Full Service Garden and Homesteading Organization Takes Root in Pittsburgh

Food Supply Concerns Motivate Female Entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh to Help Families Grow Life-Sustaining Gardens

Pittsburgh, PA: Root Cause, a full service garden and homesteading organization, has been founded in Pittsburgh. Founded in part by internationally known rapper, singer, activist and entrepreneur Kellee Maize, Root Cause is supported by a group of 20 other female entrepreneurs. After witnessing empty grocery store shelves due to the COVID-19 chaos, this group of women recognized food as not only a root cause of concern in the crisis but also as the key to changing many other issues that exist on the planet today.

In addition to planning and maintaining edible gardens and homesteads for clients, Root Cause aims to mend the disconnect between people and the earth that our food comes from by providing support in a variety of related areas such as:

  • Greenhouse construction
  • Medicinal plant gardens
  • Chicken coop set-up and maintenance
  • Beehive set-up and maintenance
  • Indoor growing facilitation
  • Harvesting and canning
  • Custom raised garden beds

The founding members of Root Cause are experienced educators. For families who wish to create and maintain gardens or homesteads on their own, the group will provide teaching and resources so that children and adults can participate. Root Cause is prepared to provide training in planning, creating, maintaining, harvesting and preserving a sustainable permaculture food-bearing environment on their land.

Other founders include lifelong gardener, forager and yoga instructor Tami Gingrow; permaculture designer, herbalist, and tantra instructor Michelle Czolba; and massage therapist, energy healer, and community organizer Roxanne Banks-Williams. These four founders and the majority of other members are mothers who believe strongly that this knowledge of how to live sustainably must be passed down to the next generation as a means of survival and wellness.

Root Cause’s goal is to provide an open source of information as the organization grows so that the team can expand and empower other communities across the globe to follow suit.

About Root Cause: Root Cause is a full service garden and homesteading organization dedicated to helping its community create and maintain gardens and homesteads. Founded in April 2020, Root Cause looks forward to serving the Pittsburgh community and beyond through a variety of gardening, homesteading, and teaching services.

COVID-19 Cancellations

Like the rest of the world OAGC is faced with difficult situations regarding the health and safety of our members and their communities. The current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic has canceled many events around Ohio, the United States and the world, in hopes of halting the spread and severity of the illness caused by this new virus.

As cancelled OAGC sponsored events are shared with the webmaster (webmaster@oagc.org), they will be posted below.

OAGC Event Cancellations


CANCELLED: April 18-19, 2020 – Granville Garden Club (Reg. 8) Daffodil Sale/Show

CANCELLED: May 9, 2020 – Fairfield Garden Club (Fairfield OH, Region 4) Fundraising Luncheon. Rescheduled for October 20 at 11 am at Fairfield Community Arts Center (411 Wessel Dr., Fairfield, OH 45014) Contact Mary Gamstetter at 513-892-6806, 513-379-2153 or gams@isoc.net.

CANCELLED: May 25-26, 2020 – Exhibitors’ and Judges’ School #1

CANCELLED: May 31-June 5, 2020 – Nature Study Retreat

CANCELLED: June 11-13, 2020 – OAGC Annual Convention

CANCELLED: September 8-9 2020-Exhibitors’ and Judges’ School #2

The Importance of Using Native Plants in Your Landscape

by Victor Wang

It may be tempting to surround your home with exotic or show-stopping plants, but those plants come with risk and responsibility. Your landscape should complement all aspects of your home’s exterior. Using native plants has many benefits, not only for the environment but also for the time you spend working outdoors.

Low Maintenance

Long “to-do” lists mark our days as we balance work, family, chores, and time for ourselves. While gardening is therapeutic, you still want time to sit back and enjoy your garden. Choosing native plants for your landscaping means you’ll spend less time tending to them. Low-maintenance native options are already well adapted to the Ohio environment and soil conditions, and often need little to no extra watering. They are hardy to last through the season and usually thrive when they aren’t fussed over.

Support Local Pollinators

Butterflies, bees, and other Ohio pollinators are sure to visit the native areas of your yard. These vital parts of our environment help to create healthy plants and support the fragile balance of the ecosystem. Planting native options, such as goldenrod or purple coneflower, invites these pollinators to stop and stay awhile as they gather nectar.

The natives also preserve Ohio’s biodiversity. Local birds and wildlife depend on native plants for their food source. Invasive plants often crowd out the native species, robbing the local wildlife of food and habit.

