UNION COUNTY – The Rutgers Master Gardeners of Union County Annual Spring Garden Fair and Plant Sale is coming up on May 19, and this year promises a bounty of displays to inspire, delight and inform casual gardeners and experts alike. The rain-or-shine event is free and open to the public.
Now in its 24th year, the Garden Fair will be held from noon to 5 p.m. at the Demonstration Gardens in Union County’s Watchung Reservation, located near the Trailside Nature and Science Center at 452 New Providence Road in Mountainside.
“The Freeholder Board is very proud of the Master Gardeners, who are celebrating their 25th year of service to the citizens of Union County,” said Freeholder Chairman Linda Carter. “Please show your support for their many good works, by coming out to the Spring Garden Fair.”
The Master Gardeners of Union County12 are volunteers trained and certified by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of New Jersey, supported in part by the Freeholder Board.
Among the Master Gardeners’ many contributions to the Union County community are the Sharing, Berry Patch, Herb and Harry Potter gardens, which will hit a milestone this year with more than 20,000 pounds of fresh produce donated to local food pantries and nutrition centers since 2002.
Every year the group also donates thousands of flowers to local cancer hospitals and centers from its gardens, conducts community gardening projects and offers horticultural therapy to seniors and other residents with special needs.
All proceeds from the Garden Fair help to fund these programs, along with a college scholarship fund for local youth.
As always, this year’s Spring Garden Fair offers hundreds of plants for sale that are fit for local growing conditions in New Jersey, including a large selection of tomatoes for containers and small gardens. Many other vegetables, herbs, hanging baskets, houseplants, and annual and perennial flowers round out the sale.
Many of the plants have been selected specifically for deer resistance and drought. Easy-to-grow plants for beginning gardeners are also available.
New this year will be a Fragrant Plant table featuring varieties selected for their pleasing scent.
In addition to plants for sale, the Garden Fair also features home-baked goods, craft items, gardening odds and ends, and used gardening books and magazines for sale.
Also offered for sale is the Rutgers soil test kit, which provides a reliable, affordable way for gardeners to analyze the quality of their soil.
Free gardening outreach and education is an important part of the Garden Fair. This year’s offerings include children’s activities, tours of the Demonstration Gardens, an informational display on the new “Square Food Gardening” gardening trend, information about the Master Tree Steward program, a presentation on home composting, information about mosquito control, and an introduction to horticultural therapy.
Throughout the event, Master Gardener volunteers will run a free Garden Helpline clinic to answer questions and provide guidance for solving gardening problems. Visitors to the Garden Fair are encouraged to bring plant and insect samples for diagnosis.
Visitors who plan to make purchases should bring a small wagon to convey their purchases. Free parking is available adjacent to the fair and in nearby areas of the Watchung Reservation.
For maps and directions, including an interactive Google Maps feature, visit the Trailside Nature and Science Center page at ucnj.org/parks.
Anyone with an interest in gardening and a commitment to volunteer service can become a Master Gardener. No previous background in horticulture is required. Applications will be on hand at the Garden Fair, or contact Judi Laganga at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Office in Westfield, 908-654-9854.
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