Thursday, April 26, 2018

Plant Sale Success!

Marc Cappelletti

All smiles throughout the day. 
The morning sunshine shone warm and bright among the flowering trees, plants and display tables Sunday morning at the Fairmount Park Horticulture Center, as Penn State University Extension Master Gardeners set up for their annual plant sale. 

This annual sale raises funds for future outreach all while providing the public with expertly grown and cared for plants at very affordable prices.  

Learning about the power of seeds at the Science Fair tables.

Science Festival displays enhanced the event further, and were particularly intriguing to families and children curious about the soil beneath their feet and how science plays a part in their everyday lives. 
Container Gardening Presentation

Everything from succulents to herbs to tomatoes, peppers, edible greens, perennials, native plants and more were on sale. 

And as a bonus, the Master Gardeners were on hand to answer all gardening questions.

Almost time for tomatoes! 

Presentations ran throughout the morning as well, giving visitors a chance to learn about vermiculture (composting with worms), container gardening and the use of indoor plants to clean the air. 
A satisfied customer. 

City living--you have to get those plants home any way possible! 

A delicious salad dressing recipe to spice up our fresh greens. 

Teaching about herb pairings and salad greens. 
Visitors could also learn easy salad dressing recipes and herb pairings, possibly to use in time with their newly purchased plants!

The perfect "classroom" setting.

Everyone who came also enjoyed the chance to appreciate nature, our ultimate goal on this Earth Day.

Penn State Master Gardeners send a warm thanks to everyone that was able to attend.  Enjoy your plants!  

As always, we would love to hear from you.  How did you spend your Earth Day?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Penn State Extension MG Edible Demonstration Garden at Fairmont Park’s Horticultural Center is expanding, again!

by Michelle L. Dauberman

Last year the edible demonstration garden expanded its footprint by adding five raised beds and this year the garden is adding four more!  

This fun expansion was spear headed by Lois Fischer and graciously supported by the Edible Garden Committee, Penn State Extension Master Gardeners & some philanthropic Drexel University students.

This is such an exciting time for the garden so check out the new additions while we celebrate Earth Day during the Penn State Extension Master Gardener Plant Sale on April 22, 2018.  Visit our location again over the summer when the garden at it peak!

Thanks to everyone who donated their generous time, materials and labor!

For more information on the Penn State Extension MG Garden Day and Plant Sale:

For more information on raised beds:

Monday, March 26, 2018

POP CORE with Philadelphia Orchard Project

TJ Hunt

On March 10, Master Gardeners joined volunteers and staff at Overbrook School for the Blind for an orchard pruning workshop led by the Philadelphia Orchard Project (POP). This class was offered as part of their POP CORE (Community Orchard Resilience Education) series—a four-part training series “intended to grow the knowledge, skillset, and self-reliance of [POP’s] community orchard partners and volunteers, resulting in happier, healthier, and more productive community orchards.”

POP's Phil Forsyth and Alkebu-Lan Marcus demonstrate the use of pole pruners on a peach tree in the OSB orchard.

After learning about the basics of ecological orchard care and pruning in a morning lecture session, participants received hands-on pruning instruction in the Overbrook School for the Blind orchard—one of POP’s partner sites.

Phil gives an overview of cane pruning. (Photo courtesy of Alyssa Schimmel.)

Other courses in the POP CORE series have covered pest and disease management, and common and creative uses for orchard fruits, herbs, and fungi. Part 4 of the series will take place this Thursday, March 29 at Bartram’s Garden and will provide an introduction to permaculture and Philadelphia’s food system (details and registration link here).

A Cornelian cherry tree in OSB's orchard. (Photo courtesy of Alyssa Schimmel.) 

For those interested in learning more about orchard care in general, POP’s website offers a wealth of informational resources, as well as opportunities to get involved with Philadelphia’s many community orchards. 

Philadelphia Orchard Project also partners with the Penn State Extension Master Gardeners of Philadelphia on the food forest orchard at the Fairmount Park Horticulture Center. Tours of the food forest and other MG demonstration gardens will be available at the 5th Annual Garden Day and Plant Sale on April 22—for more details, see the flyer in our previous post!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Questions from the Master Gardener Hot Line: Nematodes to the Rescue!

