Beautification, good eating promotes gardening

May 8—Planting season is here, and both vegetables and florals are high on gardeners' list for beautification and consumption.

For Nasturtium Garden Club members, it's all about aesthetics and community service.

Sandy Fitzgerald, chair of the Community Beautification Committee, said working on the flower beds along Muskogee Avenue makes a big difference in people's lives and the atmosphere on the avenue.

"It makes a big difference to see live gardens and color," Fitzgerald said. "We have heard tourists are amazed and people of Tahlequah stop and thank us."

Members of NGC volunteer every Thursday to weed, repair and plant the "push-outs" along the avenue. Garden businesses like Palmer's Country Plants donate plants and companies sponsor the individual beds. Palmer's is opening up for business again on Friday, May 10, after an extended period of being closed, Fitzgerald said.

Tahlequah Main Street Association installed the beds and supplies plants and mulch, Fitzgerald said. Other gardening companies also donate plants, including Sooner Plant Farm, Sunshine Nursery and Greenleaf Nursery Center.

Fitzgerald and her friend, Betty Just, works a plot in the Tahlequah Community Garden.

"We do have our own gardens, but not enough sun or room for vegetables," Fitzgerald said. "We've planted tomatoes, beans, sunflowers and onions so far [in TCG]."

Cheri Jo Sanders spends hours at TCG, pulling weeds, planting and coordinating gardeners and volunteers.

"I went to visit a friend for a couple of weeks and had planted a couple rows of corn, potatoes and onions, and I didn't know it had gotten cold, froze and rained a lot," Sanders said. "So I'm having to replant."

The latest someone can claim a plot and start planting depends on the planting season, and Sanders said it's time.

"The plots are pretty well all claimed," Sanders said.

Muscadine grapes, blackberries, garlic, potatoes and onions are growing well in the plots.

Recently the "Big Event" happened when students from Northeastern State University helped weed and clean up the garden.

"The ladies' basketball team came out. They laid down black plastic and helped clear the fence line," Sanders said. "I told them I'm going to call their coach and recommend them again."

The garden property is owned by NSU and operates next to the disc golf course off Seminary Avenue. Sara Barnett from NSU organizes the volunteer event.

Monica VanDonkelaar, a member of the Nasturtium Garden Club, manages a bed and breakfast in Tahlequah. The gardens around the house are populated with flowering plants and trees, and violets, begonias and succulents fill the many light-filled spaces inside.

"I don't know anybody that grows Nasturtiums successfully," VanDonkelaar said with a laugh. "Let them go dormant and let them go away — try zinnias."

Club members meet once a month to exchange plants and talk gardening, VanDonkelaar said.

"A lot of my hostas, elephant ears and irises come from other members' yards," VanDonkelaar said.

There used to be seven garden clubs in Tahlequah, and NGC is the only one remaining. Six clubs met during the day, and NGC met at night. NGC now meets at 4 p.m., VanDonkelaar said.

Nasturtium members used to volunteer in the city parks. VanDonkelaar said group members are getting older, so they only do the beds along Muskogee Avenue and maintain the large square garden in front of the Tahlequah Public Library.

"And the mayor's garden — it used to be the toddler wading pool by the skateboard park — and they chopped up the cement and made it porous," VanDonkelaar said. "They put some dirt in there and we planted a garden."

It's called the mayor's garden, because former Mayor Sue Catron suggested the club plant it, VanDonkelaar said.

The gardening bug got into VanDonkelaar because her father had her and her siblings weed the back yard. Although she didn't like the work growing up, she loves doing it now.

"My grandmother was a master gardener in Michigan," VanDonkelaar said. "She used to have garden socials in her yard."

When VanDonkelaar has more time, she plans to volunteer more for TCG, her church, and with the flower beds on the avenue.

The club is always looking for volunteering efforts, and one is at Lendenwood Gardens in Grove. The gardens have a large community garden, gift shop, a full board and do fundraising, Fitzgerald said.

"In the spring, we 'Wake up the Garden' and in the fall, we are 'Putting the Garden to Bed,'" Fitzgerald said.

Learn more

To learn more about Nasturtium Garden Club and Tahlequah Community Garden, visit the clubs' Facebook pages.