By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – A Saturday work crew of volunteer Rotarians is on the attack, yanking and sawing and digging and hauling all the Oriental bittersweet and multiflora roses that will fit into a dump truck.
“These pine trees have been strangled by non-native invasives,” said Blanche Garone, of the Derry Garden Club. She is overseeing the work on the grounds of the Greater Derry Boys & Girls Club, part of a National Garden Club effort to “Beautify Blight,” by planting and cultivating community gardens where once only weeds grew.
Last year a large vegetable garden was planted with a grant through Harvard Pilgrim Health Foundation and, despite a tough growing season, kids from the Boys & Girls Club managed to harvest a decent crop – the pea pods were prolific – which they parlayed into a variety of tortellini dishes.
Curly bittersweet vines were crawling up tree trunks and just starting to bud as the workers, armed with chain saws and heavy duty yanking gloves, got to sawing and yanking.
“He came and did a lecture at the municipal center, which helped us get started,” Garone said.
They will also launch a hydroponic garden using cocoa fiber instead of soil, and pvcpipe instead of a garden pit, all with some expertise from Sticks and Stones Farm in Center Barnstead.
“I thought it would interest the older kids, to understand how hydroponics works,” Garone said. Bouncing off the invasive plant theme, she explained that proponents of hydroponics believe it's a solution to improving the world's food supply, eliminating the risk of soil-borne disease and E.coli.
Bigger garden space will mean more kids can get their hands dirty this year. To help, Garone said the Garden Club is hoping to enlist students from Pinkerton Academy's horticulture class.
“We are also going to try composting this year – this is a good time for them to learn about gardening and composting. It's exposure to these things – and then harvesting and cooking what they've grown – that gives them something, hopefully, they can take with them, and maybe even continue at home, or in their own lives,” Garone said.