Penn State Master Gardeners to hold open house, offer advice in Hempfield

| Thursday, June 27, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

When Ray Hartland put in a patch garden behind his Southwest Greensburg home more than 10 years ago, he called the Penn State Master Gardeners of Westmoreland County for advice.

The relationship is still going strong.

Hartland, who calls the Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens the “gem of Greensburg,” frequently visits the gardens to get ideas and look at the beautiful flowers.

It's so much better than looking at pictures in a book or a magazine, he said.

“When I have a problem, I go on the Internet, but inevitably always call them,” said Hartland, who also grows tomatoes in his garden. “I call them and they always come up with an answer for me.”

The Penn State Master Gardeners of Westmoreland County will feature a Demonstration Gardens Open House on July 13. Master Gardeners will be available to answer questions from the public about good gardening practices, including pest prevention.

The one-acre gardens, which feature four L-shaped gardens with an oval perennial bed in the middle, include an herb garden, an old-fashioned garden (things Grandma may have had, such as lilacs), a vegetable garden, a memorial garden and a composting site.

The composting site is used as an educational tool through a partnership with Westmoreland Cleanways. Master Gardeners teach composting classes for the public, showing different ways to compost. In addition, spring and fall workshops are offered and a series of gardening classes are offered in March and April every year at Westmoreland County Community College near Youngwood.

“There's a lot going on out there,” said Lynda Hyatt, Westmoreland County Master Gardener coordinator, whose grandfather got her interested in gardening in his vegetable garden. “A big feature is the daylily. There are over 100 named varieties of daylilies in a wide range of colors that will be in peak season in July.”

Although the open house event has been offered the last eight years, this is the first time the event is being held on a Saturday. Hyatt said the hope is to attract more people to the gardens. Last year's open house attracted about 80 to 100 people.

The gardens are open from dawn to dusk every day. They've even held a wedding in the Old-Fashioned Garden last year. The Master Gardeners offer advice to Hartland and many other residents. Last week, there was a call about a willow leaf beetle affecting a pussy willow.

“We try to use the most appropriate recommendation for what we're seeing, but it is all based on research out of Penn State,” Hyatt said.

The Master Gardeners of Westmoreland County donate items from their vegetable garden to the Westmoreland County Food Bank through its Operation Fresh Express perishable food program.

Last year alone, they donated 1,500 pounds of tomatoes, peppers, cabbages and more.

“They've been doing this for many years,” said Jennifer Miller, development director at Westmoreland County Food Bank. “They're very generous and they believe in giving back to the community.”

For Hyatt, that's only one of the reasons she's stayed for the last 17 years.

“Every day is different,” she said.

Michele Stewardson is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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