Visitors to Connellsville's Cameron Park are enjoying a new demonstration vegetable garden, aimed at providing education and helping food banks.
The garden and complementary programming is a partnership between Connellsville Area Garden Club, Penn State Extension’s Master Gardeners and Carnegie Free Library.
“We have two goals: donating food to the community through food banks as well as teaching people how to grow food,’’ said Becky Ambrosini, garden club president and master gardener.
Valerie Sesler, coordinator of the Master Gardeners of Fayette County, explained the garden club offered space for three raised-bed, demonstration vegetable gardens in the park along East South Street, across from the library.
Two were made from kits. One is tall enough for people to stand while gardening, which may be preferred by people who can’t bend over or kneel to work in a ground bed. The second is made with cedar planks and brackets, easy to assemble and will last longer than a plain pine board.
The master gardeners designed and built the third bed with blocks and boards, which was more time consuming but also the most economical.
From 6-7 p.m. Mondays through mid-September, master gardeners are available to answer questions from the public as they care for the garden.
In addition, the groups are working together to offer educational programs at the library. Upcoming topics include “Irrigation techniques for your garden,’’ July 13; “Square Foot Gardening,’’ Aug. 17 and “Vegetable Plant Disease and Pests,’’ Sept. 21. All programs begin at 10:30 a.m.
Hands-on children’s programming is also available at the library and garden, continuing at noon July 25 and Aug. 7.
“This project was a work of love for the Master Gardeners of Fayette County. These volunteers are some of the best that I have ever worked with,’’ commented Sesler. “Their dedication to their mission of utilizing unbiased, research-based information to educate the public on best practices in sustainable horticulture and environmental stewardship is unmatched.’’
Emily Nichelson, media director, Carnegie library, said, “We are thrilled to have them here. These programs help the Connellsville community become more healthy and eat more vegetables.’’
Ambrosini said the garden club has been working on the park project about five years.
The garden club installed a gazebo with corresponding sidewalks planned to go in this summer. The sidewalk includes memorial and honor bricks people are still able to purchase through Fayette County Cultural Trust.
The club also installed underground electrical conduits and plumbing for lighting and water. The club plans to light the gazebo and install lamp posts in the future.
Ambrosini said the club hopes to start on an amphitheater this fall, thanks to a donor.
The club also has plans to install gardens that include native plants as well as a children's play area.
To fund the project, the garden club has raised about $70,000 in grants and another $30,000 in donations. The latter includes $15,000 that the garden club donated from money raised over several years at the annual Mum Festival.
“Our garden club’s mission is to advance practical horticulture to the public,'' said Ambrosini, "so we wanted to create a gathering place for the community and a garden the community can enjoy and learn about horticulture.''