Posts Tagged ‘demonstration garden’

2017 Community Service 3rd Place – The Barn’s CommUnity Garden, Lehigh/Northampton Counties, PA

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

You might think that a garden program about community gardening would be about how, when and why you should plant particular crops. But, this program involves using gardening as a means to build bridges in our community for the well-being

whole groupof our community. When one contemplates the homeless, our veterans, and food insufficiency in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, it is life changing when those who are able become positive social change agents. My name is Dr. Robert Yoder and I have sought to be socially conscious of my neighbor far and wide serving as a short term missionary dentist in Honduras for six years, building homes on the Gulf coast post Katrina and  in a variety of short term mission trips but I felt this subtle tug that I should be doing more locally. I thought perhaps as a Penn State Master Gardener, I could weave my skill set and invite others to join me in community gardening. So seven years ago, I began to recruit volunteers and found the Christian community “The Barn”, currently worshipping at Swain School, willing to rise to the challenge.

The initiative began with a simple wonderment: “Could we create a community garden that intentionally brought people together to grow food for the hungry in our community?” Even better, “Could recipients of the food grown, participate in the very garden that benefitted them?” We began with 2 plots graciously donated by Lower Macungie Township. Three additional Master Gardeners and 40 volunteers of all experience levels signed up to help and learn. Immediately, friendships developed, fun ensued, and the satisfaction of walking alongside our neighbor, revealed we were onto something bigger than ourselves. The produce from the first year was modest in pounds (around 500 lbs.), but the community that was being built, both in the garden and reaching into center city Allentown was beyond description.

Fast forward six years and we now have 7 garden plots with active material and monetary support from our major donor, Home Depot, and  additional financial support from Tractor Supply, Emmaus Borough, The Muslim Assoc. of the Lehigh Valley, Wal-Mart, The Barn Community, Lower Macungie Township planting with the kidsand the Master Gardeners of the Lehigh Valley. In addition, we now have broader community involvement  including 7 worshipping communities and over 175 volunteers. Leadership is provided by 11 Master gardeners assigned to each of the gardens.

The 2016  initiative  included involving our veterans who too often have lost meaning in life and we find some aiml s and  homeless. Also consider, in 2012 the Department of Veterans Affairs conducted a study which discovered for 10 years running, there was an average of 18-22 veteran suicides per day in the United States. Can we use the community garden to give them a way of engaging community that offers new purpose? Additionally, we were broadening efforts of interfaith cooperation by involving Muslims, Christians and Jews, all working together in the garden to show the world a better way forward. To that end, we now have the Jewish temples Beth El and Kenneseth Israel, the Christian churches “The Barn” and “Life Church” of Nazareth along with two Muslim worshipping communities at “Muslim Assoc. of the Lehigh Valley” and  a young vital Muslim community in Alburtis all working together, building community and growing vegetables.

Last year we raised almost 4500 lbs. of fresh produce which now benefits two Lehigh Conference of Church’s social outreach ministries: DayBreak and the Soup Kitchen at 8twith tthe participantsh and Walnut Street. We hope with continued growth to make a greater impact.

Looking ahead , 2017 has more new initiatives including new involvement of a Sikh community to broaden our community building. Second, we are trying to incorporate the youth of each of these worshipping communities in three exciting ways. In Spring, in a round table sharing format, we plan to have a youth program including a potluck meal of foods of each community’s ethnic background, seedling starting, a time of sharing their favorite religious foods and holidays in their traditions. This in an effort to teach tolerance and appreciation  of the other at a young age. In Summer, we will have a week of youth involvement in direct garden care. Adult mentors will work side by side with the youth to teach gardening skills.  In Fall, in correlation with the Jewish holiday Sukkot, we will initiate a gleaning project at “The Seed Farm” with kids working side by side with folks from the center city, the very people all the garden goods go to help with the food insecurity of the Lehigh Valley.

Logistically, a typical growing season would begin with willing volunteers raising seedlings like tomatoes, peppers and broccoli starting in late February. This group of seedling growers includes folks from the center city to the suburbs. It gives the wonder of spring early to families with young children and the homeless that find shelter at DayBreak. They maintain and grow the seedlings to maturity, then help in the transplanting in one of the seven community gardens when winter finally gives up its grip in mid-May.

