Master Gardeners' Trial Plots

Martie Young
Adams County Master Gardener

You see our names as authors of gardening articles every week in the local newspapers. We are wrapped up in our hobby and avocation of gardening. Besides writing articles, we can actually garden. Some of us have individual trial plots at the Trial Garden at the Ag. Building in Gettysburg. We may be growing our favorites, or a plant we are curious about, or a plant we are trying to learn more about. Check out these eight individual plots when you visit our garden.

Everybody grows peppers and tomatoes, but you will be impressed with the health and size of the plants and fruit produced by Dick Colehouse.

He had ripe tomatoes early in July and he has already harvested many green peppers. His plants are extremely healthy.

Alice Boeshore also is growing vegetables. In her case it is broccoli, Swiss Chard, cabbage and assorted other veggies. Again her plot shows her devotion to gardening; the plants are big and healthy and she will be getting a good crop. Some of us run out of space at home so we expand our garden to the Trial Garden.

Our next vegetable gardener is Dick Englund. He is growing potatoes the easy way. His potato cuttings were laid on the soil and then covered with straw. The potatoes are doing the work by producing new potatoes. The straw is considered the compost or soil that would cover the potato. A hint is to use as your covering the ornamental grasses you cut down in early spring. This is a good use for the grasses that can be a real problem to dispose of otherwise. Come see his arrangement.

Phil Peters has a foot in both gardens: he is growing hot peppers both as ornamentals and as food. There are many types of hot peppers that range from mild to very hot; they also range in color from green to yellow to red and even purple. The plants can be small and uniform or they can be rangy and tall. One pepper called ‘Explosive Embers’ lives up to its name. It has purple leaves and flowers and red and purple peppers. He is also growing ‘Medusa,’ ‘Tangerine Dreams,’ both ornamentals and the edibles Cayenne 2 Super Hybrid and ‘Marbles.’ These are all cultivars of Capsicum annuum.

Ann Radcliff and Liz Miller are both growing dahlias in their plots.

Soon you will be seeing the beautiful and remarkable flowers that dahlias produce. There are many different cultivars and classifications in the dahlia world and Ann has planted the thirteen different types that are used for dahlia shows. Ann has been growing and showing dahlias for many years and is considered our resident expert. Liz is new to dahlia growing, but her plants are looking good.

Another plot contains plants that will attract beneficial insects.

Martie Young has planted a variety of plants--sunflowers, monarda, dill, parsley, lavender and other herbs. The common denominator here is that the flowers all attract bees, wasps, soldier beetles, hummingbirds, butterflies, lady bugs, and other beneficials. These insects will help by pollinating the flowers and by repelling or eating the bad bugs. You probably won’t see any aphids on our plants if there are ladybeetles.

Many other bad bugs will be absent or very sparse. If you are at the garden on a sunny day, be sure to pay attention to the small flies and bees that hover over the flowers and the number of butterflies that are flying among our flowers. In the evening you will see frequent visits from birds (tree swallows especially) that are eating the bugs and thereby controlling damage to our plants.

We have begun to collect plants that will especially attract butterflies. We have planted garden phlox, echinacea (cone flowers), and borage. Soon we will be adding another garden for butterflies that will include both plants for the butterflies and plants for the caterpillars. This way we will ensure that the butterflies will always be there. Charles Snyder is in charge of the Butterfly plants. He recommends the Butterfly Garden at Hershey Gardens.

Also at the Trial Garden you will see the compost display put together by Roy Thomas. He is truly dedicated to compost and showing other people how to compost. He has built and collected quite a selection of different composting bins--all of them are successful at composting and all are easy to build or obtain on your own. You will soon be reaping the benefits of making your own compost.

And what garden would be complete unless there are a few weeds--in this case Bill Devlin is in the process of nurturing some of our most hated plants and labeling them so you will know what they look like and what you want to get rid of. Obviously all he has to do is watch them grow!

Our Trial Gardens have as their main objective to educate but in this case the education is very enjoyable. Where else can you see the variety of annuals we show every summer and learn which ones to use in your garden? You can look at our perennials to get ideas for your own garden. It is said that gardening is America’s "Number one hobby." It has to be true. If you see someone working in the Trial Garden when you are in the vicinity of the Extension Office, come and talk to us and find out what we’re so excited about!

Read other articles by Martie Young