Garden Club Of Harwich Persists Through Pandemic

By: Jennifer Sexton-Riley

The Garden Club of Harwich maintains 18 community gardens including Millennium and Albro Park Garden across from Brooks Academy.COURTESY PHOTO

HARWICH – We’ve all been spending quite a lot more time indoors than was once normal. It’s only natural that when we venture out of our homes for necessary errands, we tend to see the once familiar world around us with fresh eyes. Take a look at those flowers! Wow, those planted containers are just stunning. I wonder who has been taking care of these garden beds during the quarantine?

If you are asking these questions while admiring one of the 18 public garden spaces or 52 streetscape planters in Harwich, the answer is easy: They’ve been carefully planted, weeded and watered throughout these socially distanced weeks and months by the 158 dedicated members of The Garden Club of Harwich.
The Garden Club of Harwich’s work is never done, even during a global pandemic. Fortunately for all of us who enjoy the beauty of their labors, the Garden Club’s members enjoy their work with the plants that bring such beauty to our surroundings.
“We take our commitment to Harwich seriously,” said Judy Martindale, co-chair of the Garden Club Of Harwich along with Barbara Harrison. “In spite of the pandemic, all of the community gardens are being cleaned, planted and tended by individual Garden Club members or socially-distanced pairs of members. We’ve been determined from the beginning that when everyone does go out, when the tourists do return, the town will be blooming. We still persist!”
As the 2020 gardening season began in spring, the challenges started to pile up as a reduced number of members were available to make sure the work was done. Some were wisely absent or self-isolating to avoid exposure to COVID-19. Then the Garden Club’s major fundraiser, the Harwich By the Sea Plant Sale, an annual May event, was canceled due to the virus. This after the annual April fundraising sale and distribution of 40 pound bags of Harwich Gold, a composted cow manure blend that local gardeners swear by, was also canceled. To make matters even more difficult, the various town departments who maintain a relationship with the Garden Club and help out with watering and spreading mulch were operating with skeleton crews. Help and resources were, by necessity, at an all-time low.

Did the Garden Club members lay down their trowels in despair? Not a chance.
“We cut our budget and we went out individually and in pairs, and by taking turns we spread the mulch ourselves,” Martindale said. “We worked very hard. Some of our members are in their 90s, and they weren’t the ones out personally spreading mulch, but everyone did what they could and as a result by Memorial Day most everything was planted. Fortunately most of the gardens are established perennial gardens, but we do like to add some color with annuals, and we were able to do that. We had to cut back a bit on what went into the planters in spring, but it was so cold that nobody noticed!”
A great deal of the beauty in Harwich all year round exists thanks to the hard work and dedication of the members of the Garden Club of Harwich. Not only do the members clean up, plant, weed and water all 52 streetscape planters that grace the streets, they also maintain the 18 community gardens that add so much color and brightness to public spaces, from Brooks Academy to the Brooks Free and Chase Libraries, from the entrance ramps at Exits 10 and 11 that welcome visitors to the South Harwich and West Harwich Post Offices, from Thompson’s Field to the Peace Garden at Evergreen Cemetery to Wychmere Harbor Overlook and elsewhere. They also spend time caring for streets by picking up roadside trash. They create and decorate 100 holiday wreaths every year. They create floral bouquets for Meals on Wheels clients and for elderly residents in local residential care and rehabilitation facilities. They give scholarships and toolships to students and they provide opportunities to learn and find friendships at monthly meetings and workshops.
“Some of these activities have had to be put on hold because of the pandemic,” Martindale said. “We haven’t been able to meet since the beginning of March. But we are all looking forward to returning to our year-round work and our community outreach projects. People may not realize exactly how much the members of the Garden Club of Harwich do, with the help of the Harwich DPW, the water department, the fire department and the recreation department, who help us with irrigation and mulch and in so many ways. We are appreciative of their help.”
Visit gardenclubofharwich.org/community-projects to see a map of the 18 community parks and gardens planted and maintained by the Garden Club of Harwich.