Nine of Onondaga County’s 50 Master Gardeners are opening their yards to the public for the inaugural garden tour July 15. Master Gardeners volunteer their time visiting local garden clubs and schools, answering the horticulture hotline or staffing booths at the CNY Regional Market or the Great New York State Fair. Here, Master Gardeners pose with young volunteers at the Kirk Park garden.
If you’re tired of digging around your own yard, this Saturday you can check out some of Central New York’s best kept gardens. The Onondaga County Master Gardener Program is holding its first tour. Nine of the county’s roughly 50 Master Gardeners are opening their yards to the public to showcase their prized perennials, bountiful veggie beds and whimsical finishing touches.
According to Karen Bishop, volunteer coordinator for the Master Gardener program, the idea of the tour sprouted from one Master Gardener who expressed curiosity about seeing her fellow volunteers’ masterpieces.
“This is a way for us to see each other’s yards and for the public to see them,” Bishop said.
The Master Gardener initiative is part of a national program that seeks to educate the community about gardening and environmental stewardship. Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Onondaga County arm manages the program here.
“We want to support the home gardener,” Bishop said. “We’re just trying to reach out to whoever’s interested.”
Master Gardeners present workshops, visit local garden clubs and schools, volunteer at the Great New York State Fair, organize the annual plant sale and staff the horticulture hotline. Gardeners can call the hotline at (315) 424-9485 with questions about plant identification, weed and pest control and other common garden issues.
“When I have a question about tomatoes and I have two or three Master Gardeners that know everything about tomatoes, I can forward them the question,” Bishop said.
The Master Gardeners host a booth at the Central New York Regional Market, so shoppers can stop by with the plants they buy at the market for tips on how to care for them. Master Gardener volunteers also can help gardeners interpret soil test results and figure out how to properly enrich the soil.
As Master Gardeners retire from gardening or pull up their roots and move elsewhere, the program accepts a new class of Master Gardeners every two years. The next class begins in the spring of 2018, and registration is open now. Visit cceonondaga.org/gardening/master-gardener-volunteers to learn more.
Master Gardeners go through 45 hours of basic horticulture training, learning about soil science, pest and wildlife management, botany and best practices for caring for outdoor gardens and houseplants alike. Once they are certified, Master Gardeners must complete 50 hours of volunteering each year to maintain their status.
“Usually people find their niche,” Bishop said. “Everybody has their spot.”
Some Master Gardeners specialize in perennials or shade plants; others, like Pat Jokajtys of Baldwinsville, find that vegetables are their forte. The program even has a few urban gardeners who maximize their small spaces in the city of Syracuse. The garden tour, which Bishop said will become an annual event, is meant to show the variety of ways to garden.
“Come and see all different ways of gardening,” Bishop said. “There’s not just one right way to plant your garden.”
The Master Gardener tour takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 15. Admission is $5 for one garden or $10 for all nine gardens. Children under 16 get in free. Purchase your ticket in advance at Ballantyne Gardens in Liverpool or on the day of the tour at any of the featured gardens.
The following Master Gardeners are opening their yards for the tour:
12 Kidd Kove, Baldwinsville
“My gardens are a mixture of perennials, natives, family heirlooms, herbs and bird enticing plants,” Baker said in a press release. Baker’s garden features six bird baths and her uncle’s peonies, planted in the 1940s.
161 Edgehill Road, Syracuse
Joel and Sandy Potash’s backyard garden features a small pond with a waterfall and fish, and some abstract sculptures.
268 Medford Road, Syracuse
Sabatino’s garden features native plants, veggies and herbs, perennials and shade/fern gardens. “New this year, I’m trying my hand at straw bale gardening,” she said.
114 Wilson St., Syracuse
“Our urban garden is a predominantly perennial flower garden that provides a peaceful sanctuary just off a busy street,” Balcom said. “Over the years we have added a small water feature, containers, two raised beds for vegetables and touches of whimsy we have found along the way.”
4647 Bloomsbury Drive, Syracuse
Featured on Syracuse.com’s “Garden of the Week,” Orzell’s half-acre suburban enclosure focuses on native plants of the Northeast. The garden features a healthy habitat for birds, pollinators and other wildlife as well as edible flowers, mixed greens and herbs. Orzell employs “dogscaping” to make her garden lovely as well as friendly to her two golden retrievers.
7296 Wakefield Drive, Fayetteville
Instead of a lawn, Zajaceskowski has filled his one-acre yard with ground cover, ferns, hostas and fruit trees. The garden also features pathways, a deck, patios and a waterfall. “A pathway across the street leads to Snooks Pond with a small dock and waterlilies, if the beaver hasn’t eaten them,” Zajaceskowski said.
210 Kaymar Drive, North Syracuse
“Although I like flowers and have several perennial flowers, especially day lilies, my love is vegetable gardening,” Henson said. “I try to grow all the ‘local’ New York crops, but also try peanuts, okra and others Southern crops. I love to experiment with new fruits and vegetables.”
4378 Stonington Circle, Syracuse
A life-long vegetable gardener, Tiedemann planted his first flower gardens in 2013 as a new Master Gardener. Tiedemann now has more than 75 different types of plants including six from seeds purchased at Monet’s garden in France last fall. Some potted plants from the gardens will be offered to the first 10 people who visit.
8241 Wheaton Road, Baldwinsville
Featured in the May 31 edition of the Baldwinsville Messenger, Jokajtys is well-known for her expertise in growing heirloom tomatoes. She has 20 raised garden beds and follows the companion planting philosophy. In addition to her vegetables, Jokajtys will highlight two perennial gardens in the state of transformation: one a former sun garden being converted to a shade garden and the other a new native garden.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.
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