Nature's Way to Control Beetles and Grubs
by Pat Vance
Volunteers for the Philadelphia Master Gardener Hot Line have researched and answered some interesting questions. From time to time, we'd like to share some of those with you.
Photo: Philadelphia Master Gardeners

If you have a question about gardening, call us at 215 314 8711 or send an email to

Photo: PSU Extension
Beetle and Grub Infestation:
His pepper plants did great for several years, but during the last three years, they have suffered from beetle infestation. He begins to see grubs, the larval stage, starting in June. By the end of the month, the beetles are swarming. They devour blossoms and chew through the petioles of the leaves, leaving behind a ragged sorry-looking stem with dead leaves scattered on the ground. When the beetles disappear in another month, the plants recover. But his crop of peppers is diminishing with each season. He doesn't want to use pesticides. Is there another option?

Photo: PSU Extension
Cultural Practices: 
He can till the soil in the spring to remove the grubs, and he can rotate plant positions every year.  

Turning over the soil has advantages in a few ways, but it can also increase annual weed growth. It is also tedious and may not be completely successful for removing all the grubs.

Photo: OR State Univ Extension Master Gardener
Rotation of crops is always a good idea for many reasons. In this case, the beetles don't bother the tomatoes or leafy greens. They go straight for the peppers.

In a large garden, moving the peppers from year to year can help. However, this man has a small garden. Flying beetles won't have any trouble locating plants that are now only a few feet from last year's site.

Biological Control: 
Photo: PSU Extension
Nematodes to the rescue! Nematodes are tiny, clear worms that occur naturally in nearly every ecological niche on earth. There are thousands of kinds of nematodes found in soil, and fresh or salt water from the hottest to the coldest climates, including mountains, deserts, and deep ocean trenches. Most of them are tubular, tapered at each end, and cannot be seen with the naked eye.

 There are a few nematodes that can cause damage to plants, but the ones of particular interest to gardeners are parasitic nematodes, often simply called beneficial nematodes.

Photo: PSU Extension
Beneficial nematodes kill the larvae of many species by piercing and entering them, and then secreting toxic bacteria.
Photo: PSU Extension
The nematode divides inside the dead grub. Then the progeny move on through the soil, using differences in heat and CO2 to find more grubs. Many kinds of soil-dwelling pests can be controlled this way, including beetles such as Japanese and Green June beetles, maggots, fleas, and several kinds of weevils and borers. They are useful for infestations of grubs on lawns as well as in garden beds.

Here is a link to an article on beneficial nematodes from Penn State Extension

Photo: Arbico
The nematodes should be applied when the grubs are growing in the soil. For many insects, that's in the spring, but be sure to identify your garden pest carefully and understand the timing of its life cycle.

A few million nematodes can be applied to a 1000 square-foot garden and successfully contain pest infestations. One application may be enough, but in some cases, the nematodes must be re-applied for a couple of years.

You can buy beneficial nematodes from a few sources. Here are links to a few:
Gardens Alive!:
Arbico Organics:

Arbico has a very good FAQ page on beneficial nematodes:

The nematodes may arrive suspended in a liquid or gel, on a sponge, or in moist granules. They are added to water, gently stirred to break apart any clumps, and allowed to soak for a short time. The exact procedure will be explained in the product insert.
Photo: City of Tillamook, OR
The slurry is then sprinkled on the garden. This can be done with anything from a watering can to commercial sprayers. They will settle to the bottom of the can or bucket, so the water should be stirred frequently during the application. They will clog fine filters and meshes, so it's best to leave those off. Remember that nematodes are living organisms and should be handled gently.

Nematodes need moisture, so the soil should be watered well before application and then lightly afterward. Late afternoon is ideal to avoid the hottest temperatures of the day until the nematodes have established themselves in the ground.

For more information, here are a couple of additional links:
UMass Amherst:
UMD extension:

Using parasitic nematodes is a safe, sustainable, and easy way to manage garden pests that live in the soil.
Photo: PSU Extension

If you have any other questions and are not sure where to turn, ask the Hot Line! If we don't know the answer, we know someone who does!