer questions all night long,” Brown said.

On their way out of the workshop, the audience felt a little more at ease about the growing season ahead.

Arriving to the wellness workshop with a notebook in hand and a list of questions, Johanna Crawford still considers herself a new gardener. “I’m just learning as I go,” she said. “I don’t like the idea of eating food I know has been grown in poison.”

Healthy Henry County Communities is partnering with the Fellowship Cup to host the monthly community wellness education series. This series is designed so all residents of Henry County have the opportunity to learn about healthy habits.

The next workshop will be in May.

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