CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Each year, Penn State Extension Master Gardeners in Franklin County grow vegetable, flower, and herb plants in their Greenhouse for an annual plant sale, demonstration gardens, and to donate to local organizations. This year our plant sale was, once again, canceled because of the pandemic, but, beginning in late March, the Greenhouse Team was permitted to grow plants for donation to community outreach programs.
In late May, the Master Gardener volunteers wrapped up their Greenhouse growing project by giving away approximately 1,900 potted transplants of annual flowers and a variety of herbs and vegetables to local non-profit or educational community organizations.
The groups which received plants include the Conococheague Institute’s Rock Hill Farm in Mercersburg; Coyle Free Library; Franklin County Housing Authority (FCHA); the Greencastle Area Youth Foundation’s Highline Train Station; Grove Family Library; Kids POP (Power of Produce) Club at North Square Farmers Market; the Monarch Waystation at Wilson College; NETwork Ministries Youth Garden; the South Central Community Action Program (SCCAP) Gleaning Project; St Paul’s UMC Community Garden; Waynesboro Daycare Center; Waynesboro Food Pantry; Waynesboro Garden Walk; and the YMCA Ark Child Development Center.
The variety of herbs provided included anise hyssop, cilantro, sage, French thyme, Greek oregano, Munstead lavender, Italian parsley, salad burnet, and summer savory, plus three kinds of basil (sweet, opal, and Thai). Varieties of annual flowers included cosmos, salvia, Mexican sunflower, tropical milkweed, and zinnias to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. Vegetable varieties grown and donated included almost 30 types of tomatoes, including heirloom and cherry varieties; 12 varieties of sweet and mildly hot peppers; and several varieties of cucumbers, squash, eggplant, pumpkins, and melons.
Recipients of the plants have been appreciative of the opportunity to grow their own plants, harvest their own produce, and share with others in the community. One FCHA resident wrote: “I am extremely thankful because I was wanting so badly to start a garden. It’s my first summer here in my new place… I love this garden.”
Conococheague Institute’s Rock Hill Farm in Mercersburg is an historic site that maintains a working demonstration garden, including seasonal vegetables and extensive herb gardens. The Institute reports that the donated flowers are “doing wonderfully in front of the Visitor Center, and the herbs and vegetables planted are producing well.”
SCCAP maintains a food pantry and works with The Gleaning Project to provide healthy foods to those struggling with food insecurity. This year, the herb plants donated by the Master Gardeners were planted in pallet gardens and will be harvested throughout the season to provide fresh herbs for their clients at the pantry.
At Wilson College, Chris Mayer reports that their Monarch Waystation “is coming along quite nicely this season. The Master Gardener annuals are a great addition this summer and the monarchs are beginning to arrive.”
Penn State Master Gardeners also donated more than 100 perennial plants, including trees, shrubs, and hardy perennials, from their holding inventory to several community organizations for landscaping projects. Groups that received perennials include the Chambersburg Aquatic Center, Greencastle Area Youth Foundation, Historic Fort Loudon, and the Tuscarora Wildlife Education Project in Mercersburg.
The Penn State Master Gardener volunteer program supports the outreach mission of Penn State Extension by utilizing unbiased research-based information to educate the public and our communities on best practices in sustainable horticulture and environmental stewardship. If you are interested in learning more about the program, visit Penn State Extension Master Gardener Program.
–Carol Kagan and Annette MaCoy, Penn State Extension