Top tips from the Master Gardeners

A pH testing kit from Cornell Cooperative Extension. (photo by Will Dendis

A pH testing kit from Cornell Cooperative Extension. (photo by Will Dendis

Master Gardeners are trained volunteers who receive research-based instruction on horticulture from Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) and share that knowledge with the public through a variety of activities. Volunteers commit to giving at least 100 hours of their time to the program over a two-year period and remain a Master Gardener by giving at least 25 hours of volunteer time per year after that. A new class of Master Gardeners is trained every other year, and those who continue on in the program are required to obtain continuing education annually to keep up on the latest developments in horticulture.

Here are some of the group’s top tips.

1. Use water-wise practices

“Put the right plant in the right place” is Alloway’s advice for those who want to grow plants that need a lot of moisture but don’t want to spend a lot of time working in their garden. Group plants that need more water together and place them closer to your house, so that you don’t have to drag the garden hose or bucket of water very far, she says. The drought tolerant plants (a list of which are available from the Master Gardeners) can be placed farther away and get watered less often.


Plants with the same watering requirements need to be grouped together. Alloway says some of the plants on the drought tolerant list get called into question by home gardeners who have had experiences with something like echinacea, which they felt they needed to water frequently. Alloway says with that plant in particular, if it’s in a garden that you water frequently, it becomes dependent upon that, and its roots don’t grow as deep. “So it will wilt, and you water it and it perks back up, but if that plant is treated as a drought-tolerant plant and not given excessive water to begin with, it’ll develop deeper roots.”

Water plants in the morning — watering plants at the end of the day leaves excess moisture on the plants and invites funguses. A thick layer of mulch (two to three inches deep) will also keep the moisture in the ground for a longer period of time as well as being a good weed preventative.