Cooperative Extension offers educational programs for area gardeners

Penn State Cooperative Extension in Chester County has announced a new outreach effort to provide support to the area’s community gardens. Penn State Master Gardeners will now offer free on-site educational programs to help community gardeners get the most from their plots.

A wide range of topics is available, including composting, soil preparation, growing from seed, pest management, efficient watering techniques, harvest timing and food preservation. The on-site programs also can include an evaluation of the existing garden plot with a question and answer session specific to the issues faced by the gardeners at the site. The program also will help connect community gardens with local food banks that can use excess produce.

Interest in community gardens, and in growing vegetables for food, has increased dramatically. In Chester County, community gardens are located in senior communities, apartment complexes, community parks, church properties, and suburban neighborhoods, among other sites.

“The Master Gardener community garden outreach effort is designed to help community gardeners make the most efficient use of their plots, whether they have been growing vegetables for years, or are new to gardening,” said Nancy Sakaduski, Chester County Master Gardener Coordinator. “In these challenging times, many people aren’t just gardening for fun, they’re gardening for food. Our goal is to provide the educational resources that will help them succeed.”

Master Gardener Programs are affiliated with land-grant universities such as Penn State and managed through the Cooperative Extension service. Master Gardeners are volunteers who educate the public about gardening and horticultural issues. Chester County Master Gardeners work year-round on a variety of projects, including demonstration gardens, horticultural therapy programs, community gardens outreach, and a Speakers Bureau that offers talks on a wide range of horticultural subjects.

A key function of the Master Gardeners is a Hotline for consumer gardening questions. Master Gardeners assist area residents with questions about growing vegetables, flowers, and other plants; dealing with insect and disease problems; and solving wildlife issues. Questions may be submitted by phone at 610-696-3500, but residents are encouraged to contact the Hotline via email at [email protected].

For more information about the Penn State Master Gardener program, contact the Chester County Penn State Cooperative Extension office located at 601 Westtown Rd. in West Chester by calling 610-696-3500 or send an e-mail to Nancy Sakaduski, Chester County master gardener coordinator, at [email protected]. The Chester County Master Gardeners also maintain an informational page on Facebook.