Volunteer Master Gardeners

Jul 12, 2013

Mike Balk, a Penn State Extension Master Gardener is joining us today to discuss how the Master Gardeners of Lehigh and Northampton Counties can help your garden grow. 

Mike, first could you tell me a little bit about what type of expertise Master Gardeners have?  What do they do?

Sure.  Master Gardeners are volunteers that have received over 40 hours of specialized training in horticulture from Penn State Extension.  In return for that training, Master Gardeners volunteer their time to educate the community about gardening topics.  Our advice is free to the public and we genuinely want to share our knowledge and resources to help your garden thrive.

How can Master Gardeners help me?

We can diagnose plant diseases and pest problems, we can help you select the right fertilizer, teach you how to compost, how to manage weeds and invasive plants, what native plants are suited for this region, how to attract pollinators to your garden, how to prune and plant trees properly, and how you can grow  your own vegetables, fruit trees, and berries.  Basically if it is growing in your yard, we can probably help.

What should I do if I have a plant problem or need some garden advice?

If you have a problem with a plant or need some general garden advice, you can stop by the Lehigh or Northampton county extension offices. 

The Lehigh office is in Allentown, at the Lehigh County Agricultural Center near Dorney Park.  The Northampton County office is located in Nazareth in the Gracedale Complex . 

If you have problem with a plant, for example you have yellowing leaves on your blueberries or a strange bug crawling on your black eyed susans, bring along the plant or insect specimen to help the Master Gardener or extension staff to identify the problem.  It’s best to call ahead to set up a meeting with a Master Gardener, to be sure one of our volunteers is at the office  that day, or you can plan to drop off your sample and the next available Master Gardener will look at it.  For us to give a good diagnosis , try to select fresh plant samples with intact parts including flowers. Bring in a live sample that shows both healthy and unhealthy growth.  If you bring in a live insect  or infested plants make sure you bring it in an airtight container, we don’t want those things to escape in the office! If you cannot keep the insect alive, place it in a jar with alcohol or freeze it for several days to preserve the specimen.

You can also call our garden hotlines. 610-391-9840 in Lehigh County or 610- 746-1970 in Northampton County.  or e-mail a Master Gardener and send along digital photos to northamptonmg@psu.edu or lehighmg@psu.edu

What other services do Master Gardeners offer?

Master Gardeners give presentations on numerous topics ranging from vegetable gardening and composting to native and invasive plants throughout the Lehigh Valley.  We also offer educational programs for children, teach community gardeners who grow produce for local food banks, and we have many free publications available to the public.  

We also occasionally offer workshops.  You can sign up for our email list at extension.psu.edu/Northampton under the Master Gardener section or you can find the local extension offices on facebook for updates.