Cooperative Extension plans several classes this year to help ‘Master Your Garden’

Posted 9 January 2023 at 8:43 am

Provided photos: Master Gardener Mark Tucker has extensive vegetable gardening experience and will be offering his Master Your Garden class on Tomatoes on June 3.

Press Release, Master Gardeners of Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension

KNOWLESVILLE – The Master Gardeners of Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension have finalized the lineup for their annual educational series, “Master Your Garden”.

The classes are all taught by Master Gardener volunteers or local professionals. Each class focuses on a different topic related to gardening. Topics range from important concepts in sustainability  (‘Less is More Lawn Care’ and ‘Functional Hedgerows’), to gardening for food (‘Edible Landscaping’ and ‘Tomatoes’) and flowers (‘Summer Bulbs’ and ‘Language of Flowers’).

Jena Buckwell, a long-time volunteer with the Master Gardener program, will be teaching the first two classes in the series –  ‘Wonderful Weeds’ on Feb. 4 and ‘Functional Hedgerows’ on March 4. Both classes will focus on ways to look at common landscape elements through a different lens, to see benefits and resources that are often overlooked.

“I chose these topics because I think that expanding our views on where and how we provide for our own needs is important,” Buckwell explained. “Growing plants for our own immediate needs – whether it’s to feed ourselves, grow our own heat, or provide building and craft materials – doesn’t need to be mutually exclusive from our goals of providing habitat for wildlife, protecting water and air quality, or from having something beautiful to look at. It can happen in the same space if we take notice of the resources right under our noses and get a bit creative with how we interact with the landscapes that we are part of.”

Jena Buckwell is one of the most frequent speakers in the Master Your Garden series, offering thought-provoking and thorough classes to the public.

The ‘Wonderful Weeds’ class will explore ways to shift the often unrealistic goal of complete elimination of weeds to understanding a bit more of what certain weeds might tell us about the growing conditions and soil health, as well as embracing the positive aspects of weeds such as pollinator food and shelter, human food, erosion control, etc.

In the ‘Functional Hedgerows’ class, Buckwell will highlight ideas and tips of how to manage existing hedgerows or implement new ones that offer advantages to humans, wildlife, and the ecosystem as a whole.

That same concept of incorporating plants with various benefits into existing landscapes or deliberate gardens is echoed by Master Gardener Kristina Gabalski who is leading the Edible Landscapes class with fellow Master Gardener Volunteer Lydia Fernandez on October 7th.

“I just think it’s so interesting that plants serve so many different functions.” Gabalski said. “You can have a very visually pleasing landscape but also reap a harvest from the same space. Fruits, vegetables, flowers, seeds, wild edibles – there are just so many levels of value that plants can offer to us.”

In addition to the practical benefits of plants, many gardeners appreciate the joy and aesthetic value of a beautiful flower garden. In the ‘Language of Flowers’ class on Aug. 5, Master Gardener Brenda Radzinski will touch on the history of how people in the Victorian Times would assign meanings or sentiments to specific flowers or herbs and then arrange bouquets or nosegays that would convey a hidden message to the recipient. Participants will be able to make their own bouquet to take home.

Sue Starkweather Miller shows how to dig up Dahlia tubers in the 2022 Master Your Garden class on the popular flower.

Participants who attended the ‘Dahlia’ class in in the 2022 MYG class series can further their knowledge in the ‘Summer Bulbs’ class on April 1. Master Gardener Sue Starkweather Miller will be teaching participants how to get a head start on non-hardy garden favorites like Dahlias, Caladium and Canna Lilies.

“I am a big fan of dahlias, which can take 100-plus days to begin blooming. I like to start them early because we have a shorter growing season for summer blooming bulbs and tubers,” said Starkweather Miller. “I enjoy this process and thought a class on how to jump start plants indoors might be helpful and interesting to home gardeners.”

Always popular presenter Michael Klepp will also be leading two classes this season – ‘Mason Bees’ on July 1 and ‘Plan, Prepare, Plant and Prosper with Trees and Shrubs’ on Sept. 2, and local business owner Kathleen Contrino of CW Native Plant Farm in Akron will be teaching all about native plants and planting seeds at the end of the growing season in her Winter Sowing class on November 4th.

“I’m so excited about this year’s class lineup, “ said MG Volunteer coordinator Katie Oakes, “There’s something of interest for every kind of gardener. Our volunteers are so knowledgeable and they each have their own passions and niche experiences that they want to share with the public.”

For a full list of the classes with descriptions, visit  All classes are held the first Saturday of the month, February through November, at 10am at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds, 12690 State Rt 31 in Albion, NY.  Optional $5 donation per class. For more details or to register for any class, please call 585-798-4265 or email Katie Oakes at

The Language of Flowers class has been popular in the past, with participants choosing flowers and herbs based on their Victorian meaning to gather a bouquet with a hidden message.