It’s that time of year again, when events spring up to help gardeners prepare for the growing season. First up is the Central Pennsylvania Native Plant Festival and Sale, which will be held at the Pennsylvania Military Museum from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. May 6. This is the festival’s second year at this location, which provides a much larger space and more vendors, with more than 350 varieties of native plants for sale.
Native plants are adapted to local conditions and often easier to grow and less susceptible to challenging conditions than non-native plants. Easier can mean less watering, less fertilizing, fewer pests and weeds (so less pesticides and herbicides) and when you trade a spot of grass for a native ground cover, less mowing and leaf-blowing. All in all, natives can be less demanding of resources — Mother Earth’s and yours.
Native plants are also essential links in the life cycle of many insects, birds and other animals. The more native plants in your yard, neighborhood and community, the healthier your ecosystem, and the more likely you’ll attract birds and wildlife to your yard.
Our featured plant this year is Joe Pye Weed. This impressive plant produces mounds of pale pink-purple flowers that last from mid-summer through fall. Depending on the variety, plants can range from 5-10 feet tall. It’s a great addition to most gardens and a must have for wildlife lovers as it’s sweet nectar attracts a variety of butterflies and other pollinators. Joe Pye Weed grows easily in full sun to part shade, in moist to medium soils, and is drought tolerant. This is just one of many native plants that can be easily incorporated into the home landscape.
So, come discover a native plant your yard can’t live without. If you’re not sure where to start, you can visit information booths to get ideas on gardening for birds, planting a pollinator garden, or putting in a rain garden. Take a guided walk or two with experts to learn what plants are best to attract pollinators, and which ones attract birds or simply sit back and soak up the rays, enjoying a snack or a meal from a local organic food vendor. For more information about the Native Plant Festival, programs and vendors, www.PANativePlantSociety.org.
That event will be followed by the Centre County Master Gardeners’ annual plant sale, held from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. May 20. The sale will include thousands of plants, including vegetables, perennials, native plants, herbs, annual bedding plants, grasses and trees and shrubs. Visitors are encouraged to bring a wagon or cart to transport their plants. A shady supervised spot will be provided where wagons and boxes of plants can be parked while attendees attend talks, visit vendors or tour the Pasto Agricultural Museum.
There will be free talks by a host of gardening experts. They even twisted my arm and asked me to speak on “Gardening Using Plastic Mulches, Drip Irrigation, Fertigation, Low and High Tunnels.” You can also visit with native plant vendors from throughout Pennsylvania. There will be many new gardening items and accessories in the silent auction and the ever-popular Garden Garage Sale. Parking and admission are free.
The event will take place at the Penn State Ag Progress Days site, Entrance K. The site is 9 miles southwest of State College on state Route 45. More information about the garden fair and plant sale and driving directions are available online at extension.psu.edu/centre/programs/master-gardener/master-gardener-plant-sale. You can also call 355-4897 and look for updates on Facebook: facebook.com/PSEMGCC/.
Master Gardeners are volunteers who provide residents with research-based educational programs in consumer horticulture and environmental stewardship. They greatly magnify the reach and ability of Penn State Extension to offer practical, how-to advice and problem-solving assistance. Last year, Master Gardeners statewide answered more than 17,000 phone calls and emails from residents seeking answers to plant, weed and insect issues. They delivered horticulture-education programs, organized and maintained demonstration gardens, consulted with school and community gardens and donated thousands of pounds of produce to food banks. Altogether, they donated 119,306 hours valued at nearly $2.6 million.
Anyone interested in becoming a Master Gardener can contact a Penn State Extension county office. Visit extension.psu.edu/counties for contact information. Centre County residents can contact Lara Nagle, Master Gardener interim program assistant, Penn State Extension at 355-4897 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Lamont is a professor and extension vegetable specialist in the department of plant science at Penn State and can be reached by email at email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
What: Centre County Master Gardeners Plant Sale
When: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. May 20
Where: Ag Progress Days site, 2710 W. Pine Grove Road, Pennsylvania Furnace
IF YOU GO
What: Central Pennsylvania Native Plant Festival and Sale
When: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. May 6
Where: Pennsylvania Military Museum, 51 Boal Ave., Boalsburg