Expert gardening advice available at Ag Progress Days Yard and Garden Area

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Need advice on plant or pest problems? A team of Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences experts will be available for consultation in the Yard and Garden Area during Ag Progress Days, Aug. 9-11.

Experts include Penn State Extension Master Gardeners, extension educators, and specialists in horticulture, plant pathology and entomology. Master Gardeners from across the state will dispense advice to gardening enthusiasts at the “Ask a Master Gardener” booth. There will also be presentations on container gardening, seed saving, building raised beds, winter sowing, flower arranging and tomato grafting.

Master Gardeners from Center County will lead tours of the 14-year-old demonstration garden at the site. They will answer questions and share techniques for growing various herbaceous and woody plants.

The flowers and plantings in the garden attract and nourish huge numbers of native bees, butterflies and other pollinators. With pollinators in jeopardy, Penn State Master Gardeners teamed up 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.

To help support and generate these beneficial insects, the Penn State Master Gardener Program continues to 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 while providing food, a water source and shelter for the pollinators. Those who complete the four-step certification process, which carries a $10 fee, will be eligible to purchase a pollinator-friendly sign for their property.

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

“The high tunnel will focus on educating the community on cut flowers, an increasing area of ​​interest for home gardeners and commercial growers,” said Andy Faust, Master Gardener area coordinator. “In addition, a butterfly tent will be open for anyone to visit and learn about our pollinators and the plants that attract them.”

Located adjacent to the raised garden beds will be an observation beehive, where experts from Penn State Extension and the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association will be available to discuss beekeeping and native bees. Visitors can see posters explaining Penn State research on pollinator issues, and prospective beekeepers can get information on Extension’s innovative online course, Beekeeping 101.

Members of the López-Uribe lab in Penn State’s Entomology Department will also provide information about Pennsylvania’s wild bees. Visitors can observe preserved crop pollinators and learn about the bee biodiversity that is recorded in Pennsylvania.

For the more curious and adventurous attendee 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.

At the vegetable tent, the potato plot will feature multiple potato varieties growing in the soil and freshly dug tubers. Designed for potato farmers and backyard gardeners alike, visitors are encouraged to bring their potato-growing questions. The tent will display some of the potato varieties grown in Pennsylvania, including some new varieties.

The following 30-minute presentations are scheduled at the Yard and Garden Area:

Tuesday, Aug. 9

10 am: Flower Arranging
Noon: Seed-Saving Basics
1 p.m.: Natural History of Chocolate
2 p.m.: Propagation Demonstration
3 p.m.: Container Gardening

Wednesday, Aug. 10

10 am: Tomato Grafting Demonstration
11 am: For the Love of Garlic
1 p.m.: Winter Sowing
2 p.m.: Let’s Start with Soil
3 p.m.: Tomato Grafting Demonstration
4 p.m.: Flower Arranging

Thursday, Aug. 11

10 am: Flower Arranging
11 am: How to Construct a Raised Bed
1 p.m.: Let’s Start with Soil

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 am to 5 pm Aug. 9; 9 am to 7 pm Aug. 10; and 9 am to 4 pm Aug. 11. 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 can also be found on Facebook (@AgProgressDays).