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Spring is Just Around the Corner (Answers for your Gardening Questions)

Union County NJ school and community gardening conference
Strawberry sprouts provided a hint of spring to educators and community volunteers at Union County’s third annual “Get Your Youth and Community Garden Growing” workshop. (Photo credit: Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County).

Union County, NJ – A group of 54 teachers and community volunteers braved the icy grip of winter to get a running start on the spring planting season, at last month’s “Get Your Youth and Community Garden Growing” conference. The event was conducted by experts from the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County at the County’s Trailside Nature and Science Center in Mountainside.

“We had a great turnout for this conference. Everyone left with useful information on how to do a community garden — just what we needed on a snowy day in February!” said Union County Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski, who stopped by to greet participants.

The conference covered all the basics of starting a successful garden for educational purposes, along with specialty topics including a session on how to grow strawberries.

“These educators and volunteers will reach hundreds of young people and adults with hands-on messages about good nutrition, environmental stewardship, neighborhood improvement, teamwork, and just plain fun,” Freeholder Chairman Mohamed S. Jalloh noted. “On behalf of the Freeholder Board, I wish them all a successful garden and a bountiful harvest.”

Union County gardeners can get free, expert help throughout the growing season by contacting the Gardening Helpline at 908-654-9852 or

Gardeners can also get face time with the experts – and purchase vegetable seedlings, herbs, and flowering plants – at the annual Spring Garden Fair coming up on Sunday, May 17, at the Demonstration Garden adjacent to Trailside.

The free Gardening Helpline is a project of the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Union County, an all-volunteer group run by the Extension with the support of the Freeholder Board. The group is based at the Extension offices in the County’s Colleen Fraser Building in Westfield. Among their many civic projects, Master Gardeners cultivate the elaborate grounds of the Demonstration Garden and host the Spring Garden Fair.

For information on the Master Gardeners, 4-H, and other Extension programs in Union County, visit

The Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County is a program of the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. Supported in part by the Freeholder Board, it is part of a national network organized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to foster youth development and community health.

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