Weekly teams of volunteers then tend, harvest, laugh, test out a sugar pea or two and take pictures of the produce being grown. All through the process a more important thing is happening: community is being knit into a beautiful tapestry. We are working side by side to make a positive difference in our community. You know you have struck a beautiful chord when in one hand you have the day’s harvest and in the other you are hugging a new found friend who comes from a completely different life situation than you do. Imagine a Jewish woman with kids working side by side with a Muslim woman’s kids. We have indeed grown CommUnity and the forecast for this year’s growing season is one full of love and care for neighbor. We are showing the world a better way forward.

                                                                                                out in the garden workingthe producegiving instructions

A Visit to ‘Seed Savers Exchange-Heritage Farm’

Monday, March 16th, 2015

After work on Friday, September 26th, 2014 I drove 6.5 hours to Decorah, Iowa so that I could attend the ‘Seed Savers Exchange’ Fall Harvest School.  It was a long drive, but very well worth it.  The one-day workshop promised lessons on seed saving, fall gardening, canning, and fermentation.

Seed Savers' Heritage Farm

Seed Savers’ Heritage Farm

         A Beautiful Drive

Lilliam Goodman Visitors' Center

Lilliam Goodman Visitors’ Center

Unfortunately darkness had descended so I was unable to fully appreciate the scenery of my drive, nor did I get to enjoy the transition from the flat plains of southeast Nebraska to the glorious rolling hills and gentle mountains that awaited near Minnesota.

Starfire Signet Marigolds

Beautiful Orange Blossoms

Beautiful Orange Blossoms

Teaching Garden at Heritage Farm

Teaching Garden at Heritage Farm

Heaven on Earth

‘Heritage Farm’ is beyond beautiful and is the headquarters of ‘Seed Savers Exchange’. Located six miles north of Decorah, Iowa, the farm sits on 890 acres and boasts itself (according to the website) a “living museum of historic varieties”.  Thousands of heirlooms are grown organically on-site in the Preservation Gardens along with a Historic Orchard home to many near-extinct apple and grape varieties.  The farm is one of only two locations in North America where Ancient White Park Cattle may be seen.  Surrounded by stately cliffs and enormous pines, the rustic red barn and accompanying gardens looks a lot like paradise.

A Full Day of Lessons  

The Fall Workshop started bright and early with visitors from all over crowded in and around the ‘Lillian Goldman Visitors Center’.  Attendees were divided into smaller groups and the day’s schedule was broken down accordingly.

The first class I attended was on fermentation, a subject I knew absolutely nothing about.  The lecturing nutritionist shared recipes for homemade coleslaw, fermented beet juice, and many tips and tricks.

The second class was on seed saving.  Attendees were taken to the nearby teaching gardens, where we were instructed on how to harvest, save, and store seeds from beans, peas, melon, squash, and tomatoes.  We were given free-reign of the teaching gardens and allowed to harvest some seeds at-will.  Despite the gardening season obviously winding down and winter soon approaching, the teaching gardens were still gorgeous and I was exposed to so many new varieties of both flower and vegetable that I had never seen nor heard of before.  I went home with a few Radish and Dill seeds, some yellow Drumstick, Hungarian Blue Breadseed Poppy, and gorgeous burgundy Amaranth seeds, which can be enjoyed as both a cereal grain and as a garden ornamental.

Following lunch were classes on canning/food preservation and preparing the fall garden for the following spring.  Visitors saw demonstrations of proper bed clean-up and division of perennials, and discussed the use of nutrient-enriching cover crops.

Seed Shopping!!!  



Following the classes, this blogger lingered to talk with fellow attendees and like-minded gardeners, and patronized the ‘Visitors Center’ where all 2014 seed packets were on sale.  I somewhat maintained restraint and stuck to my shopping list, but did allow for several added varieties (They were on sale!) that I had fallen in love with on-site, which were displayed in the gardens.  I could not leave without having purchased seeds for the brilliant, tall ‘Purple Verbena’ that I had seen covered by masses of butterflies, nor could I leave without the ‘Black-Eyed Susan Vine’ and the prolific ‘Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden Gate’, which will add an abundance of charm and cheery pink color to my front flower garden this coming season.

This blogger urges anyone able to visit the ‘Seed Savers Exchange-Heritage Farm’ to do so.  I left awed by the majestic beauty, inspired by the bountiful gardens, and determined to practice the art of seed saving as I was taught on that day.

Glorious Trees at Seed Savers


Please visit to learn more!

