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Learn to Garden at the Ag Center

As the weather warms it’s time again for Horticultural Program Coordinator Mary Ann Ryan and her consumer horticulture team at the Penn State Extension Building at 670 Old Harrisburg Rd. in Gettysburg to help people learn to garden.

The extension service programs include courses, workshops and a wide variety of demonstration gardens on the building site, aimed at both adults and children. Interested people can drop by for information about the programs.

“The gardens teach people how to garden,” said Ryan.  “They’re just getting going this year.”

Ryan said some themes for this year’s gardens included “Wellness in the Garden” and “Bugs, Blooms, and Beyond.”

This year’s gardens include a pollinator garden to attract bees and butterflies; a holistic herb garden; a tea garden; a youth garden; a pizza garden; a garden in miniature; and a sensory garden.

The demonstration gardens are tended by a team of about 20 Master Gardeners, each of whom has completed a six-month training program that prepares them to teach at the extension program.

“I wanted to do something different,” said Master Gardener Ben Smith as he displayed the various looks, smells, and healthy aspects of this tea garden. His plantings included stevia, marjoram, lemon balm, chamomile, and holy basil.

Behind the demonstration garden are the eighteen 20 ft. x 20 ft. plots of the Vegetable Learning Garden where people can try their hand at growing flowers and vegetables under the watchful and helpful eyes of the master gardeners. Church groups, SCCAP volunteers, and a family of Afghan refugees are some of the current users. 

Ryan said the gardens were designed to give people ideas.  “Gardening is creative, simple, useful, and inexpensive,” she said.

Research is another major mission of the extension office and the program continually runs test trials and butterfly counting studies. “There are always changes in the garden and the team is always monitoring them,” said Ryan.

Ryan said a major recent change in the teaching curriculum is an emphasis on more sustainable gardening. “We’re changing how people grow; letting things grow wild,” she said.

A focus is on using native plants that take less irrigation and require less maintenance.

Featured image caption: Smith and Ryan

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Charles Stangor is Gettysburg Connection's Publisher and Editor in Chief.

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