One of the numerous courses being offered through Waxahachie Lighthouse for Learning this fall is “Soil Preparation,” taught by Waxahachie resident and Ellis County Master Gardener Nancy Fenton.

In addition to courses in everything from “Introduction to Calligraphy” to “Holiday Sweet and Specialty Breads,” the fall lineup includes seven courses taught by Ellis County Master Gardeners and two courses taught by extension agent Mark Arnold.

“I really would have liked to title my class ‘Soils That Will Grow Anything and Everything,’ ” said Fenton, who became a Master Gardener in 2002.

Fenton began gardening long before receiving her certification and has always had an interest in organic gardening, in particular.

“I began gardening when our children were born because that was a good way I could be outside and watching them without having to be on top of them,” said Fenton, who has lived in Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming and Texas and has planted rose bushes at each location in honor of the couple’s children.

“I have been interested in organic gardening all that time,” said Fenton, who says she gardens with little to no pesticides and fertilizers “because of the kids and the animals. We’ve always had dogs.”

Her gardening hobby has evolved with each move and with each stage of life.

“Each area has its particular thing that grows well. Clematis and raspberries were wonderful in Wyoming. During the time that the kids were home, I had a large vegetable garden. Large for an urban setting, that is,” she said. “Since our children left home, my interest has turned more to perennials used in landscaping.”

When it comes to special gardening topics, soil has become Fenton’s area of expertise.

“Especially in this time of our lives where the world is changing,” she said. “Our climate, rain amounts and temperature are changing. It is warming. The plants can make it but they must have the support of a good soil to help them deal with these changes.”

She points out that soil in Waxahachie tends to be a very alkaline clay soil, contrasting it with Midlothian, where one finds limestone with a very thin soil.

“It is a challenge to deal with those two varying soil types to get things to grow. The thing to keep in mind is that plants needs air, water, nutrients and sunlight,” she said. “We can add to the soil things that will help the nutrients be available, that will break up our clay so that the air can get down to the roots and provide drainage so that the plants don’t drown in our heavy rains while also absorbing water deep down that the plants can get to during the dry, hot summers.”

Individual members of the Master Gardeners program, a volunteer organization that works through the county extension program to provide education and volunteer service to the community, will teach courses in rainwater harvesting, xeriscaping, butterfly gardening, native plants and care and propagation of houseplants. Master Gardener DeAnn Bell will teach “The Lazy Gardener,” a course on how to have a beautiful garden with minimum care.

“Master Gardener volunteers have a generalized course in all of the areas and then choose to specialize in one or the other,” Fenton said. “The volunteers then take courses from Texas A&M that interest them. So we end up with a core of people that have various specialties and mine happens to be soils.

“All are specialists in their field and they’ve each taken special training for these various areas,” said Fenton, who believes it is important for gardeners to have some knowledge of soil.

“We all want our plants to grow with the least amount of effort on our part and the least amount of water and fertilizer that we have to add,” she said. “If the soil is right, it diminishes the amount of water and fertilizer that you have to add to keep those plants healthy and looking gorgeous.”

Although course dates and lengths vary, many courses offered this fall through Waxahachie Lighthouse for Learning begin Monday, Sept. 24.

For more information about Waxahachie Lighthouse for Learning, call Melissa Cobb at (972) 923-4631, ext. 142.

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