Gardeners can learn to be pollinator friendly at Ag Progress Days

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The benefits of creating pollinator-friendly landscapes will be the focus of the Yard and Garden area at Penn State's Ag Progress Days, Aug. 12-14 at Rock Springs.

The demonstration plots at the Yard and Garden area are now five years old, and their many flowers and plantings are attracting and nourishing huge numbers of native bees, butterflies and other pollinators for which they are intended, according to Molly Sturniolo, coordinator of Penn State Extension's Master Gardener program in Centre County.

As the nation's populations of pollinators continued to be in jeopardy, Penn State Master Gardeners from across the state teamed with horticulture faculty members to create and nurture the gardens at the end of 11th Street at the show site to demonstrate that supplying pollinators with food and habitat can be beautiful.

Sturniolo noted that Ag Progress Days visitors are drawn to the colorful floral displays and comment on the abundance of butterflies.

"The demonstration plots serve as living proof that the average gardener can do something to attract and help pollinators," she said. "Planting these flowers and other host plants is well within their ability."

Experts say that pollinators promote the survival of 90 percent of the world's flowering species and are responsible for one out of every three bites of food consumers eat. However, wild honeybee populations have declined 25 percent since 1990, and more than 50 pollinator species are either threatened or endangered.

To help support and propagate these beneficial insects, Penn State Master Gardeners offer the Pollinator Friendly Garden Certification program, which teaches homeowners and gardeners to certify their landscapes as pollinator-friendly.

The certification includes such skills as planting a year-round native garden of diverse and abundant plants, maintaining a parcel of wild and undisturbed vegetation, installing bee nests and minimizing pesticide use.

Visitors who sign up to complete the four-step certification process (which carries a $10 fee) will be eligible to purchase a pollinator-friendly sign for their property.

Honeybee demonstrations also will be conducted. Located adjacent to the new raised garden beds will be an observation beehive. Experts from the Pennsylvania State Beekeeper's Association and Penn State Extension will be on hand to provide guidance and answer questions.

Information will be available on Penn State Extension's innovative online course, Beekeeping 101.

Master Gardeners will be on hand in the Yard and Garden Tent to answer any questions about horticulture and gardening in general. In addition, experts from Penn State's Department of Entomology will field questions and identify insects brought by visitors.

Also, Sturniolo noted, the area will highlight the benefits of growing plants in high tunnels and backyard high tunnels, which are greenhouse-like structures that often enable growers to fine-tune the growth environment and extend the growing season.

The Yard and Garden Tent also will feature potato crops, offering multiple potato varieties growing in the soil and freshly dug tubers. Visitors can see some of the potato varieties grown in Pennsylvania as well as some new varieties. Freshly harvested potato samples will be on display.

The following demonstrations are scheduled at the Yard and Garden Area:

--Aug. 12                                                                                        

1 p.m.:  Flower-Arranging Demonstration

2 p.m.:  Pollinator Gardening Presentation

--Aug. 13

11 a.m.: Flower-Arranging Demonstration

2 p.m.: Flower-Arranging Demonstration

6 p.m.: Pollinator Gardening Presentation

--Aug. 14

11 a.m.: Flower Arranging Demonstration

2 p.m.: Flower-Arranging Demonstration

Sponsored by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, nine miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 12; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 13; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 14. Admission and parking are free. Free shuttle bus service between the Ag Progress Days site and downtown State College will be available.

For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website. Twitter users can find and share information about the event by using the hashtag #agprogress, and Facebook users can find the event .

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