Outdoor Guide | Gardening

Learning From the Green Thumbs

Local experts will bring your gardening game to the next level

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Learn from the Pros
When you’ve decided you’re ready to take your green game up a notch, get your masters: the URI Master Gardeners, that is. The group of over 600 experienced green thumbs is an educational and environmental resource for the state. The Master Gardeners’ website has everything from a Rhode Island seed calendar, telling you when to start planting, to a hotline number, manned every day between March and October, for you to call and get advice. The group has annual events like garden tours, and hosts plant sales every season at East Farm, their outpost in Kingston.

It takes 14 weeks of training and hundreds of hours in the garden to become a Master Gardener, studying everything from plant nutrition to gardening for wildlife and organic methods. Once you’re in, there’s a requisite amount of volunteer work: gardeners help maintain green space around the state, and regularly speak in schools and at garden clubs. They’ve even put out a cookbook: From Rhode Island Gardens to Your Table, featuring locavore recipes and wines. urimastergardeners.org

Keep it All in the Family
The Farmer’s Daughter in South Kingstown is a beautiful place to visit, even if you aren’t planning a major garden overhaul. The nursery and garden store has greenhouses and artful plant displays as far as the eye can see. They also have The Garden of Wings Butterfly Pavilion, where you can explore a Monarch butterfly habitat, which opens for the season on June 27. The Farmer’s Daughter also has frequent events – for Easter, there was an egg hunt and an appearance by the bunny himself – and offers extensive classes at varying levels of expertise. In June alone, there are classes in Succulent Sphere Hanging Baskets (June 3), Gourmet Mushroom Hunting (June 3), Hanging Tear Drop Planters (June 5), Savvy Succulent Containers (June 6), a Butterfly Container class (June 10) and a Garden to Grille class (June 24). 726 Moorsefield Road, South Kingstown. 401-792-1340, thefarmersdaughterri.com

Go Green, Really Green
Growing is one thing – growing safely and sustainably is entirely another. The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Rhode Island is a collaboration between farmers, consumers, gardeners and environmentalists to promote best organic growing practices. The group offers regular educational workshops, called CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training), which are free to the public. On June 23, join John Kenny from Big Train Farm for “Raise Better Vegetables with Chickens in Crop Rotations.” 401-523-2653, nofari.org

Become an Urban Agriculturalist
The South Side Community Land Trust does a lot to cultivate green space in Providence, overseeing 13 community gardens, as well as two for-profit farms that fund the trust by selling food at city farmer’s markets. Their mission, though, is to educate as many people about healthy eating and growing as possible. They offer regular Plant Providence workshops, which are affordable and accessible to everyone (because let’s face it, gardening can be an expensive hobby). They also have children’s educational initiatives at City Farm, which brings 200 kids per summer to the farm to teach them how to raise plants. southsideclt.org

Cultivate Your
 Garden Network
Think gardening is something you do in just your own yard? Think again. The Rhode Island Federation of Garden Clubs is an umbrella organization for all of the Ocean State’s garden clubs – and there are a lot. Their focus is on education, civic design and promoting the love of gardening. They’re also a regular presence at the Rhode Island Spring Flower and Garden Show. There’s no better way to hone your skills than to learn from the experts in your community – so get involved, and get growing. rigardenclubs.org

The Rhode Island Federation of Garden Clubs, The South Side Community Land Trust, The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Rhode Island, URI Master Gardeners

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