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Gardeners branch out

4-H program grows with help of yearly tree sale

Posted: Monday, May 22, 2006


  Lynette Wilson of Soldotna talks to a friend on the phone about which trees to buy for her during the 4-H tree sale Saturday at the Peninsula Center Mall. Photo by Joseph Robertia

Lynette Wilson of Soldotna talks to a friend on the phone about which trees to buy for her during the 4-H tree sale Saturday at the Peninsula Center Mall.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

Kenai Peninsula 4-H’ers branched out to the community Saturday during their annual tree sale at the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna.

From haralred apple trees with their crisp aromatic flavor to the fast-growing and cold-hardy quaking aspens and the disease- and pest-resistant kiwi, there were numerous varieties available.

“We’ve got 40 varieties this year, and none of them cost more than $20,” said Nancy Veal, a Kenai Peninsula 4-H Youth Development Agent.

This low price brought in many customers, including Lynette Wilson of Soldotna.

“It’s a good deal,” Wilson said. “Last year we bought some blue spruce and they’re growing really well. This year we’re here to pick up some crab apple and chokecherry for friends who are out of town this weekend.”

While some came to save a few bucks, others bought trees to provide more habitat for wildlife, according to Janice Chumley with the Soldotna office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

“People plant some of these trees for bird habitat. They can use them for nesting or eating purposes. For instance, the mountain ash produces berries in fall that huge flocks of Bohemian waxwings will come and eat,” Chumley said.

Since much of the peninsula’s natural spruce trees and forests have been damaged by the spruce beetle, some people came looking for trees to replace dead ones they’ve cut down or removed.

“We’ve got a lot of spruce, pines and other evergreens for that purpose,” Veal said.

4-H leader Mary Lambe said they always hope for, but haven’t yet had, groups working on ecosystem restoration or beautification projects that come for large quantities of trees. But they do steadily sell small quantities “mostly for ornamental use.”

These sales add up and the money is always put to good use, according to Veal.

“The tree sale is one of our biggest fundraisers,” she said.

“We use the money raised to buy promotional materials, awards, educational programs and other materials needed by 4-H. The biggest reason for needing the money, however, is sending young people and leaders to workshops and forums so they can return and share what they learned. We gave approximately 15 scholarships out last year,” Veal added.

Long time 4-H’er Walker Boyle, of Nikiski, was working at the tree sale this year, and he has been a recipient of one of these scholarships.

“I got a scholarship to go to a bluegrass music camp in Cordova two years ago. It was cool and I learned a lot and probably couldn’t have done it without the scholarship,” he said.

That’s why Boyle said he didn’t mind lending his labor to the tree sale. He said that most people purchasing trees were pretty easy to please, too.

“Some are experts that know exactly what they want. Others just want something pretty,” he said.


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