You bet your (seaside) garden

Gardeners by the Sea will be hosting WHYY’s Mike McGrath, radio personality and former editor of Organic Gardening, on Friday, Sept. 12.

Coastal Point • File PhotoCoastal Point • File Photo

The talk will be held at 2 p.m. at the Fellowship Hall of Ocean View Presbyterian Church, at 67 Central Avenue, Ocean View.

“I’ve listened to him for years,” said Gardeners by the Sea member Mary Lou Dogolof. “His show is like ‘Car Talk’ in a way. He gets very specific gardening questions, and he is incredibly knowledgeable and funny. He will talk and will be taking questions from the audience.”

McGrath grew up in Philadelphia and had visited the Jersey Shore as a child and the Eastern Shore of Virginia, but this will be his first trip to the Delaware shore. He is excited to share his knowledge of gardening with the club and offers basic advice to would-be gardeners.

“The bottom line is not that chemicals are so dangerous or the risks are so extreme — it’s that they are totally unnecessary,” said McGrath. “Plants were around for thousands of years before we told them they needed Miracle Grow or Round-Up, etc. And if you can learn just a little bit about how to do things naturally, you’ll look like a genius.”

He will touch on special challenges of living near the beach but added that many listeners might be surprised to learn that the sandy soil that is talked about so much might not be the biggest challenge.

“Even though it’s coming from off the ocean, the wind is a dry wind,” said McGrath. “And that can be an even more important fact than sandy soil.”

According to Dogolof, Gardeners by the Sea’s mission is to encourage interest in and knowledge of all phases of home gardening and flower arranging; to promote civic beauty; and to aid in the protection and conservation of natural resources. Each of their meetings features a garden expert.

Because of their interests in education and environmental protection, former president Barbara Rex had the idea of contacting Mike McGrath for this open-to-the-public meeting, and they set that idea in motion.

Gardeners by the Sea is very much involved with and influenced by the Center for the Inland Bays. Because of their knowledge of the sensitivity of the bays and the watershed surrounding them and the effects of unnecessary pollutants, including fertilizers and insecticides, the group aims to take on projects that further this knowledge in the general public.

Among the civic development projects that the club takes on every year are assisting Lord Baltimore Elementary School through joint efforts with Kiwanis Youth, Girl Scouts and the CIB to refurbish and help maintain portions of the school’s landscaping, promoting the “Plants for a Livable Delaware” initiative and establish natural habitats, and developing and maintaining a schoolyard rain garden to reduce erosion from run off.

They also design and prepare a Christmas tree and wreath for the Delaware Hospice Festival of Trees, to benefit Delaware Hospice; award a $1,000 scholarship to a Del Tech student; and participate in the National Forest Service’s “Penny Pines” program, which uses funds to reforest “plantations “of seedlings for soil stabilization, watershed protection, recreation areas and timber for future harvests.

Mike McGrath was editor-in-chief of Organic Gardening magazine from 1991 through 1997. He is the author of several books, including “Kitchen Garden A to Z” and “You Bet Your Tomatoes.” He is also the garden editor for WTOP News Radio in Washington, D.C., and his “You Bet Your Garden” column appears in every issue of Greenprints.

McGrath was the garden expert for the Saturday edition of “The Today Show” from 1993 through 1997, and he chaired major exhibits that won four consecutive “Best of Show” awards at the prestigious Philadelphia Flower Show. He currently is host of the nationally syndicated public radio show “You Bet Your Garden.” (For more information on McGrath, visit

The public is welcome to attend the local event and hear McGrath speak. The talk has limited seating, and seats are available for $7. Interested parties are asked to call Pat Fulton at (302) 537-1512 to reserve a seat.