There’s just something satisfying about gardening. Whether you’re tending a few houseplants, beautifying your lawn, or coaxing summer vegetables from a sunny spot in your backyard, the sense of accomplishment in planting the seed, nourishing the plants as they grow, and enjoying the fruits of your labor with the harvest is a feeling that is very hard to beat. Gardening can ease depression, make us more active, and give us a sense of purpose.
With a growing emphasis on home gardening, members of a newly-formed garden club, which meets monthly at the Pelham Public Library, hope to foster a greater awareness of the hobby. David Smith, a Library Supervisor and head of adult programming, saw an opportunity to bring people together for a common purpose. “I have always wanted to make a lasting contribution to Pelham, and I have always loved gardening and nature in general, so a garden club seemed to be the obvious culmination of the two.” Smith turned to Master Gardeners Teresa and Larry Riddle, who have been doing presentations at the library for several years to help get the club off the ground. “Teresa and Larry are the backbones of the club, and this could have never happened without their involvement,” stated Smith. He went on to explain the objective of the club is to study aspects of gardening, to encourage civic beautification and conservation, and to enhance the overall quality of life in Pelham. “This club should be of interest to anyone who loves Pelham and gardening in general.”
The Pelham Garden Club meets in the Roberts Room upstairs at the Pelham Public Library every second Thursday of the month at 10:00 am. Smith said so far, the average attendance is about 20 people, but there is certainly room for many more. Membership is open to all people interested in all aspects of gardening. Peham residency is not required, and there are no dues. Donations and other projects will generate funds for future projects, speakers, prizes, and other expenses.
Smith explained what you might expect if you attend a meeting. “Each meeting runs a little over an hour. Club business is discussed first, and then an expert guest will speak, followed by a Q and A session. Light refreshments are served, and good conversation rounds out each meeting. We also talk about existing community projects and plan future ones.”
Smith shared some exciting news about how the club is pitching in to help beautify and bring plant education to the Pelham community. “Our current project is the removal of invasive plants and trees along the Pelham Greenway Trail and replacing them with native species. We also want to place identification plates with QR codes for native trees and plants to educate trail users. This will be an ongoing project.”
The club got off to an impressive start during its inaugural meeting on October 13, 2022. Dr. Sue Webb, Master Gardener and native plant specialist at Petals From the Past, talked about the area’s native plants, invasive plants, and some recommendations for native plants for local gardens. The momentum continued in November with a meeting that featured Master Gardener Dennis Stranek, who talked about the construction and benefits of raised bed and container gardening. He also went over invasive plants to locate and remove during the Pelham Greenway Trail Project.
Many may wonder why they should join a garden club in the cold, dreary winter months. Smith’s answer is simple: “There is always work to be done in the garden!” He continued, “Winter is the best time to work on borders, weeding out every perennial weed you can spot. You can also cut back herbaceous border plants. This prevents pests and diseases from hiding in the decaying leaves and stems.” Smith also suggested repairing fences, climbing plant structures, walls, plant supports, and painted surfaces during this time of year. “They are easier to see and get to when plants are dormant. This is also the time to clean and tidy all tools, workspaces, and greenhouses.” While Smith said some pruning can be done during colder months, he has some words of caution. “Make sure you consult with an expert about what to prune and what to leave alone. I heartily recommend calling the Shelby County Extension office at 205.669.6763. They are wonderful folks and are glad to answer any questions. I also recommend covering tender vegetables whenever there is a prediction of heavy frost. You can plant certain fruit trees in the winter.” Smith said he highly recommends consulting the Alabama Extension Service Website, which has a wealth of information on seasonal gardening for our area.
David Smith’s love of gardening was shaped by the people who had a big influence on his life. “My mother was an avid gardener, and she instilled in me a passion for all things agricultural and botanical. My father loved the outdoors, and he taught me many lessons about nature. My wife, Suzy, is a wonderful florist, and she has taught me so much about flowers. I owe everything to them.”
Smith considers himself fortunate to live in Pelham. “I am very happy to reside in a city where there are so many opportunities to enjoy nature. My wife and I regularly go to Oak Mountain State Park. We walk and bike the city trails frequently. The climate is perfect for gardening, and the volunteer spirit is very much alive in Pelham. The city is doing great things for the citizens to enjoy and will continue to do so. I can only hope that the garden club will continue to grow and thrive, helping make Pelham beautiful and welcoming for all who live and visit here.” Smith credits certain city leaders for their help with Garden Club projects. “I want to thank the Parks and Recreation Department Head, Brian Cooper, for letting us work on the Greenway Trail and Library Director, Mary Campbell, for helping me get things started. Last but not least, I greatly thank the Riddles and others who devote their spare time to making the club such a great experience.”