ELKTON — Cecil County’s Master Gardeners are spending these cold winter days making plans for spring planting.

And on Feb. 9 you can meet some of them at Cecil Garden Fest from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Elkton Central Library, located at 301 Newark Ave. Cecil Garden Fest is a free event with activities for all ages including accessible gardening for adults and pipe cleaner bees for the kids. Learn about vermicomposting, pest management and house plants, which are among the topics to be offered.

You can also meet with some of the Master Gardeners, such as Vivian Stacy and Grace McKearin.

“I’ve been passionate about gardening all my life,” said Stacy, of Elkton.

A Master Gardener since 2011, Stacy said gardening is typically a very solitary activity. However, through the training program, she has made friends and connections.

“Here, you most consistently connect with gardeners,” she added.

Three years into her role as a Master Gardener, McKearin, from Earleville, said she had seen the fliers inviting people to the program but was too busy to join. Now that her homeschooling days are behind her, McKearin said she had the time.

“I wanted to see if I could learn more from the experts,” she said.

Both had home gardens for years but found membership in the Master Gardeners challenged them to do more.

“There’s no pre-requisite,” Stacy said. “Come, learn. Find your niche. Let someone mentor you in the direction you want to go.”

McKearin’s niche became native plants.

“I am now a docent at Mt. Cuba Center,” she said, referring to the botanical gardens in Hockessin, Del. “In the spring, it’s just beautiful.”

For Stacy, the best thing about becoming a Master Gardener is the connection to the experts at the University of Maryland.

“We are volunteers. The real Master Gardeners are the professors, the entomologists,” she said.

McKearin said her class of around a dozen represented people from all walks of life, all with a common love of gardening.

“I think the thing I liked best was the camaraderie,” she said.

Being a Master Gardener, she sees her classmates as they participate in various events, such as the Cecil Garden Fest.

“They do ask you to volunteer 20 hours a year,” McKearin explained, adding that continuing education and meeting attendance counts toward those hours.

“We do a booth at the Cecil County Fair and we did some work at Clairvaux Farms,” she said, referring to the Deep Roots shelter for homeless families in Earleville. “We got them started on their garden. We also did a presentation at the Senior Expo.”

Initial training is a once a week class for a couple of months. Although she already had some gardening experience, Stacy said the classes were interesting and covered a different topic each week. Some in her class were more interested in flowers, while others were focused on vegetables.

“One person said, ‘If I can’t eat it I don’t want to grow it,’” she recalled.

Her favorite parts of the curriculum were the related sciences, including biology and botany.

The next Master Gardener training session begins in March. Tuition is $250, which includes the Master Gardener Handbook. For more information, contact the Cecil County Extension Office in Elkton at 410-996-5280 or go online to http://extension.umd.edu/cecil-county

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