Florida Gardener magazine editor Kathy Echevarria holds corals to be planted on a recent dive trip in the Keys. The group is sponsoring one of the Coral Foundation’s planting reefs in the coming year.

“Gardening underwater? Yes, we’re helping to restore our precious coral reefs,” said Garden Club of the Upper Keys (GCUK) president Marilyn Rogers. The local club is part of the statewide Florida Federation of Garden Clubs (FFGC). The FFGC, with its 13,000 members in 200 clubs and circles, adopted the Coral Restoration Foundation as a yearlong project and is financially sponsoring the planting of one reef for the coming year.

“Members of our club got excited when they heard about the statewide group’s yearlong focus on replanting coral reefs,” said Rogers.

A dive boat full of the Garden Club of the Upper Keys members and friends recently spent two days with the Coral Reef Foundation learning how to successfully help establish new coral growth. FFGC president Sue Angle and Florida Gardener magazine editor Kathy Echevarria were among those absorbing information about coral habits. Each day started with classroom time prepping the participants for the dive and how to handle the corals.

“One of the guiding principles for successful gardening is ‘right plant, right place’ – the same holds true for underwater gardening,” Rogers said.

The local garden club is supporting a planting area on French Reef, the same location where 10 members and friends spent time learning about coral “gardening.”

Underwater gardening — coral restoration — requires similar steps to regular gardening, according to Rogers. “Site selection and preparation are key elements for success. The gardener diver decides where to sit the coral, in what position and preps the spot,” she said.


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