Penn State Master Gardeners plan extravaganza in Centre County

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Central Pennsylvania residents can get a head start in preparing beds, planting plants and sprucing up their landscape by visiting the Garden Fair and Plant Sale hosted by Penn State Extension Master Gardeners of Centre County.

Featuring free parking and admission, the annual event takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 16, at the Ag Progress Days site at Penn State's Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs. The site is 9 miles southwest of State College on state Route 45.

A map and driving directions are available online.

The event will offer more than 5,000 native plants, free educational garden talks and a large vendors' mart with unique garden products and foods. Information, including lists of plants, sponsors, vendors and scheduled talks, is available on the event website.

Proceeds from this event -- which is the premier fundraiser for the Master Gardener program in Centre County -- will help the program continue to offer outreach and gardening education to the public.

"If anyone needs to know what to plant, where to plant it and when to plant it, they will find answers at this event," said Molly Sturniolo, Master Gardener coordinator for Centre County. Master Gardeners will be available to answer gardening questions, furnish advice and discuss garden, lawn, tree and insect problems.

Trained by Penn State Extension, Master Gardeners are volunteers who provide residents with research-based educational programs in consumer horticulture and environmental stewardship. They greatly magnify the reach and ability of Penn State Extension to offer practical, how-to advice and problem-solving assistance.

A lineup of how-to talks by experts in their respective fields will cover horticulture tips, techniques and fresh ideas for every gardener, from inexperienced growers to the greenest thumbs. Presentations are scheduled on the half hour beginning at 10 a.m.

The talks are scheduled at two presentation areas and include eight, one-hour presentations covering topics ranging from strawberries and blueberries at 10 a.m. to environmental cleanup of invasive plants using goats at 1:30 p.m. All talks are free thanks to event sponsors.

A wide assortment of garden tools, decor, supplies, garden accessories, landscape services and other unique products will make the vendor mart a must-stop place for visitors. The environmentally conscious will find birdhouses, cold frames and garden statues made from recycled materials as well as environmental lawn services.

Attendees even can buy garden sheds and chicken coops. A number of new food and condiment vendors will provide opportunities to taste their food products or buy organic and heirloom plants. Breakfast and lunch items also will be available from Red Rooster Catering.

"We've planned so much for visitors to see, do and learn at the fair," said Sturniolo. "If they dash off after purchasing plants, they will miss a great deal."

There will be a garage sale of garden items and a silent auction featuring valuable items from local merchants, such as a truckload of mulch from JRS Landscaping. Visitors may also register for valuable door prizes which will be located in the three vendor areas.

The Pasto Agricultural Museum will be open for the entirely of the Garden Fair and Plant Sale. Outside the museum, an 1840s kitchen garden is taking shape. It will eventually contain herbs, fruits and vegetables that would have been found in kitchen gardens in the region, with culinary, medicinal and fiber-coloring (dying) plants represented.

"These gardens would have been just outside the kitchen door in the early to mid-1800s," explained Rita Graef, Pasto Museum curator. "Before the civil war and the dawn of transportation and road systems, rural farmwives depended on what they could find locally to flavor a meal, soothe a toothache or settle an upset stomach. Most families in this region grew some of their own flax to produce the fiber they needed for weaving into linen cloth. Natural plant materials would have been used for coloring."

Master Gardeners will be on hand at the museum to help visitors understand why a soil test is an important step in establishing a new garden or revitalizing an existing one. Soil test kits will be available for purchase, cash or check only. "We received our own soil test results and will discuss amendments for the soil as we prepare the garden beds for planting," Graef said.

Organizers of the Garden Fair and Plant Sale suggest that visitors bring a wagon or cart to transport their plants. A cool, shady, supervised spot will be provided where wagons and purchased plants can be parked while attendees move about the grounds.

Anyone interested in becoming a Master Gardener can contact the Penn State Extension county office. Centre County residents can contact Molly Sturniolo.

Penn State Master Gardener hotline volunteers in Centre County are available to answer gardening questions from 9 a.m. to noon on Mondays and Wednesdays, at centremg@ag.psu.edu or 814-355-4897.

A complete list of upcoming Master Gardener events in the Centre County area can be found online.

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Last Updated May 11, 2015