ST. MARYS – The Penn State Extension Master Gardeners of Elk and Cameron County group is dedicated to educating the public on horticultural topics, while acting as a resource and helping hand.
Jane Olson, master garden coordinator for Elk and Cameron County, said the group was formed in 2016, thanks to the efforts of Steve Marconi. It currently has 10 active volunteers.
The group’s association with Penn State Extension allows volunteers to tap into a vast network of experts, Olson added, and gain experience within the state and nationally.
Volunteers also maintain a demonstration garden at Ridgway and a school garden for Elcam Inc. daycare in St. Marys.
Like other organizations, the group has encountered some challenges due to COVID-19 when it comes to delivering programs, Olson said.
âBut recently, we were able to remotely provide free grow kits to novice gardeners through the St. Marys Public Library,â she said, adding that the kits included all the materials and instructions needed to grow plants. plants. âThey introduced young gardeners to concepts such as ‘sprouting’, ‘hardening’ and ‘transplanting’.
The SMPL also provided a word search puzzle with these terms. The program has been well received, said Olson, with more than 35 kits distributed in three days.
The group also provided educational content to the Elcam daycare, Olson said.
âI am very proud of the creativity of our volunteers and their ability to continue to provide education during a difficult time,â she said.
Olson noted that the group is also donating produce from its Ridgway demonstration garden to the Salvation Army, which equates to more than 150 pounds of produce in 2021.
The PSU Extension Master Gardeners groups are a resource in several ways, noted Olson.
âToday more than ever, our community is interested in healthy lifestyles and the preservation of the environment,â she said. âWhether it’s growing their own produce, encouraging native plant species on their properties, or managing invasive species, we’re here to help.
Volunteers also teach and encourage ‘integrated pest management,’ an IPM approach that ‘starts with management strategies that have the least impact on the environment and encourages the safe and responsible use of fertilizers and chemicals where appropriate. is necessary “.
The group has run several fundraising programs, including a fall plant sale, as many trees and shrubs are doing well with the fall planting, Olson said. A âSeed Saving Seminarâ was held with the Barbara Moscato Brown Memorial at Emporium on June 24th.
A basic training class will also be held in October, Olson noted.
The Master Gardeners of Elk and Cameron County also have a free helpline, where homeowners can call or email with questions about gardening and landscaping.
âIf we can’t answer their questions directly, we can direct them to the appropriate entity within PSU Extension who can help them,â Olson said.
Anyone interested in joining the group, or owners with questions, can call 814-776-5331 ext. 308, or send an email to [email protected]