Cut Down on Water Usage

The Buckeye State experienced abnormally dry conditions in 2019, with 12% of the state in a moderate drought. Water conservation efforts are gaining momentum in all 50 states as more people realize the value of this natural resource. Doing your part by planting native flowers, shrubs, and trees in your yard will help cut down on the need to water.

Less Expensive

Gardening and yard work are great ways to beautify your home, but they also come at a cost. Choosing native plants to surround the house is a great way to save money. Native options often are cheaper than other varieties at the local garden center, thanks to their abundance in the area.

You can also ask for starts or cuttings from neighbors or friends who have an abundance of native species. You’ll save money and add a sentimental aspect to your gardening as you remember who gave you the plant.

Native Vs. Invasive

An invasive plant is one that can cause economic or environmental damage in Ohio. Their natural predators often weren’t imported with them, so it’s easy for them to spread out of control. Ohio is fighting back against nature’s enemies, by banning 38 species of exotic plants. The Japanese honeysuckle, autumn olive shrubs, fig buttercup, and others that steal water from local species are now illegal to sell in Ohio.

You can still find plenty of intruders at your local nursery. Before buying any plant that isn’t native, ask yourself if it’s worth inviting the invasive bugs sure to come with it? Support Ohio’s first Native Plant Month in April 2020 by planting some wild geranium or black-eyed Susan.

Victor Wang grew up in Central California, plucking tomato worms from his mother’s heirloom tomato garden, and is now a master gardener and freelance writer. His areas of expertise include landscaping, pest control and, of course, gardening.

Support Ohio’s first Native Plant Month in April

by Jean Jankowski, Ohio Association of Garden Clubs, First Vice President

(Update: Events listed at bottom of this post.) For years OAGC has been touting the importance of including native plants in our landscapes, as well as creating public spaces designated for natives.

Many of the regional meetings I have attended since becoming an officer have had speakers and educational displays addressing how the establishment and growth of native food sources creates a foundation for a healthy ecosystem. Many of our members signed the petition that led to establishing April as Ohio Native Plant Month, the first of which will be celebrated in 2020.

We now have the opportunity to share our knowledge and bring public awareness to this vital topic. There are hundreds of native species in Ohio and many of them are not being promoted in the industry. We all love our non-native cultivars, but if we just plant three natives for each season and encourage others to follow our lead, it would make a tremendous difference. We also need to address the invasive plant crisis.

According to the Ohio Invasive Plant Council, “Invasive plants cost natural resources and recreation agencies,farmers, industry and homeowners millions of dollars each year.” The Ohio Association of Garden Clubs needs to take this opportunity to hold lectures or open meetings. On behalf of all birds, insects, and all wild creatures, I challenge our regions and garden clubs to jump on the bandwagon.

Think of unique ways to get the message across. Collaborate with your local Master Gardeners, schools,scouts, garden centers, metro parks, state parks, or preserves. Make sure your local schools and city council are aware of Ohio Native Plant Month and encourage them to participate. As an organization of gardeners, we are aware of the vital importance of pollinators, and although we complain about some insects and wildlife, we know that each one has a unique purpose, and we are all sharing the planet.

Email your event announcement to the webmaster (webmaster@oagc.org) so that it can be listed on the OAGC website (www.oagc.org) and help publicize the event on social media. Please send a copy to me, as well, so I know about all the OAGC native plant events that will be taking place next April. I hope to attend as many as I can.


April 23, 2020: Region 7 Spring Regional Meeting: The morning program is “Native Plants” by Guy Denny. (23 Pickwick Place, 1875 N. Sandusky Ave., Bucyrus, OH 44820.) Contact Kristy Apt at kapt@oagc.org.

April 28, 2020: Region 2 Spring Regional Meeting: The afternoon program is Dan Hodges will speak on “Nature in the Garden — Biodiversity of Native Plants”. (South Side Christian Church, 3300 South Side Dr., Lima, OH 45807-2278.) Contact Charlene Guingrich at cguingrich@oagc.org.

April 30, 2020: Region 5 Spring Regional Meeting: The morning program is “Gardening With Native Plants” by Ron Corbett. (The Centre, Miami Valley Centre Mall in Piqua, OH.) Contact Penny Adams at padams@oagc.org.

2017 Convention

The 2017 OAGC Convention used the theme, “Keeping America Beautiful” and was held at the Columbus Marriott Northwest June 13-15, 2017. More details will be noted in the 2017 Oct-Nov-Dec issue of The Garden Path. Photographers: Vicki Ferguson and Al Bishop. Enjoy!

