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Backyard oasis

Gardening, indoors and out

Created date

May 21st, 2013

Margaret Bartolini s love of gardening has earned her the nickname the flower lady. Everybody always sees me taking care of the plants inside the glass walkways that connect the buildings, Margaret says of Oak Crest, the Erickson Living community in Parkville, Md., she calls home. They stop me and say, Oh, it looks just beautiful. It makes the community so lovely.

Lifelong gardener

Born and raised in Italy, Margaret moved to the U.S. at the age of 15 and lived in New York until moving to Oak Crest 12 years ago. One of the first things on her to-do list after moving to Oak Crest was to dig into the on-site garden spaces and greenhouse available to everyone who lives there. I ve always been interested in gardening, says Margaret. When I lived in New York, I had both a flower and vegetable garden. My husband and I were the caretakers of a large estate, and we took care of acres and acres of land. That s when I really became interested in gardening. I acquired a lot of experience in how to care for a variety of different plants. For more than a decade, Margaret, along with other volunteers and the Oak Crest grounds staff, has helped keep the community s 55- by 24-foot greenhouse in good working order. The great thing about the greenhouse is residents with patios or balconies can bring their flowers or plants by in the winter so they can survive, says Margaret. Others use the greenhouse to grow seedlings for vegetables and then plant them outside in their gardens when the weather gets warm. I brought a bunch of geraniums with me when I moved from New York and cut and propagated them in the greenhouse. They are still beautiful after all these years! Oak Crest also features eighty 10- by 10-foot outdoor gardens and six 7- by 7-foot raised planter beds allowing plenty of room for planting everything from strawberries to roses. Like the greenhouse, the gardens are free and available on a first come, first served basis.

A community affair

To assist residents with their gardens, the Oak Crest grounds department provides mulch, compost, peat moss, water, and one free tilling each year in early April. A garden shed is also available for storing tools. We provide volunteer labor one day at the beginning of each season, says Grounds and Transportation Supervisor Frank Lina. Oak Crest grounds employees, along with area high school students, help with pulling weeds, raking leaves, and spreading compost and mulch. The gardens aren t the only place you ll find color throughout the campus. Many residents do a tremendous job landscaping their entranceways and patios. The campus is very colorful in the spring and summertime, says Lina. Most people plant vegetables or annuals. Even the die-hard flower gardeners usually carve out a spot for a few tomato plants. Great gardens all summer long Try these helpful tips to keep your garden performing at its peak all summer long: Mulching is the best way to retain moisture and keep roots cool throughout the long, hot summer months. Water plants deeply, concentrating on the roots. Deep watering encourages deeper rooting, leading to stronger, healthier plants. Watering in the morning gives foliage time to dry, helping ward off diseases before they get a foothold. Remove spent blooms from flowers regularly to allow plants to spend their energy producing new blooms. Weed once a week to keep weeds from taking over your garden and robbing your plants of their nutrients.