New Year, New Gardening Possibilities – Press of Atlantic City

As I walked into my office on the day after Christmas I was delighted to see that my first seed catalog had arrived. I am not quite ready for spring. I actually like a good snow or two to build snowmen and sled with my family. However, some of my favorite winter reading comes from these little gems.

I am instantly transformed and giddy with excitement when I read things like “’Golden Goose’ will grace your garden with a flock of luminous, flavor-rich fruits,’” and “Make garden magic. … Enchant the whole neighborhood with ‘Spellbound’ petunias.” Who doesn’t want to do that? Oh yes, a browse through the seed catalogs can be a treat on a cold day. I pore through the catalog, grabbing everyone who comes nearby to show them all the wonderful new varieties I simply must have. This will continue for a few weeks as each new catalog comes in.

That is part of what makes this season so wonderful. We get to experience the joy of habitat gardens and the birds they attract through the bitter cold and snowy days while daydreaming of the garden we are determined to have in the spring. Seed-bearing trees such as ash, oak, crabapple and walnut; shrubs such as dogwood, honeysuckle and chokecherry; and all of the seeds that fell to the ground as fall settled in, produce a feast for our native birds. We can also look out over the garden as a clean slate and delight in what it will become as the weather slowly warms in March and April.

This is where your garden begins. Take this time to visit the library or your local book store and find gardening ideas, explore seed catalogs, make a plan and set goals while the ground is still hard and full of promise.

This is also a perfect time to give our Master Gardener Help-Line a call to ask all those questions you put off during the summer and fall. Do you have a gardening-related question you would like answered here? Please forward your questions to Belinda Chester, Master Gardener Program Coordinator, Rutgers Cooperative Extension Office, 6260 Old Harding Highway, Mays Landing, NJ 08330. You can also submit questions via our website at

If you would like to join our Master Gardeners in volunteering on a variety of projects throughout the county and helping educate the public on sound consumer horticulture practices, we have a new class forming now.

The Atlantic County master gardeners are trained volunteers who assist the Rutgers Cooperative Extension in delivering horticulture programs and information to the general public.

Master gardeners receive in-depth training in horticulture from Rutgers University faculty and professional staff. Our 2019 training program consists of twenty-four classes on topics including, soil classification and fertility, plant propagation, insect identification, landscape design, native plants, weed identification, plant pathology, lawn establishment, pesticides and safety, vegetable production, arboriculture, small fruit production, and floriculture, as well as tours of local vegetable and flower farms and vineyards. As part of the training, master gardeners are required to volunteer a certain number of hours on the Help-Line and work in their community in programs sponsored by Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

Successful graduates of the training become certified master gardeners after they have completed the initial volunteer requirement.

No formal education is required, just a love of gardening and desire to share your knowledge with the community. There is a fee for the class to cover materials and supplies. Applications are being accepted for the upcoming class through Jan. 18. Classes begin Feb. 5 and will run 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information please call the extension office at 609-625-0056.

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