Mastering the skill of gardening at the Cutler Botanic Garden
BINGHAMTON, NY (WBNG) -- Tucked away behind the Cornell Cooperative Extension building on upper Front Street in Binghamton, is the Cutler Botanic Garden. That’s where you’ll find Linda Purdy in the vegetable garden.
“I’ve been a ‘Master Gardener’ for 10 years...” she said harvesting her favorite vegetable. “I love the tomatoes.”
Purdy is one of the dozens of volunteers and interns of the Master Gardener class operated by the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Broome County. They meet on Tuesdays to help collectively maintain the three-and-a-half-acre property. When the Around the Tiers team met Purdy on a chilly Sept. morning, she proudly showed us the tomato she harvested that morning.
“This is an Heirloom. Not so pretty but, delicious. This will make a ‘man-sized’ tomato sandwich for several people,” Purdy said giving a little chuckle.
Horticulture Program Educator with CCE, Linda Svoboda, oversees the Master Gardener class. Especially for those working in the vegetable garden, Svoboda said, it’s not just a hobby for these caretakers.
“Any surplus vegetables we take to a local food bank. This year’s food bank is Our Lady of Sorrows food bank in Vestal,” said Svoboda.
There are 13 different themed areas within the garden: Propagation, Hemerocallis, Composting and Rain barrel demonstration, Shade Garden, Perennials, Heath & Heathers, Rock Garden, Native Habitats, Ornamental Grasses, Herbs, Roses and Vegetable Garden along with several annual flower beds.
“All of the different plants are labeled,” Svoboda said. “So you can identify things and you can see how things are grown and where they’re growing so you can make selections for your own gardens and landscapes.”
The Master Gardener volunteer program is a national initiative that provides hands-on horticulture training. In Broome County, these Master Gardeners get a full year of training.
They learn everything from “botany, to garden design, to pollinators, and integrated pest management” intern, Jessica Fenescey explained. She said she was working at North Windsor Berries when she enrolled in the program in January. She said she fell in love with gardening more and more each day while working on the farm.
“I think it’s so therapeutic in so many different ways,” she said.
She loved it so much she started a farm with her husband and a nature program for kids.
“I just planted a pollinator garden with them, and I was teaching them how to be creature heroes and we learned all of the things, but I can take all of the information from here and directly pass it on.”
And pass on that knowledge is what these Master Gardeners are tasked with once they graduate. The volunteers answer questions on the Horticulture Response Information line. During the winter months, the volunteers “the Master Gardeners plan the garden and participate in continuing education classes” according to Cornell’s website.
“We couldn’t do it without them,” said Svoboda.
The Cutler Botanic Garden is free and open to the public year-round from dawn until dusk for self-guided tours. Learn more about guided tours and reservations here.
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