In Port Royal, master gardeners sows seeds of wisdom at farmers market

achristnovich@islandpacket.comAugust 18, 2012 

Let's just say they had a growing concern.

People in portable chairs, armed with notebooks and pressing questions, packed the gazebo at the Naval Heritage Park during the Farmer's Market in Port Royal on Saturday.

Despite heat in the low 90s, the group of more than 50 paid close attention to speaker Jennifer Staton for about an hour. Many stayed afterward to ask questions about their plants and gardens, using the careful tones parents might about children who suddenly begin behaving strangely.

Staton's speech, and the questions and answers afterward, helped get those leafy children under control.

Her presentation offered tips for planting and maintaining a fall vegetable garden until after Thanksgiving.

Her speech is part of the "Lunch and Learn" program run by the Lowcountry Master Gardeners Association each Saturday at the Port Royal Farmers Market. Staton has been a master gardener for five years after earning a certification from the Clemson Cooperative Extension.

"Which type of beets did you recommend?" one man asked after the presentation.

"Detroit Reds," she replied instantly. They're easy to grow in the fall, she said.

Participants left clutching stacks of tiny brown envelopes containing seeds of easy-to-grow fall produce such as butterbeans, collard greens, beets, broccoli and radishes.

This summer is the first time the club has held formal classes on gardening techniques. Both Staton and fellow master gardener Joe Allard said they're delighted at how popular the talks are.

Both fielded detailed questions about topics such as tomato growing and the best way to trim back cucumbers. Once in a while, when a question stumped one, the other had the answer. An energetic conversation sprouted rapidly thereafter.

Growing healthy plants as well as providing tips about horticulture, after all, is the point of the club.

Allard laughingly explained that the reason he became a master gardener three years ago was to be among "other plant nuts" who share his enthusiasm.

To become a master gardener through Clemson, participants go through 40 hours of "intensive, practical horticulture training," then pass a final exam and volunteer at least 40 hours worth of educational services, according to the Clemson Cooperative Extension website.

The Lunch and Learn classes are held at the park and begin at 11:30 a.m. each Saturday. Classes run through Oct. 6.

Related content:

Clemson Extension Master Gardener program

Native or not, some plants like it hot, Aug. 5, 2012

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