Create a Pollinator Paradise

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Most pollinators – approximately 200,000 species – are beneficial insects such as bees, flies, beetles, wasps, and butterflies. A small percentage of pollinators are vertebrates such as hummingbirds. Honey bees and native bees (bumble bees, carpenter bees, sweat bees, mining bees, mason bees, etc.) are critical to our food supply and are responsible for pollinating about one-third of the foods we enjoy.

Pollinators provide produce

Pollinators are critical to supplying about 1/3 of our foods (Photo: Debbie Roos)

Bees and other pollinators are also essential components of the habitats and ecosystems that many wild animals rely on for food and shelter. As natural areas are cleared for development, pollinator habitat is destroyed or fragmented, resulting in the loss of foraging and nesting sites. This can lead to a decline in pollinator populations.


Pollinators are essential components of the habitats and ecosystems  (Photo: Debbie Roos)

One big way you can help pollinators is by planting forage habitat that provides nectar and pollen.  Your main goal is to have plants flowering throughout the growing season, from early spring-late fall, with overlapping bloom periods.

Pollinator Paradise Garden

Pollinator Paradise Garden (spring) (Photo: Debbie Roos)

Choose flowers with a diversity of bloom color, size, and shape to attract the greatest diversity of pollinators. Some pollinators have short tongues and can only feed from small, open flowers with easily accessible nectar. Other pollinators have long tongues and prefer more complex blooms. Emphasize native plants to provide the most benefits to the greatest number of pollinators.

Pollinator plants

Pollinator Paradise Garden (early summer) (Photo: Debbie Roos)


Some examples of native plants that will make your pollinators very happy from spring to fall: wild indigo, spiderwort, and beard tongue (spring); butterfly weed, mountain mint, Joe-pye weed, coneflower, anise hyssop, blanketflower, and St. John’s wort (summer); goldenrod, aster, spotted horsemint, and obedient plant (fall). Herbs such as lavender, thyme, oregano, calamint, basil, catmint, and rosemary also provide great resources for bees.


Pollinator Paradise Garden (late summer)

Pollinator Paradise Garden (late summer). (Photo: Debbie Roos)

Looking to find plants suited to your region? Check out the Pollinator Partnership planting guides.

Learn and Explore at Pollinator Paradise Garden

Want to learn more? You can visit North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Pollinator Paradise Garden at Chatham Mills in Pittsboro, NC.

This public demonstration garden includes over 140 different plants, 85% which are native to the piedmont of North Carolina. For those of you outside North Carolina, the garden has its own website that includes a plant list, photos of what’s blooming every week, and much more.  If you are not able to visit the garden in person, you can take a virtual tour here  or shown below by viewing the slide show featuring 100 photos from the garden throughout the seasons!

Free garden tours are conducted every month, and the schedule is on the website. Just go to  and click on the Pollinator Paradise Garden link.

I hope that you will consider creating some habitat that both you and our pollinators will enjoy for many seasons to come!

Debbie Roos
Agricultural Extension Agent with the Chatham County Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

El Paso Master Gardeners and the Fit-to-Grow Community Garden

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

The El Paso Master Gardeners are based in El Paso, TX,  which is located in far west Texas in the northern Chihuahuan Desert. In the summer 2011, El Paso County was awarded a grant.  Soon after, planning and construction began at Ascarate Park ( in El Paso, Texas.

A Community Demonstration Garden is Born

Three Master Garden Vegetable Specialists, certified Master Gardeners, and many Intern students began working on a vision – a community demonstration garden. These gardens now consist of 16 cinder block units, 8 square foot gardening units, 25 container units for herbs, drip irrigation lines, compost bins, and a rain water barrel on one half acre of land that is set aside for educational/demonstrative use.

Our goal was not to sell the produce, but to donate 100% of the fresh produce to the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank.


16 cinder block units


Raised beds include irrigation lines


Growing up and out in cinder block raised beds

We are very proud to state that, to date, over 800 lbs of tomatoes, peppers, okra, cucumbers, eggplants, yellow squash, broccoli, pumpkins, and different lettuce varieties have been donated to help those in need in our community.


800 pounds of produce is donated to local community

Fit to Grow Gardens Emerge

A ten-week gardening education curriculum (Fit to Grow) was developed and implemented to teach essential gardening techniques to community youths. In addition to the gardening curriculum, the garden hosted a container garden hands-on workshop, a rainwater harvesting workshop, a build your own compost bin demonstration workshop, and a “Garden Day” for the 4-H water wise week long youth summer camp.

