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Garden club aims to inform, inspire

FAIRMONT — The City of Lakes Garden Club works to educate and encourage all forms of horticulture in the community. This Saturday, the club is hosting a plant swap and garden party from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Lincoln Park.

The club has been in existence since 1940. Club president, Leslie Walkowiak, said up until the first of this year, they had people in the group who had been members for 40 plus years. Walkowiak joined the club herself seven years ago after she retired.

Right now, Walkowiak said they’re down to eight members and have five honorary members. The group meets on the first Wednesday of each month at a location chosen by that month’s host.

Every year the group chooses a theme. This year it’s visitors to the garden. Each month the host will choose a topic to fit the theme. For example, Walkowiak said she chose fireflies as her topic on visitors to the garden.

“It’s always something educational,” she said.

However, the group does far more than just sit around and discuss gardening.

Every year they choose an organization to donate money or plants to. In the past, they have donated trees to different city parks for Arbor Day. They have also donated money for flower baskets that hang along city roads.

This year for their civic project, the group planted a champagne cup at Lakeside Cemetery.

Walkowiak said they also have a Seeds for Kids program for students at St. Paul Lutheran and St. John Vianney. Students are given seeds and then encouraged to plant them at home to learn about the process.

This year, the club decided to have a plant swap. Walkowiak said they first had a plant swap two years ago.

“Obviously we couldn’t do anything last year because of Covid, so we thought we would do it again this year,” Walkowiak said.

Walkowiak said some other garden clubs have canceled plant swaps because they’re concerned about some of the plant diseases which have become more prevalent. These include a hosta virus, and especially jumping worms.

“Some people don’t know that they’re out there so we’re trying to educate people as to what to look for and what to do,” Walkowiak said.

The City of Lakes Garden Club is also using Saturday’s event as an opportunity to inform people.

“Worms by themselves can’t travel very far, but it’s human intervention, just like the Emerald Ash Borer. It’s the same thing with the jumping worms, they’re being sold unknowingly as bait for fishing,” Walkowiak explained.

She said people will then dump the worms in the lake or into the grass, thinking they’re just regular worms.

“We’re trying to make sure everybody understands what to look for,” Walkowiak said.

Jumping worms look much like earthworms and are a grayish purple color. They’re called jumping worms because they wiggle like a snake. They live in the top few inches of soil or in leaf litter.

They change the soil texture to look like coffee grounds, strip the soil of nutrients, and can kill plants. If they get into a forest, Walkowiak said they’ll eat the roots of understory plants, which then provides a habitat for other insects, and then the roots of trees are destroyed.

“If they’re in your yard that’s one thing, but if you share plants, you could be sharing the worms,” Walkowiak said.

Walkowiak said the closest Jumping worms have been reported to Martin County is Freeborn County, though she believes that they are likely here and haven’t been reported yet. She said they will encourage people to wash the dirt off of any plants they take home and to study the plant carefully to make sure there are not any worms.

Saturday’s plant swap and garden party is open to everyone. Items people can find/bring to the plant swap include extra garden vegetables, rhubarb stalks, flower seeds, flowers, flower bulbs, pots, canning jars, garden tools, garden reference books or unique yard art.

There will also be garden-related crafts and DIY projects including bird feeders, butterfly feeders, and other crafts like making fairy wands or Monarch masks for children to color and wear.

Walkowiak said there will be garden-related items in a silent auction for people to bid on, as well as a door prize drawing for four VIP passes to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. There will also be some light refreshments available.

If anyone is interested in joining the City of Lakes Garden Club, check out their Facebook page, which Walkowiak and other members post on regularly. The club is open to people of all ages and genders.

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