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Prepare for Pumpkin Mania

Two sure signs that autumn is coming: 1) you see the first traces of fall color in trees around town; 2) The Windsor Garden Club starts planning its Annual Fall Pumpkins & Plant Sale.

Thanks to support from local growers, farmers, hardware and garden stores who donate pumpkins, plants and craft materials (or offer the club discounts on their purchase), every autumn the Windsor Garden Club is able to hold a Holiday Pumpkin & Plant Sale to fund community betterment, beautification and education projects around the Town of Windsor (California).

The club's annual Pumpkin and Plants sale is held every October on the Town Green at Windsor's Sunday Farmer's Market. The 2016 sale is set for Sunday Oct. 23.

The club's floral designers mastermind the design and creation of decorative holiday pumpkins topped with moss, succulent cuttings, acorns and more to create pumpkins of all sizes that are perfect for table centerpieces, hostess gifts and porch decorations.

If cared for correctly, the succulent-topped pumpkins can last from October through early spring. (The key is ventilating the bottom by setting the pumpkin on a trivet or other airflow-inducing surface, and remembering to frequently mist the succulent plantings on the top of any pumpkins kept inside, according to WGC member and succulent expert Noreen Fenton). Come spring (or sooner, if you forget to mist...) the succulents can be removed from the top of the pumpkins and the pumpkin itself can go into the compost pile or green waste bin.

Along with the pumpkins, WGC members create beautiful container gardens (potted plants in arrangements designed to "thrill, fill and spill") under the direction of members who are garden or floral designers -- including Marilyn Peterson and Mary Robledo.

The Fall Pumpkin & Plant Sale and the Spring Plant Sale are the Windsor Garden Club's two major fundraisers. What does the club do with the money?

As a nonprofit 501c(3)organization, the Windsor Garden Club funds a variety of community projects, including:

The Windsor Town Green Community Garden – A diverse 72-bed community garden in the heart of downtown Windsor. It’s designed, built, and managed by the Windsor Garden Club on land belonging to the Town of Windsor (California). In addition to people who just like gardening in raised beds, the Town Green Community Garden reaches Spanish-speaking parents with young families as well as retirees living in town homes, apartments or homes with no space to garden. Community Gardeners rent raised, drip-irrigated beds in exchange for an annual fee depending on bed size. The fee covers the cost of operating the garden, including water. Bed renters are also required to complete a minimum of six hours per year of volunteer maintenance on the community areas of the garden -- weeding and raking paths, trimming branches, cleaning birdbaths and other garden chores. But improving the garden -- fencing it; adding more ADA-accessible pathways, buying equipment to allow for better composting -- requires more funding than the fees bring in.

The Windsor Garden Club SRJC Scholarship – awarded annually for students going into horticulture, agriculture, viticulture, environmental studies, biology, landscape design and other plant-related studies at SRJC. The first scholarship offered by the club, it has so far been granted to Windsor High School grads, some up to $1,000. Under the leadership of founding members like Thomas Eddy, Rob Huebschmann, Cindy Moore, Cindy Fenton, and Mary Mariani, the club raised more than $10,000 to deposit in the SRJC Endowment Fund. Interest earned by the Windsor Garden Club Scholarship fund in the SRJC endowment funds the annual scholarship -- along with added money as the club can afford it.

The Community Gardener Education Grant -- a grant of up to $500 per semester (Fall & Spring) to Town Green Community Garden renters who have gone "above and beyond" the minimum required service hours maintaining the common areas of the garden -- raking and weeding paths, fixing fences, composting, cleaning birdbaths and hummingbird feeders, and more. The grants are available to volunteers and their family members attending classes at SRJC or SSU.

Holiday Children’s Activities at Farmers’ Market. The club helps kids fall in love with plants by providing materials and “help” to create floral arrangements and succulent gardens as presents to proud parents on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

The Annual “Art in Bloom” Flower Show. The club works with the Town of Windsor to create the floral segment of the Community Art Show that kicks off summer on the Town Green.

Monthly Garden, Nature and Flower Speakers. The club brings a variety of speakers on garden, landscaping, and the environment to its free public meetings every month. Speakers and topics include everything from drip irrigation to rainwater collection to floral design to roses to irises to tree selection and care to mushrooms to canning to beer making (fermentation) and more.

So when you wander by the Windsor Garden Club sales at Farmer's Market on Sundays in spring and fall and buy a pumpkin, veggie start or pretty plant arrangement in a pot, you're doing more than gardening. You're helping to make Windsor a better place to live, educate kids about the environment, science and plants, and helping local students go to college. As those guys used to say in those TV commercials: Thank you for your support.

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