Fit and Grow Demonstration Garden

Fit and Grow gardens in action

Compost bins used in fit and grow workshops

Compost bins used in Fit and Grow compost workshops


Fit and Grow gardens, a community partnership


We have been fortunate to have so much support and interest by many organizations in the El Paso area:

1. Texas A&M Agri-Life Extension Service

2. El Paso County and the El Paso County Parks Department

3. Juvenile Probation Department, Boys and Girls Club, El Paso Housing Authority

4. El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank

by Marianela Milner, El Paso Master Gardener and Ascarate Garden Coordinator
All photos by Karen Garcia, El Paso Master Gardener

Visit El Paso Master Gardener  on Facebook



Ideas for Using QR Codes for Demonstration Gardens and Plant Sales

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013
sample QR code

sample QR code

Some EMG groups are considering putting plant information into the hands of smartphone users with QR codes.

Using QR Codes in Annual Plant Sales and Demo Gardens

There has been an on-going discussion in the gardening and extension blogosphere about QR Codes this past year, first here (about the possibilities), then at the Garden Professors blog (will people use them?), than at the Franklin County MG blog (how they are trying them), and now here again (with resources to learn more about them)!

From all these discussions we were made aware of two presentations about using QR Codes for extending gardening and plant information that we couldn’t keep to ourselves!

Using QR Codes in the Garden

Mary VanDyke and the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia have generously shared their “QR Codes in the Garden” presentation and additional notes with you. (Note: you can share this presentation in non-commercial settings as long as your credit Mary VanDyke and the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia, and present the slide link)

Covered in this presentation, is how to use QR Codes for plant sales and demonstration gardens. I specifically found the practical illustrations on which scanner apps to use,  how to generate a QR Code (services, sizes, colors), what kinds of materials to consider printing,  tips for making mobile information on the cheap, and then even more ideas for using them in the demonstration garden.

Qr Codes in the Garden from MaryVanDyke

Using QR Codes to Market Your Demo Landscape

Emily Eubanks, UF/IFAS, Communications Coordinator has another presentation titled:  Qr Codes in Demo Landscapes.  Emily covers how to use QR codes in the demo garden, who might use them, and a covers a case study of Straughn Center Demo gardens.

Emily provides a number of ideas for how to use (slides 26, 27), and just as pertinent is a slide 28 listing their limitations — because we do need to consider if   people will use them, or how we might help people know how to use them!

(Note: you can share this presentation for educational purposes by providing credit to Emily Eubanks, University of Florida, and sharing the link to the slide set).

Qr codes in demo landscapes from University of Florida/IFAS – Emily Eubanks

Is it more worthwhile to scan or not to scan?

As I mentioned last year year, I think there is potential for connecting some consumers with great plant information and customer service with the scan of a QR scan app, but as discussed in this Garden Professors blog post, the jury is still out there to see if consumers will:
a) have access to a smartphone?
b) download a scan app
c) go to the effort to grab their smartphone when they see a QR code
d) use the scan app to scan the QR code
e) re-access the information when they need it later.
For some QR code EMG experimenters like Franklin County MG’s, Ray Eckart, they are thinking bigger than just connecting people to ‘normal’ plant tag info (sun, water, price) via QR Codes. They are thinking about connecting people to Extension bulletins and much richer sets of plant information (some of which Mary and Emily covered in their slide presentations).
 So, I guess this is where the experiment and fun begins….

What do you think?

  • Have you tried using a QR Code app to use them at a garden center, botanical garden? If so, did you find it a useful experience? If not, what would make it better?
  • Do you think your clientele would use them?  Would they need assistance in understanding how to scan them?
  • How or where might you direct people to contact you with questions after a plant sale purchase or visit to a demo garden?
  • What other ideas might you have for using them in plant sales or demonstration garden?

Wordless Wednesday: Changing Face of Master Gardener Demonstration Garden

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Lee Co Ala MG Demonstration Garden

This is the Lee County Alabama Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden located in Auburn’s Kiesel Park.

Wordless Wednesday: Jefferson County Master Gardeners Create Garden for Local Charity

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012


2011 Search for Excellence Demonstration Garden Award Winner- 3rd Place

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

The Master Gardens of Carteret County- Carteret County, North Carolina

The rain garden located at the N. C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is used to teach about water quality.

The Carteret County Master Gardener’s demonstration garden project was established to address the needs of its community from its inception. Recognizing the ways in which development had changed the natural landscape, the Master Gardeners planned a series of gardens that addressed issues of rainwater capture,native plants, and vegetable garden management.

