Master Gardeners to keep things buzzing at Ag Progress Days

University Park, Pa. -- If things seem all aflutter around the garden demonstration plots at Penn State's Ag Progress Days, to be held Aug. 16-18 at Rock Springs, it may be because the huge number of flowers and plantings within the plots will be celebrating their third year of attracting and nourishing the native bees, butterflies and other pollinators for which they are intended.

As the nation's populations of pollinators continued to plummet, Penn State Master Gardeners from across the state and horticulture faculty created and nurtured the gardens at the foot of 11th Street at the show site to demonstrate that supplying pollinators with food and habitat can be beautiful.

Molly Sturniolo, coordinator for Master Gardeners in Centre County, said Ag Progress Days visitors find them an effective exhibit, often stopping because they are drawn to the colorful floral displays and staying to comment on the abundance of butterflies.

"Since they're only three years old, the demo plots are still relatively new," said Sturniolo, "but they are established well enough to serve as living proof that the average gardener can do something to attract and help pollinators -- that planting these flowers and other host plants is well within their ability."

Experts say that pollinators promote the survival of 90 percent of the world's flowering species and are responsible for one out of every three bites of food consumers eat, but wild honeybee populations have declined 25 percent since 1990 and more than 50 pollinator species are either threatened or endangered.

To help support and propagate these beneficial insects, Penn State Master Gardeners offer their Pollinator Friendly Garden Certification program, which teaches homeowners and gardeners to certify their landscapes as pollinator-friendly. The certification includes such skills as planting a year-round native garden of diverse and abundant plants, maintaining a parcel of wild and undisturbed vegetation, installing bee nests and minimizing pesticide use.

Visitors to Ag Progress Days who sign up to complete the four-step certification process (which carries a $10 fee) will be eligible to purchase a pollinator-friendly sign for their property. Sturniolo said Master Gardeners also will be on hand to answer any questions about horticulture and gardening in general.

Sponsored by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, nine miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 16; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 17; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 18. Admission and parking are free. Free shuttle bus service between the Ag Progress Days site and downtown State College will be available.

For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website at http://apd.psu.edu. Twitter users can find and share information about the event by using the hashtag #agprogress.

For more information, contact Molly Sturniolo, Centre County Master Gardeners coordinator, at 814-355-4897 or by e-mail at mas79@psu.edu.

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Last Updated August 01, 2011