Master Gardeners Share Knowledge, Love of Plants at Demonstration GardenJul 31, 2018 02:22PM ● By Kathleen Ganster
By Kathleen Ganster
North Hills’ gardeners have a wonderful resource located practically in their backyard.
The Penn State Extension Master Gardener Demonstration Garden is at the corner of East Ingomar Road and Babcock Boulevard in North Park. The demonstration garden comes complete with smaller gardens—each focusing on specialty or experimental plants—as well as master gardeners who can answer questions and even a garden hotline.
On August 18, the public is invited to the free Garden in the Parks Field Day featuring Penn State Creamery ice cream. “Come for the ice cream, but stay for the knowledge,” said Phillip Bauerle, master gardener coordinator, Penn State Extension Allegheny County.
A major mission of the Master Gardener Program is to help educate the public about gardening techniques using research-based techniques and methods. One of the ways to accomplish this task is the Demonstration Garden. “We want gardeners to be able to easily get information and see the gardens up close,” Bauerle said.
The North Park garden is 1,800 sq. ft. with 10 gardens that showcase flowering plants and herbs. Situated in front of the North Park Veterans Memorial and old cannon, the gardens enhance the peaceful setting. Gardens include pollinator, herb, and trial bed gardens, as well as field research plants from the Southeast Agricultural Research and Extension (SEAREC) program out of Landisville, PA.
“Local gardeners can come get ideas for garden designs and see what plants do well in our area. They can even see plants before they are released for sale to the public,” said Bauerle.
Master Gardeners plant, oversee, maintain and educate at each of the seven demonstration gardens throughout Allegheny County. During the growing season, usually April through October depending on the weather, Master Gardeners are available to answer questions one night a week. At the North Park Demonstration Garden, gardeners are available Wednesday evenings from 4 to 8 p.m. weather permitting, and may also be available at other times.
“The public can come and ask questions or brings samples that have been double bagged to show our gardeners and ask for help with pest problems and other issues,” Bauerle said.
It isn’t easy to become a Master Gardener. The Penn State Extension Master Garden program requires 40 hours of basic classroom training in topics such as plant diseases, indoor plants, lawn care, basic botany and plant propagation. Students must also score an 80 percent or higher on the final exam and serve an additional 50 hours in approved volunteer work. The requirements must be completed in one calendar year for certification. Gardeners must also continue their work to maintain their certification.
“These are exceptionally passionate people who want to share their knowledge with the public,” Bauerle said.
Garden clubs, school groups, and other organizations can take free, hands-on visits and tours with advance notice. “We want people to visit our gardens,” Bauerle said.
The Garden in the Parks Field Day will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sat., Aug.18 at both the North Park and South Park gardens. In addition to that famous ice cream, master gardeners will have demonstration tables where guests can taste test garlic, tomatoes and other fresh produce, ask questions and tour the gardens.
“The ice cream serves as a way to attract people, but also helps to foster conversations about pollinators and other topics,” Bauerle said.
For more information, visit www.extension.psu.edu/Allegheny or call the Garden Hotline at 412-482-3476. They are also on Facebook and Instagram. Requirements for the Master Gardener program are listed at https://extension.psu.edu/programs/master-gardener/join.