The following photos were taken by Vicki Ferguson.

The following photos were taken by Al Bishop.

2017 Exhibitors’ and Judges’ School #1

OAGC Exhibitors’ and Judges’ School #1 was held May 22-23, 2017. The following galleries highlight: The History of Floral Design (taught by Mary Lee Minor) and Educational Exhibits (taught by Beverly Norman) .

School #2 will be held September 18 and 19, 2017 at Deer Creek State Park Lodge and Conference Center near Mt. Sterling, Ohio.

Twice each year, the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs holds the 2-day educational opportunity Exhibitors’ and Judges’ School. As the name suggests, the schools are packed with knowledgable speakers on a myriad of subjects – all in the interest in becoming a better grower, floral designer and flower show exhibitor. In addition, the school is the training arena for those wishing to be an OAGC accredited flower show judge. OAGC flower show judges must maintain certain amount of attendance of these schools in order to maintain their active judge status.

The full series runs 6 schools over a span of 3 years. Student judges must pass tests and undergo a student judge period before becoming accredited.

Floral Design History Program by Mary Lee Minor. Designs were made by Myrna Cordray, Mary Lee Minor, Naomi Ormes and Juanita Wilkins.


Educational Exhibits




2016 Exhibitors’ and Judges’ School #6

This post is better late than never! OAGC E&J School #6 was held September 19-20, 2016. The following galleries highlight: Creative Designs (taught by Myrna Cordray), Winter and Holiday Shows (taught by Mary Lee Minor), and Dish Gardens and Fairy Gardens.

School #1 will be held May 22-23, 2017 at Deer Creek State Park Lodge and Conference Center near Mt. Sterling, Ohio.

Twice each year, the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs holds the 2-day educational opportunity Exhibitors’ and Judges’ School. As the name suggests, the schools are packed with knowledgable speakers on a myriad of subjects – all in the interest in becoming a better grower, floral designer and flower show exhibitor. In addition, the school is the training arena for those wishing to be an OAGC accredited flower show judge. OAGC flower show judges must maintain certain amount of attendance of these schools in order to maintain their active judge status.

The full series runs 6 schools over a span of 3 years. Student judges must pass tests and undergo a student judge period before becoming accredited.


2016 Philadelphia Flower Show

philadelphia-flower-showThe Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s (PHS) Philadelphia Flower Show is the nation’s largest and longest-running horticultural event and features stunning displays by the world’s premier floral and landscape designers. Started in 1829, the show featured new plant varieties, garden and design concepts, and organic and sustainable practices.

In addition to the major garden displays, the Flower Show covered 10 acres of the Philadelphia Convention Center with world-renowned competitions in horticulture and artistic floral arranging, gardening presentations and demonstrations, special events and a mammoth indoor Marketplace. In a word: HEAVEN!!

Panaramic view of ‘Big Timber Lodge’

The 2016 theme, “Explore America,” had visitors start their adventure in the “Big Timber Lodge,” a modern interpretation of classic park architecture, where they were welcomed by National Park Service Rangers in a nod to the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.  The structure of wood and stone was enhanced by Native American-inspired art, floral totems, a dazzling 12-foot waterfall, emulated giant redwoods and a life-size American buffalo and bear sculptures by artist Emily White.

Periodic rest stops are to be expected

The 2016 President’s Bus Trip (March 11-13) saw nearly 100 OAGC members and friends board 2 buses and make their way to hotels in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The trip also included two fantastic Amish style meals and a day at the flower show. OAGC bus trips are an easy way to ‘hit the road’ so be sure to join us on future trips. You won’t be sorry.


Tips for Exhibiting at a Flower Show

DSC03246by Jo Ann Graham, OAGC Accredited Judge and past State President

As an accredited Ohio Association of Garden Clubs Flower Show Judge I am often asked what I look for when I judge a horticulture or artistic flower show. The first thing I look for when starting to judge horticulture or artistic classes is: has the exhibitor followed the schedule?

The flower show schedule is the law or rules of the show. A show is only as good as its schedule and it is the first thing an exhibitor should study at length before planning or entering exhibits. If something is confusing or if there is something that isn’t understood, ask the show chair or show committee. Don’t guess at what is meant on the schedule.

Entries in the Horticulture division (cultivars/speciments/exhibits) are to be well groomed. Is the cultivar clean? Is all dirt and pesticide washed away? You wouldn’t come to the fair with a dirty face so your best exhibit shouldn’t either!

