Gardening classes being offered

A series of free classes being offered this month and next aim to help local gardeners plan and prepare for the planting season with a variety of green, creative and money-saving methods.

The community gardening classes will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. Sundays, starting Jan. 13 at the First Unitarian Universalist Church at Third and Putnam streets in Marietta. There will be at least five sessions covering topics like square-foot gardening, composting and early-season planting. Another could be added depending on interest, and subjects can still be suggested, said organizer Roger Kalter, a master gardener.

“If there’s something people want, they just need to call me or email me,” he said.

The opening session will feature Pat Lane, one of the first Washington County residents to earn the master gardener designation from the Ohio State University Extension. She’ll be talking about early planting and intends to challenge some participants to try to grow their vegetables from seed in the ground, rather than starting them indoors.

“In the long run, it’s a lot cheaper and you really feel kind of proud of yourself when you do that,” Lane said. “You have some failures, but it’s a lot of fun, just to see if you can do it.”

Lettuce, carrots and kale are some of the vegetables that can be planted early. Lane said she will sometimes plant seeds as early as April and use a frost blanket to protect them if frost is forecast.

Lane also plans to share some cherry tomato seeds with those in attendance.

The next session will feature master gardener Cindy Brown offering an introduction to “square-foot gardening,” a process developed by Mel Bartholomew in the 1970s.

“This is an easy way to get started and not hugely time-consuming, and you haven’t plowed up your whole yard only to find out you don’t like vegetable gardening,” Brown said.

While there are various ways to approach this method, Brown will discuss using four-by-four-foot raised beds, sectioned off into 16 one-square-foot areas. By planting a different crop in each one, a gardener can grow a multitude of items, maximizing their use of the planting space and making their garden less attractive to pests. There’s even a special soil mix so people won’t have to spend a lot of time testing or amending their soil.

Slated for Feb. 3 is a presentation by Jim Couts on worm composting and organic gardening. Other potential topics include making solar domes for raised beds and community garden greenhouses.

And on Jan. 19, participants are invited to help demolish a barn in Oak Grove, with its boards to be used for garden tables and raised garden beds for individuals with health or accessibility issues.

While some who attend the class participate in the community garden program through Washington County Harvest of Hope, the classes are open to anyone, whether they’re involved with that effort or not.