It's that time of year when area gardeners can finally trade their winter gloves for garden gloves and return to digging in the earth. And no matter what type of garden is planned, there are local groups that can help you get started.
In Galloway Township, both the Atlantic City Area Religious Society of Friends and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Jersey Shore are holding plant events to coincide with Mother's Day weekend.
About 800 heirloom tomato plants, including popular but hard-to-find Jersey favorites such as Ramapo, Morton, Rutgers and Box Car Willie, will be offered at the Religious Society of Friends plant sale. The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 10 at 437 S. Pitney Road.
In case of inclement weather, the plant sale will carry over to May 11, taking place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Mother's Day weekend is the customary time for home gardeners in South Jersey to transplant tomato plants outdoors, when the last chance of frost has passed, tomato sale coordinator Bernard Graebener said. Last year, the entire stock of 600 tomato plants sold out, he said.
They would have liked to double the stock this year, but had to scale back due to the limited availability of Ramapo seeds and seedlings this year, he said. New this year will be two traditional Jersey plum tomato plants, the Jersey Devil, which produces four-inch fruit, and the Jersey Giant, which grows six-inch tomatoes, Graebener explained.
Because of requests, they will also be selling larger, container-size plants, a standard tomato variety, a paste-type tomato and a grape tomato, plus Italian basil plants.
All the plants are organically grown and come from a local grower, said Graebener, who is a resident of Mullica Township.
"We decided to sell traditional Jersey tomato plants in particular because tomatoes are the most favorite plant to grow by home gardeners," said Graebener, who is a lifelong gardener. "Often these varieties are very difficult to find today in garden centers, and we felt that we would have a ready-made market for them."
The plants will be sold in four-packs for $4, or two four-packs for $7, and four four-packs for $12, mix or match. The Ramapos will be sold individually at $2.50 for a large plant in a deep, 4-inch pot.
Profits from the sale will help fund the ongoing Atlantic City Area Friends 1828 Meetinghouse Restoration Project, Graebener said.
The building is used for weddings and memorial services, as well as Quaker meetings for worship once a month. Last year, the earnings from the tomato plant sale helped pay to remove a large oak tree that was overhanging and threatening the historic building, Graebener said.
This past winter the meeting's property was vandalized, causing thousands of dollars of damage to the meetinghouse, Graebener said. Fortunately, insurance paid for the repairs, and they received grants from the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and donations from the Haddonfield Quarterly Meeting.
It was a long winter, Graebener said, but the improvements are now complete and the next step will be to paint the interior and exterior of the old meetinghouse over the summer months.
For those who like to create backyard habitats, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation's annual Native Plant Swap will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 10, rain or shine, at 75 S. Pomona Road, at the corner of Liebig Street.
The event focuses on native, noninvasive perennials, shrub and tree seedlings, as well as noninvasive species beneficial to butterflies, hummingbirds and other wildlife, according to sale organizer Jesse Connor, of Port Republic.
Participants who bring two native plants to cover the price of admission can swap as many as 10 additional plants. Participants without plants to swap may purchase as many as three plants for $2 each. The plants should be well established in their pots with an identifying label.
"We hope to promote more backyard habitat in southern New Jersey by providing local gardeners who bring plants to swap with a source of inexpensive, or even free, native plants," Connor said in announcing the event. "We even allow those without plants to swap to buy up to three plants in the hopes it will inspire them to grow more native plants."
Plant drop-off hours are 4 to 6 p.m. May 9, and 8 to 10 a.m. May 10. For more information, including a flier and step-by-step guide to the swap, see uucsjs.org or call 609-652-5143.
Contact Lucia C. Drake: