9:39 a.m., Jan. 3, 2011----Where do Delaware gardeners go in winter?
A lucky few have second gardens in Florida or other subtropical climes, where they can put their hands in the soil all winter long. But most local gardeners simply go into planning mode, using the cold-weather months to prepare for the growing season ahead. For many, that means attending Master Gardener workshops.
“We never used to offer horticulture programs in the dead of winter; we took a break in between our fall and spring workshops,” says Carrie Murphy, New Castle County Cooperative Extension horticultural agent. “But three years ago, Master Gardeners offered a January series with an environmental theme. The response was overwhelming; gardeners came out in droves. It was very evident that this series filled a need for programming at this time of year.”
The “Keep it Green” series is on hiatus as Murphy and the Master Gardeners revise curriculum. But in its place this January and February is a winter series with an eclectic bent. These New Castle County programs include topics for experienced gardeners, such as espaliers, as well as topics for beginners, like an introductory vegetable gardening program.
The Kent-Sussex Master Gardeners also offer a winter series, by popular demand, says Tracy Wootten, Extension's horticultural agent for Sussex County.
In northern Delaware, the “Vines and Espaliers” class on Feb. 10 will appeal to those jaded sorts who wonder “so what else is there?” Climb to new creative heights by trying espaliers -- the pruning of trees and other woody plants so that they grow flat against a wall, fence or structure. Vines and other forms of vertical gardening also will be discussed.
“Tom Maddux, who is teaching this class, has created a great vertical garden at his garden in Old New Castle,” notes Murphy. “It's fascinating to see what he has done with vines and espaliers.”
The format of virtually every Master Gardener program encourages interaction. But audience participation is a must at “Garden Line Live” on Jan. 13. This two-hour question-and-answer panel is an in-person version of the phone line that Master Gardeners operate.
Eight Master Gardener experts will field questions on anything garden related -- lawn maintenance, insect management, vegetable gardening, composting, plant selection and landscape design. If the panelists get stumped, they've got a “life line” in Dick Pelly, a research whiz and longtime Master Gardener who will stand by with research books and Internet access.
Murphy isn't sure what to expect but if it's anything like the 1,100 phone calls the New Castle County garden line receives annually, there will be questions about stink bugs (a hot topic this year) and deer control (always the number one question on the phone line).
The winter series also features “Preparing Your Landscape for Spring” on Feb. 16 and “Starting Your Vegetable Garden” on Feb. 23.
In southern Delaware, the Kent-Sussex Master Gardeners will present four winter classes, including a class with a philosophical slant, “Planning/Journaling in the Garden” on Feb. 17. Instructor Jessica Clark was inspired by Fran Sorin's Digging Deep, to present a planning workshop that's about more than just obtaining soil samples and deciding when to add compost.
“In the words of Fran Sorin, 'your garden should be a place where the feeling of your hands in the dirt offers a deep, primordial connection with the earth, where you can learn what can work for you in the physical garden and where it can work in your emotional garden,'” notes Clark.
A Jan. 13 house plant session details common mistakes made in caring for house plants and includes a re-potting how-to. Other offerings include vegetable gardening on March 10 and a garlic class on Feb. 10, featuring details on how to plant, grow and cure two popular cultivars of garlic.
In New Castle County, to register or for more information, call 302-831-COOP or go to the website. In southern Delaware, call 302-856-7303.
Article by Margo McDonough