Garden Won’t Grow? Master Gardeners might know why



By Mary Peryea

Earlier this summer, I purchased a lovely little zucchini plant at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market. I planted it in my yard and lovingly tended it. And then one day the plant disappeared. What could have happened?

Back to the farmers’ market I went, this time to consult with the master gardeners. On hand that day were Rochelle Lynch and Dan Lynch. I explained my dilemma and Rochelle asked if there were rabbits in the neighborhood. “Lots,” I said. She told me that was probably the root of my problem (pun intended), as bunnies will eat a plant down to the ground.

I asked if there is such a thing as a rabbit repellant. There is, but Rochelle said it really stinks. “Smells like rotten eggs,” Dan chimed in. They suggested that I plant my zucchini in a container.

These are the kinds of questions that volunteers with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener program will answer most Wednesdays and Saturdays at the farmers market. They come armed with information on testing the pH in your soil and combatting pests in your garden, along with tips for growing whatever you’re interested in eating from your backyard.

To become a Master Gardener, one needs to apply with Cornell Cooperative Extension. The application requires references, a background check, and interview. If accepted, classes run for 14 weeks, from January to April, for a full day each week. The classes’ cost last year was $250. Applications for 2018 will begin being accepted this month.

At the end, there is an open-book exam. Rochelle showed me “the book” – a binder about four inches thick. If you pass the test, you’re required to complete 100 volunteer hours. Those hours can be in a variety of settings: farmers’ markets, fairs, community gardens, presentations to groups. Even after receiving designation as a Master Gardener, 30 hours of continuing education per year are required to keep it.

Dan Lynch is still working on his 100 volunteer hours. One of his projects involves working with other Master Gardeners to beautify the Saratoga Spa State Park’s Bruno Pavilion. If you’ve been there recently, you may have noticed new landscape material and flowers – a result of their labors.

The Saratoga Farmers’ Market is 3-6 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays at High Rock Park. Visit us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Photo by Pattie Garrett

Photo by Pattie Garrett


Adapted from recipe by Hilary Meyer in Eating Well, shared by My Saratoga Kitchen Table
Serves: 6

*Ingredients currently available at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market

  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese*
  • ½ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese*
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil*
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced*
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper, divided
  • 2 medium yellow summer squash*
  • 2 medium zucchini*
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil*


  1. Position a rack in the top position of oven, preheat broiler to high
  2. Combine ricotta, Parmesan, basil, garlic, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Using a spiral vegetable slicer or vegetable peeler, cut summer squash and zucchini lengthwise into long, thin strands or strips. Stop when you read the seeds. You should have about 6 cups of “noodles”. Place them on a sheet pan or in a 9 inch X 13 inch baking pan. Shape them into nest. Alternate the zucchini and summer squash in a pattern. You will have 6 nests.
  4. Drizzle the nests with oil and sprinkle with remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper. Make a well in the center of each and spoon in about 2 Tablespoons ricotta filling.
  5. Broil nests until browned in spots, 6 to 8 minutes. Serve warm.