Customers pick out plants during the Central Peninsula Garden Club’s annual plant sale at Peninsula Grace Brethren Church on Kalifornsky Beach Road on Saturday, June 9, 2018 in Soldotna, Alaska. The annual plant sale is always popular — this year, volunteers said that there was a massive crowd gathered even before the sale opened at 10 a.m., nearly clearing out the tables in less than two hours. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Customers pick out plants during the Central Peninsula Garden Club’s annual plant sale at Peninsula Grace Brethren Church on Kalifornsky Beach Road on Saturday, June 9, 2018 in Soldotna, Alaska. The annual plant sale is always popular — this year, volunteers said that there was a massive crowd gathered even before the sale opened at 10 a.m., nearly clearing out the tables in less than two hours. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Shop Talk: Central Peninsula Garden Club begins new year of monthly programs

Since 2007, the Central Peninsula Garden Club has been educating and connecting gardeners in the area.

Renae Wall has been serving as the nonprofit’s president for three years. She said the group has been steadily growing over the last several years.

“Originally we met in the Cook Inlet Aquaculture building and that served us well, but we outgrew it and moved to the Peninsula Grace Church,” Wall said. “We’re starting our second year there. It’s really nice. I think space was a limitation for people, between finding parking and a place to sit. It’s a good problem to have.”

Today, the program has more than 200 members. They offer monthly programs, workshops in May, summer garden tours, a yearly plant sale and more.

Q: What is the mission of the Central Peninsula Garden Club?

A: To educate and exchange reliable information about all aspects of gardening on the Kenai Peninsula.

Q: What can people expect from the monthly programs?

A: The monthly programs run from September to April on the second Tuesday of the month. It’s focused on a different topic every month. Our last one was about growing fruit trees. In October we will be learning about growing corn on the Kenai. We have programs on starting seeds, growing perennials, what to do to your soil to improve it, how to preserve your harvest and more. It’s different every year. Anywhere from 80 to 100 people show up. There are always refreshments and door prizes and it’s really a social thing. People really enjoy getting to know other gardeners. It’s a good way to network and get out.

Q: How has the club changed since starting in 2007?

A: When the club first started it sounded like it was more focused on flowers, landscaping and gardening. Now with the increase in high tunnels, there’s just been a lot more interest in growing food. We’ve had a lot more programs about growing food than we did at the beginning of the club.

Q: What are the benefits of membership?

A: Our membership prices aren’t too bad. It’s $20 for an individual and $30 for a family, for the year. Membership dues help support the club. Sometimes it goes towards helping to pay for presenters that we bring up. At our new location, we do need to pay rent and have insurance so it helps us pay for those expenses. We also support other agricultural projects on the peninsula. We’ve given money to Soldotna Montessori School to help create their raised beds there. We’ve given some money to the Kenai Peninsula Fair for prizes and for the 4-H club. Last year they used donations to add flowerbeds near the entrance. There are different projects every year we support. We’ve donated to the Sterling Community Center for their greenhouse, and the Funny River Community Center made a bed at their building.

Another thing we do that’s a lot of fun is our workshops, which are every weekend in May. They focus on all kinds of different topics, and they are in smaller groups at different locations. Past workshops have covered how to tap birch trees to make syrup, how to prune a tree, how to take care of your lawn, build a raised bed, how to make relish or sauerkraut, how to make a hanging flower basket and others. It is more of a hands-on, small-group learning experience. Members get the first choice to sign up for May workshops, which fill up quickly. Only members can go on summer garden tours, which is going to someone’s home and getting a tour of their garden. It’s just fascinating to see what people do. We also have a monthly newsletter, which has articles from local growers or good information we picked up elsewhere.

The next monthly program is open to the public and will focus on growing corn. The program is at 7 p.m., Oct. 9 at the Peninsula Grace Brethren Church, 44175 Kalifonsky Beach Road.

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