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UME Master Gardener “Learning Garden” at State Fair

A team of UME Master Gardeners working with UME field faculty created an outstanding Learning Garden that inspired and educated residents during the 11 days of the Maryland State Fair. Practical, small-space gardening techniques were demonstrated in 25 distinct beds.

A dramatic “three sisters” bed served as the central point of visual interest, attracting people from across the fairgrounds: ‘Honeybush’ butternut squash at the base, sunflowers (instead of corn) growing upright, and ‘Algarve’ pole beans climbing to the top of the bamboo frame:

UME Master Gardener Suching Chou (r) shows off pole bean trellis


Tagged monarch butterfly attracted to the beds of yellow and red zinnias. Photo credit: Rose Gazarek

Demonstrating styles of raised beds was one of the garden’s main themes. Fairgoers really went for the beds with sides fashioned from corrugated galvanized metal panels. They add interest, are long-lasting, and are cheaper to build than all-wood beds. These two beds grew ‘Tasty Jade’ and ‘Suyo Long’ cucumber plants (meeting in the middle on a bamboo trellis) and cost $36 each for materials:

Terraced raised beds that step down 4 inches per bed


‘Rolande’ is the French filet bean growing prolifically here in a 20 in. deep raised bed. All beds were filled with a topsoil/mushroom compost mix


I wondered if beer would be dispensed from the sprinkler system. Alas, it was just water. MG leaders for this project- Robert Cook, Marty Reisinger, and Derek Joost- will be installing a drip irrigation system this year.


Fabulous signage created by Baltimore City MGs

The garden was just coming into peak production during the Fair and most of the harvest is destined for food banks. I can’t wait to see what the UME Master Gardener Volunteers cook up for next year’s State Fair Learning Garden. You won’t want to miss it!

By Jon Traunfeld, Extension Specialist

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