The Rain garden is part of the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores where it shares its goal of water quality education. The herb/vegetable garden is located at the Beaufort Historic Site where it provides historic education and the butterfly garden is at the Core Sound Museum and Heritage Center where native plants are kept vibrant and visible. Between these three sites, the gardens are seen by half a million people each year.

To learn more about the Carteret County Master Gardener projects visit:

2011 Search for Excellence Demonstration Garden Award Winner- 2nd Place

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Medicinal Plant Garden at the Indiana Medical History Museum- Marion County, Indiana

Medicinal plants at the Indiana Medical History Museum Garden.

The Medicinal Plant Garden at the Indiana Medical History Museum in Indianapolis was started in 2003.  With new additions of beds and plants each year, the garden now demonstrates over 100 different species that have been used for medicinal purposes, including trees, shrubs and vines as well as annual and perennial herbs.  The garden is totally a Marion County (Indiana) Purdue Master Gardener project from concept and fundraising to design, installation and maintenance.

The purpose of the garden is to help visitors remember what people did before there was a bottle of pills waiting for them at the neighborhood Walgreens or CVS – and also to help them better appreciate the amazing qualities that lie within the plants we love.  The garden is NOT meant to promote self-medication with herbal remedies.  The potential dangerous toxic side effects of plants are also presented.

Signage and an illustrated guidebook are well used educational tools

Signage in the garden provides information about each specie’s scientific and common names, its native place in the world, what parts were/are used to make medicine, and a bit about what symptoms the plant could help.  More extensive information is available in a printed and illustrated guidebook, which is also available online (  The guidebook also includes a bibliography of the references used in research for the garden.

The witch hazel tree is valued for its medicinal properties.

A wide variety of public individuals come to tour the garden and see the museum.  Classes from the nearby medical school and other universities, colleges, and schools also visit the museum each year and discover aspects of medical history that their intense modern curriculum doesn’t have time to include.

Written by Kathleen Hull, Marion County Master Gardener

To learn more about the Indiana Medical Museum visit:

For more information about the Marion County Master Gardeners visit their website at:

2011 Search for Excellence Demonstration Garden Award Winner- 1st Place

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Grassmere Historic Gardens- Davidson County, Tennessee

Visitors attend a class at Grassmere Gardens taught by the Master Gardeners.

Grassmere Historic Garden is located within the property of the Nashville Zoo.   Because of this, Davidson County Master Gardeners are in a unique position to draw people to the garden who may not have made a special trip just to look at plants.

Informational Brochures online as well as at the garden

Master Gardeners had cared for the gardens for years, but a few years ago, with a new group of Master Gardener volunteers, we made a conscious decision to take the garden from just a collection of plants and turn it into an educational setting; a real teaching garden.  We began by installing informational signs for the rose and herb gardens, but since the vegetable garden is the centerpiece, we made moveable signs since our crops change with the seasons.  As we researched our plantings, we decided to develop informational booklets on the various gardens; we have them on the medicinal herb garden, the antique rose garden, and we are now working on the second edition of the vegetable booklet.  The zoo is in the process of redesigning their website, and we have requested a page of our own so that we may post our booklets online.

With so many visitors, the volunteers within the garden are constantly asked questions.   To be prepared, we send out regular emails to the team  and then meet to discuss in detail what we are doing and why.  We get CEU credit for this, and are better prepared to deal with visitors.   And of course, since we are a demonstration garden, we are always trying different methods, and visitors are always interested in that.

Vegetable Classes Respond to Huge Public Demand

A couple of years ago, we began offering Saturday classes for two months in the early spring.  Perhaps it’s because of the local food movement, or just concerns over knowing what we eat, but the requests we received directly and from our feedback forms led us this year to really emphasize growing vegetables.  We taught separate classes on cool season crops, what to start from seed indoors, and on individual crops: tomatoes, squash and melons, corn and beans, and potatoes.    The potato class happened at the time of the first planting of that crop, so that we were able to demonstrate two different methods of planting for the class that day.    The zoo advertised the classes for us, and every Saturday morning we would have our regulars, who came every week, as well as visitors who just happened to wander by and stay to hear what was going on.

Davidson County Master Gardeners harvest the produce from their vegetable garden.

Written by Susan Hiles, Davidson County Master Gardener

For information about Grassmere Gardens and the Nashville Zoo visit

For more information about the Davidson County, TN Master Gardeners view their website at