Helping pollinators highlighted at Ag Progress Days Yard and Garden Area

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The benefits of creating pollinator-friendly landscapes is a focus of the Yard and Garden Area this year at Ag Progress Days, Aug. 14-16.

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," said Yard and Garden Area organizer Molly Sturniolo, Penn State Extension Master Gardener coordinator for Centre County. "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 will again 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.

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

In addition, specialists from Penn State's departments of Plant Science, Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology, and Entomology will offer advice and help to solve plant and pest problems. Visitors can bring insects or plant samples for identification.

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. Visitors can see posters explaining Penn State research on pollinator issues,and 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 honey bees' daily activities — will be located up the hill from the honey bee demonstration area.

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.

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

Tuesday, Aug. 14

11 a.m. — Fruit Trees in the Home Garden, presented by Rich Marini, professor of horticulture. Peach and apple trees at the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden site will be used to discuss rootstocks for fruit trees, pruning and tree training, and wildlife and pest control for fruit trees. Apple trees on dwarfing rootstocks trained to a trellis along with peach trees that have been minimally pruned will serve as examples of trees typically found in home orchards. 

1:30 p.m. — Growboxes, presented by Beverly Lipski, master gardener. Do you want to grow tomatoes and basil on a shady site where the only sun is on a patio or deck? Live in an apartment? Have black walnuts everywhere? Are you a careless waterer? Struggle with plant diseases in the soil? Grow boxes with a self-watering reservoir are the perfect answer to these problems.

Wednesday, Aug. 15

1 p.m. — Growing, Harvesting and Using Culinary Herbs, presented by Sharon Phillips, master gardener. Phillips will lead a group discussion on experiences growing, harvesting and using culinary herbs. Participants will enjoy smelling and tasting fresh herbs, and handouts will be provided on their uses. 

6 p.m. — All About Garlic, presented by Chris Igo, master gardener. Penn State Extension Master Gardeners will explain the step-by-step process of growing garlic. Discussion will cover bed preparation, types of garlic, planting, mulching and maintenance.

Thursday, Aug. 16 

10 a.m. — Disease Prevention in the Home Garden, presented by Beth Gugino, associate professor of plant pathology. Come learn about common diseases that can be found in your vegetable garden. Learn about the microbes that cause disease, what conditions promote disease, and tools and tricks for managing diseases in an environmentally friendly manner.

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, located 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 14; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 15; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 16. 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 the event also can be found on Facebook (@AgProgressDays).

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Last Updated July 30, 2018