For the past five years, Coweta’s Master Gardener Extension Volunteers have been working to improve the James McGuffey Nature Center at the Coweta County Fairgrounds through restoration projects, removal of invasives and planting of native plants.
The organization has now put together a calendar that shows some of the splendor of the center through the years.
It’s not just any calendar, though it does feature lovely photos from the nature center.
For each month, there are tips for things gardeners should be doing that month. Some important dates are noted on the calendar, such as the master gardener plant sales and Backyard Association meetings, and information about featured plants. There is also space for gardeners to write notes about things they’ve planted or things they need to do.
The calendar can function like a gardening journal, said Karen Mansour, agriculture and natural resources program assistant at the Coweta Extension Office.
“I may think I’ll remember I did this in March – but I’m not going to remember,” Mansour said of a theoretical gardening task. “If I can jot it down on the calendar, I can go back next year and say I did this and it worked. Or maybe I need to wait two more weeks because it didn’t work so well.”
Master Gardener Dale Senko said the idea of the monthly tips came from the tips put out by famous Georgia gardening expert Walter Reeves.
The team working on the calendar gathered up the tips that the University of Georgia puts out and sorted them into months.
“They are things a homeowner might say – ‘OK, these are the things I should be doing,’” Senko said. “They are pretty basic, but some are things people might not necessarily know."
One tip for January is to get a soil test. Though important and simple, it’s not always something people tend to think about. And they might not know when is the right time to do it, either.
The calendar is meant to be educational, as well as a fundraiser for the work the master gardeners are doing at the nature center. The work was done completely by the local master gardener group, from the photography to the layout, done by master gardener Deberah Williams.
The center, tucked away behind the horse arena, is now a recognized restoration site under the Georgia Native Plant Society.
There is a large covered pavilion next to a small pond, plantings, a hard surface trail for the handicapped, a network of short trails, two outdoor classrooms and the farmer’s heritage garden. There is also a memory and honor brick plaza that is added to every year.
“It is our little miniature Callaway Gardens right here in our backyard,” said Mansour. “Most people don’t realize it’s even there. But once people find out about it, they tend to visit often. I see them all the time walking the trails."
As part of the upgrades, the master gardeners updated the educational signage on the building, and there are signs helping to identify plants. Some Eagle Scout projects have been done over the past few years to help, and the county has cleared the area around the entrance road to make it more visible.
Senko said there are plans for some plantings at the entrance to draw more attention.
Several of the master gardeners who helped with the calendar recently gathered at the nature center to present a calendar to McGuffey, a former Coweta County Commissioner who worked to get the nature center built when the new fairgrounds were constructed in the early 2000s.
“I don’t know what this place would be like if it weren’t for you guys,” McGuffey said. “Y’all have made it. The county just built it."
McGuffey said he often hears people say they didn’t know the nature center was there.
The center is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sundays noon to 4:30 p.m. Group tours are available upon request, and master gardeners will also give presentations to organizations.