Is the cultivar free of disease or pests? An exhibit should not be brought to a show showing any type of disease or have insects. This is especially important if you are showing houseplants or container grown plants. Diseases and pests can spread quickly to other exhibits and are reason for an exhibit being removed from the show and/or disqualified by the judge.

DSC03295Are there dead pieces of leaves or flowers attached to the cultivar? Could the cultivar be improved in some way? A good exhibitor takes the time to remove all old flowers and dead leaves. Leaves or petals can be carefully trimmed a little to remove all brown edges so a judge won’t notice.

An important rule to follow in a horticulture show in certain classes, is one of disbudding. Disbudding is removing the side bud or shoot from round form flowers such as roses, zinnias, marigolds, dahlias, daisies, etc. Don’t just pinch out the bud – remove the whole side shoot to the main stem carefully by pinching or using a small pair of scissors. Disbudding should be neat and in many cases done a day or days prior to the show depending on the cultivar.

Many cultivars are shown as sprays. A spray is a single main stem with blooms or florets borne on pedicels or lateral branches, led by a terminal bloom, which blooms first. I always tell the exhibitor to look at the stem for a Y. This indicates there are two sprays – one on each side of the main stem. Each spray should have as many blooms and buds as possible. The old center or terminal flower should be removed if past its prime. Examples of flowers shown as sprays are marigolds, petunias, phlox, etc.

Another problem I find is the exhibitor is not labeling or writing the variety name of the cultivar on the entry tag. In many shows this keeps the exhibitor from winning a ribbon – or worse, a rosette! Keep all labels of the plants in your garden. Label in the garden and/or keep a chart of your plantings. Don’t just make up a name or look in a catalog and pick something out that is similar. Know what you grow. Labeling means giving the variety of cultivar not just zinnias but what variety of zinnia: ‘Border Beauty’ Zinnia, ‘Oklahoma’ Zinnia, ‘Big Tetra’ Zinnia, etc.

IMG_0015Be sure to exhibit correct number of cultivars according to the schedule. The schedule will indicate whether one, two, three, four, etc. blooms, spikes, sprays are to be shown. If exhibiting more than one, all cultivars should look exactly alike as to maturity, color, form, size, etc. They should look like identical twins, triplets, etc.

Winning a ribbon in horticulture does not mean just growing the best flower or plant but skill in grooming and preparing your exhibit. Planning ahead, studying the schedule, and learning how a flower or plant is judged helps you win.

The Ohio Association of Garden Clubs hold Exhibitors’ and Judges’ Schools twice a year.  It is a venue for training new flower show judges, providing continuing education for current flower show judges and teaching exhibitors the ins and outs of exhibiting in a flower show.

Johnny Appleseed Highway

Johnny Appleseed Highway
Portion of the Johnny Appleseed Highway

John Chapman (September 26, 1774 – March 18, 1845), often called Johnny Appleseed, was an American pioneer nurseryman who had a vision of making the wilderness fruitful. With his bag of appleseeds, herbs and sometimes evergreen seedlings, he traveled down the Ohio River trails, up the Muskingum, back and forth, through the central part of Ohio, and finally to Indiana where he died in 1845.

In small clearings he made plantings over the state. Through the years he traveled to tend his orchards, giving and planting more seeds. He lived a simple life, loving plants, creatures of the wood and all mankind.

Appleseed Highway Marker
Appleseed Highway Marker

In the 1930s, The Ohio Association of Garden Clubs had members who worked with the Ohio Roadside Council and attended the Short Course on Roadside Development that was offered by the Ohio State Highway Department and the Ohio State University. Gradually, the idea of selecting a highway planting as a statewide beautification project took form to beautify and soften the impact of Ohio’s developing highways.

In 1950, the “Johnny Appleseed Memorial Highway” was dedicated by the State of Ohio. It ran north from Pomeroy on the Ohio River through Columbus, to Toledo and on to Lake Erie via State Routes 33, 31 and 25. The project focused on roadside plantings of crabapples, native trees and shrubs to accentuate scenic views, landscapes, and points of interest along the routes.

The Highway Department workers. Circa 1950
The Highway Department workers. Circa 1950

Landscape architects of the State Highway Department designed plantings and maintained them. OAGC clubs from around the state supported the efforts financially and provided supplemental beautification plantings. (Source, The Garden Path archives, 1951)