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Rutgers Master Gardeners of Sussex County Keeping the Green in the Newton Green

Release Date: July 08, 2009
The service provided by Master Gardener volunteers has been an important asset to homeowners and horticultural businesses in Sussex County.

Brian Oleksak
Horticultural Program Associate and County Extension Department Head
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Sussex County

The Sussex County Master Gardener program is a horticultural education and outreach program administered through Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Sussex County. Master Gardeners are volunteers who receive training from the faculty and staff of Cooperative Extension in all aspects of home horticulture. This rigorous nine-month training includes topics such as plant identification, soils & fertilizers, basic entomology, pest management, vegetable gardening, tree fruits, interior plants, turfgrass care and plant pest diagnostics. Each trained volunteer agrees to perform one-hundred hours of service on one or more community projects. The service provided by Master Gardener volunteers has been an important asset to homeowners and horticultural businesses in Sussex County. Examples of service projects and partnerships have included a vegetable garden at Vernon Township High School that benefits county residents, a vegetable garden at the Knoll Heights community in Sparta, gardening with seniors at the Sussex County Homestead, assisting with a butterfly garden at Kittatinny Valley State Park, gardens and demonstrations at the Sussex County Fairgrounds, The Springfest Flower & Garden Show, The New Jersey State Fair Flower Show, public speaking for community events and a Home Horticulture Helpline (973) 948-3040, a volunteer-staffed service for assisting county residents with horticultural questions. The Sussex County Master Gardener program was established in 1998; since that time over 240 volunteers have been trained.

The Master Gardener volunteers have continued to expand their activities by working with Joe Biuso and the facilities department to adopt some key focal points on county grounds. An entrance garden near the county main library and Homestead campus was converted into a xeriscape garden. Xeriscaping is a method of landscaping that focuses on water conservation. The ultimate goal of this installation is to have a colorful garden that requires no supplemental irrigation and minimal inputs. This spring the Master Gardeners also adopted the Civil War soldier and sailor monument on the Newton Green. This majestic memorial serves as an anchor on the county park and is viewed by hundreds of people every day. In addition to the existing Stella D'oro daylilies and Knock-Out Roses, drought resistant annuals were planted at the base of the monument to provide a colorful and attractive garden at one of the busiest locations in the county. For the summer of 2009 the garden is planted with purple angelonias, white Wave petunias, yellow Inca marigolds and gracefully arching cleomes. Plans are underway for the installation of a perennial border surrounding the bell tower on the other end of the Newton Green. This proposed garden will include beds with flowers whose colors represent the various branches of the military. The perennial beds will soften the architectural features within the park and provide a colorful focal point in recognition of Sussex County's veterans.

Brian Oleksak is the Horticultural Program Associate for Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Sussex County. Questions and comments may be directed to or by calling Cooperative Extension at 973-948-3040.

Cooperating Agencies: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. The U.S. Department of Agriculture prohibits discrimination in all programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. Rutgers Cooperative Extension is an Equal Opportunity Employer.