Become a better gardener while in self-quarantine

By Cheryl Shenkle

Master Gardener

For those who are lucky enough to be able to stay home and still work, any time you usually spent in transit is now yours. Spend it wisely.

Look at it this way, no one is going to bug you while you play with the plants, especially if you ask them to help weed. You can legitimately do it using the need for fresh food later.

You can also attend free Penn State Extension webinars galore and learn everything your heart desires about gardening and food preservation. Take time to luxuriate in gardening.

Do an inventory of what garden supplies/plants you have versus what you want. Organize that shed, denude the corner that always grows up in brambles and weeds. Turn your old row garden into a raised row garden. Add the fencing to finally keep out the bunnies and the deer. Create some permanent beds for Rhubarb, Asparagus, berries of all kinds.

Make some lists of which fertilizers your plants need and try to match different plants to a few so you have to buy less. Put up some bird, bat and butterfly houses/feeders. Create a Moon Garden that shines in the dark to attract night time feeders.

In other words, garden yourself into peace, better food and a happier outlook on life.

Now, how to do it for the maximum yield.

This is why you have Master Gardeners to help you. Our time and services are always free to the gardener because the federal, state and county governments want you to succeed at gardening, and the volunteers who pay for their own training and supplies, want the same thing.

We want to be able to help you miss the problems, bring the very best possible produce out of your soil, and do it effectively and efficiently. We're still here, ready and excited to take your questions.

During the stay-at-home period, use that time to your advantage. If you need seeds or plants, ask a Master Gardener. We may have some plants for a donation, and we may also have some free seeds. Just ask.

Call 849-7361 Ext 508 and leave a message which will go directly to a Master Gardener who will return your call as soon as possible. Email the Garden Hot Line, with pictures of the plant problem, to

You may also find Master Gardeners at Penn State Extension Master Gardeners on Facebook. To actually join, simply answer the questions and ask your question there.

For information about the Master Gardener Program, which is in several countries, and all states of the United States, go to

For all of the information on everything Penn State Master Gardeners can do for you, You will be amazed at the scope of the programs.

If you want to see these practices in action take a short trip to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds to visit the Outdoor Education Center Demonstration Gardens.

Of course they are not growing at the moment because Master Gardeners are not permitted to be there, but you are in ones and twos. Wear a mask so we will all be safer.

This is a unique time in our own histories, and it may be longer than we think, so make hay or food, while COVID-19 rages around us but while we can stay safely in our own gardens as long as we wish.

For building ideas for hardscape in your garden, you can also call a Master Gardener. We offer guidance on handicapped beds, raised beds of all kinds, how to build a compost bin, how to drain wet spots in your yard, or how to make them an asset.

How do you safely collect enough rain water to take care of your garden all summer long? How do you fertilize your plants correctly, how do you raise plants from seed? Just ask us.

Local Master Gardener classes will begin this fall in October. Materials and costs for the class is $200.

Subjects include, Botany, Plant Disease, Soil Health, Fertilizer Management, Composting, Woody Ornamentals, Entomology, Plant Diagnostics, Plant Propagation, Controlling Pests Safely, Weeds and Invasive Species, Lawn Care, Pruning Ornamental Plants, Herbaceous Plants, The Vegetable Garden, Indoor Plants, Native Plants, Landscape Design, Tree Fruits and Small Fruits.

There are usually about 18 classes spread out through the winter on Thursday evenings for three hours. You can register at any time of the year, but applications must be in our hands before Sept. 5.

We have access to free Master Gardener Webinars to which we can guide you. Right now, everything presented by Penn State Master Gardeners is free and available.

Let this time in our lives leave us with far more advancement than loss. The opportunity is there. Call your Master Gardeners for help any time because we're always here for you.