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Sprouts head for the garden

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NARROWSBURG, NY — Local organizers are giving kids another reason to play in the dirt this summer.

Kristen Dasenbrock and Adrianne Picciano, aka “The Dirt Diva,” are already Master Gardeners—now they plan to share their knowledge. After learning that there was an equivalent program for children to the series they’d taken, they thought “our area needs this,” Dasenbrock said. So the pair set about crafting a plan for a Junior Master Gardener program at the Tusten-Cochecton Branch of the Western Sullivan Public Library, set to kick off April 6.

Garden plots (above and lower left) in the Tusten Heritage Communty Garden.

“It has been quite a treat for me to get to work with “The Dirt Diva” and meet all of the wonderful people in this community who are also passionate about gardening,” Dasenbrock said.

The Junior Master Gardener program is an international youth gardening program of the U.S. Cooperative Extension system. It engages children in hands-on group individual learning experiences that provide a love of gardening and develop an appreciation for the environment, according to the program’s website. 

A group of volunteers will take turns April through August teaching kids to identify harmful versus helpful bugs, examine seeds and explore how landscape design can benefit the environment, among other topics. The volunteers are all going to be certified Master Gardeners from Sullivan (NY) and Wayne (PA) counties, in addition to Carmela Hugel, horticultural coordinator at Sullivan Renaissance, and library volunteer and local butterfly expert (and TRR contributor) Ed Wesely.

“It’s a whole community of teachers coming together to teach kids about being good stewards of the land they cultivate,” Picciano said.

Though the classes can be taken individually, kids who sign up for all eight will receive a Junior Master Gardener Handbook, and if they attend all eight, they’ll earn a Junior Master Gardener Certificate.

The first part of each of the eight classes will be indoors. In the first class, students will learn what it takes to make a seed germinate and will handle various seeds to compare sizes, shapes and textures, as well as collect a soil sample from the garden. Through the next seven classes, the kids will explore the composition of soil with Dennis Hewston, learn about the fundamentals of an ecosystem, find out the differences between a “good bug” and a “bad bug” with Hugel and explore the importance of landscape horticulture with Joan Jubela. They will also dig into the business behind fruits and nuts, learn when a vegetable is ready for harvest and finally, explore careers and life-skills in agriculture and the environment.

After the students hear from the master gardeners and get some background, “then we’ll head out to the Tusten Heritage Community Garden to get our hands dirty,” Dasenbrock said.

The program is for children seven to 11. The first three classes are on Saturdays: April 6, May 4 and June 22. Throughout the month of July, the class runs every Tuesday and will end on August 6. Each class begins at 10:30 a.m.  To register, visit www.wsplonline.org or call the Tusten-Cochecton branch at 845/252-3360.

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