The Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County is a volunteer educational organization that is part of Rutgers Cooperative Extension. Master Gardeners offer many outreach programs throughout the county and answer home gardening questions through the Rutgers Master Gardener Helpline. Trained by Mercer County Horticulturist Barbara J. Bromley, and by county agricultural agents, faculty from Rutgers University, and other horticultural experts, Rutgers Master Gardeners is a dynamic group that aims to promote responsible gardening practices.

The Rutgers Master Gardeners volunteer Helpline (609-989-6853) is staffed Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., March through October, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., November through February.

Master Gardeners maintain the Mercer Educational Gardens (MEG) located at 431 Federal City Road, Pennington. Open daily for self-guided tours, this site on the Lawrence-Hopewell Trail features a variety of gardens including a garden devoted to attracting butterflies, a cottage garden, a native plant garden, and gardens focusing on the uses of annuals, herbs, and perennials. Visitors can learn about the benefits of composting and even identify seasonal weeds that might be problems in their own gardens.

MEG is also the location of an annual spring Plant Expo and Garden Market in May and a very popular Insect Festival in September. This year the 13th Annual Insect Festival, for children of all ages, will be held on Saturday, September 12, from 1 to 4 p.m.

Throughout the year, Master Gardeners host free educational programs, open to members of the community, either at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Office, 930 Spruce Street, Lawrence (adjacent to the Trenton Farmers Market) or at MEG in Pennington. Upcoming programs include An Evening at MEG, on Wednesday, July 15, and Lawn Renovation and Establishment, Tuesday, August 11.

Wednesday evening, October 14, the Rutgers Master Gardeners will host an exciting program, Backyard Habitat for Birds (Including Butterflies, Dragonflies & More!) that features Pat Sutton, noted New Jersey naturalist and author. This program is packed with the “how’s and why’s” of attracting birds, butterflies and other wildlife to your backyard — whatever its size. Ms. Sutton will share common-sense garden maintenance techniques that will help property owners avoid common practices that actually harm rather than benefit wildlife. There is no fee to attend this program but preregistration is required. Registration is now open. Call 609-989-6830.

Learn more and stay connected. Call the Cooperative Extension office (609-989-6830), the Rutgers Master Gardener Helpline (609-989-6853) or visit our websites: www.mgofmc.org or www.mercer.njaes.rutgers.edu Like us at facebook.com/MGOFMC. See ad, page 17.

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