Learn about new flower varieties, 'fertigation' at Ag Progress Days

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Flowers from variety trials at Penn State's Southeast Agricultural Research and Extension Center and tips on how to use "fertigation" in the garden will be among new features offered this year at the Yard and Garden Area at Ag Progress Days, Aug. 15-17.

Also new this year is an exhibit staffed by members of the Penn State Extension Food Safety Team, who will answer questions about preparing a produce farm for food-safety audits.

And, as gardening enthusiasts have come to expect, attendees can get advice and information on flower arranging, growing herbs, square-foot gardening, hydroponics, pollinators and creating habitat for bees and butterflies, high-tunnels, and potato varieties. Experts, including Penn State Master Gardeners, will be on hand to answer questions about gardening and landscaping.

Some of the annual flower varieties now being tested and compared at the Research and Extension Center in Landisville, Lancaster County, will be on display. Molly Sturniolo, Centre County Master Gardener and Lawn and Garden Area coordinator, said visitors may be interested to see how new varieties of flowers measure up.

"Fertigation" is a process that combines fertilization and irrigation, Sturniolo noted. "Two workshops will be presented to show visitors how to use plastic mulches, drip irrigation, fertigation and row covers," she said. "The different components will be discussed and highlighted at the demonstration site next to the Master Gardeners High Tunnel."

The benefits of creating pollinator-friendly landscapes is a focus of the Yard and Garden Area. The flowers and plantings in the 8-year-old demonstration plots at the site attract and nourish huge numbers of native bees, butterflies and other pollinators. With pollinators in jeopardy, Penn State Master Gardeners teamed with horticulture faculty members to create and nurture the gardens — located at the end of 11th Street at the show site — to demonstrate that supplying pollinators with food and habitat can be beautiful.

"The demonstration plots serve as living proof that the average gardener can do something to attract and help pollinators," Sturniolo said. "Planting these flowers and other host plants is well within the ability of the average Pennsylvania gardener."

To help support and propagate these beneficial insects, Penn State Master Gardeners offer the Pollinator Friendly Garden Certification program, which teaches homeowners and gardeners to certify their landscapes as pollinator-friendly.

The certification includes such steps 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 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.

Located adjacent to the raised garden beds will be an observation beehive, where experts from the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association and Penn State Extension will conduct honeybee demonstrations and provide guidance. Prospective beekeepers can get information on Penn State Extension's innovative online course, Beekeeping 101.

For the more curious and adventurous who'd like to gain a deeper understanding of beekeeping, a small bee yard — where visitors can watch a beekeeper open hives and talk about the honeybees' daily activities — will be located up the hill from the honeybee demonstration area.

Master Gardeners will be on hand in the Yard and Garden Tent to answer general questions about horticulture and gardening. In addition, experts from Penn State's departments of Plant Science, Plant Pathology and Entomology will offer advice and help solve plant and pest problems. Visitors can bring insects or plant samples for identification.

The Yard and Garden Area also will highlight the benefits of growing plants in high tunnels and backyard high tunnels, which are greenhouse-like structures that often enable growers to fine-tune the growth environment and extend the growing season.

Finally, the area will feature potato crops, with multiple potato varieties growing in the soil and freshly dug tubers. Visitors can see some of the potato varieties grown in Pennsylvania, as well as some new varieties. Freshly harvested potato samples will be on display.

The following one-hour presentations are scheduled at the Yard and Garden Area:

Tuesday, Aug. 15

10:30 a.m. -- Plastic Mulch, Drip Irrigation and Fertigation

1 p.m. -- Flower-Arranging Demonstration

Wednesday, Aug. 16

11 a.m. -- Flower-Arranging Demonstration

2 p.m. -- Flower-Arranging Demonstration

Thursday, Aug. 17

10:30 a.m. -- Plastic Mulch, Drip Irrigation and Fertigation

11 a.m. -- Flower Arranging Demonstration

2 p.m. -- Flower-Arranging Demonstration

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, 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 15; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 16; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 17. Admission and parking are free.

For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website. Twitter users can find and share information about the event by using the hashtag #agprogressdays, and Facebook users can find the event at https://www.facebook.com/AgProgressDays.

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Last Updated August 03, 2017