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Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Gardener’s delight on Saturday

URI’s Master Gardeners to hold plant sale May 6 on Kingston Campus

by Hugh Markey 

Got tomatoes? Broccoli? How about peanuts and cotton? On Saturday, May 6, the University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Program will hold its annual plant sale in the Kingston Campus’ botanical gardens on Greenhouse Road.

TIP from the editor: Get there EARLY.

It will feature the standard favorite plants alongside some surprises. Open from 9 to noon, thousands of plants will be available for purchase by credit card or cash. URI Master Gardeners will also be there to answer lawn and garden questions.

Kate Venturini, program manager for the URI Cooperative Extension, says the sale is a great way to support the mission of the Master Gardener program. 

“We don’t exist to grow plants and sell them. Selling plants gives us an opportunity to host events where we can broaden agricultural education, which is the purpose of the Master Gardener program. We exist to educate the public about science- based horticultural information.”

This year’s plant of the year is Berried Treasure®,(Fragaria ananassa) a pink everbearing strawberry. Venturini says that the plant of the year sells out quickly and encourages gardeners to arrive early to get the plants they want. “All I can say is people love them. Bring some kind of wagon or cart if you plan to buy a lot.”

The sale includes perennials, along with plenty of vegetable plants. “We have an entire tent devoted to tomato plants,” said Venturini. “We have 200 square feet of pepper plants. We have broccoli, strawberry, eggplant, and more.”

This year’s selection includes a few plants that New Englanders might be surprised to find, including peanuts, cotton, and loofa. Volunteers grew these plants last year as experiments to see how they would do in the northern climate, and they’re available for sale to the public this year. 

“Our volunteers are very interested in doing these trial plantings,” said Venturini. “They’re neat. I have these random puff balls of cotton that I’ve grown all through my house. I haven’t done anything with them, but it’s fun because people will say, ‘Did you grow that?’ Yes! Yes, I did!”  

The event brings gardeners together, but also has the advantage of putting the revenues directly back into the organization’s gardening and environmental hotline, which is a free public service. 

It also pays for the free workshops the organization presents throughout the years–oil testing, and informational kiosks.  “I think people can feel good about supporting the sale because it’s ultimately benefiting everyone who takes advantage of what we offer.”

For Venturini and the gardeners, it’s an exciting event. “It’s always amazing to me. It is one of the best days of the year, because people are so happy outside. 

It’s like, ‘See you later, winter!’ People who are united by this common interest come together because they love plants or want to grow food for their family.

“Some people want to grow food to donate and there’s a lot of beauty in that. It’s actually one of our favorite days.”