NARRAGANSETT- The University of Rhode Island Master Gardeners Association will be hosting Rhode Island’s only statewide garden tour on Saturday, July 13 and Sunday, July 14. The rain or shine tour will include 35 private and public gardens that have been maintained by master gardeners and will be opened from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
The URI Master Gardeners include more than 300 dedicated, trained volunteers who share a love of gardening and horticulture. The main focus of the association is to educate residents of Rhode Island and surrounding areas in environmentally sound gardening practices through the dissemination of factual, research based information.
Master gardener Susan Hines joined the association in 2008 after she attended events sponsored by the URI Master Gardeners.
“They are very educated and interested on the topic of creating these natural and sustainable environments and I find that to be very fulfilling,” said Hines. “We have really built a community for a great cause out of this group of gardeners.”
Based at the Mellon Outreach Center on the URI Kingston Campus, the Master Gardeners program requires the master gardeners to complete a 16-week course that educates them on all aspects of gardening, sustainability and sound environmental practices. Although this is her first year participating in the garden tour, Hines said she has been properly prepared by the education course.
“It isn’t what you think, like just sitting there learning each plant term. We actually learned more practical knowledge like soil structure, integrated pest management and looking at gardening and landscaping on a greater scale,” said Hines.
The program focuses on sustainability and educates gardeners on how to identify problems through knowledge and how to find a way to fix these problems in the least damaging way to animals, insects and the environment.
According to Hines, the master gardener tour is different from the other garden tours because it is emphasizes the educational aspect of every participating garden. Each gardener has highlighted the unique, instructive features and styles of their garden.
When participants purchase a ticket to the tour, they will receive a garden guidebook which indexes each garden and how they are grouped geographically.
The guidebook will also include the highlighting of “Rhody Native” plants in the gardens and how they function as tough and colorful alternatives to some common but invasive plants often used in landscaping.
Some of the native plants that Hines has included in her garden are Black Eyed Susans and Joe-Pye Weed which is used to attract Monarch butterflies.
Hines also included a theme of the children’s tale “Peter Rabbit” in her vegetable garden with a vegetable garden sign and certain props that relate to the story.
She hopes that the participants who visit her garden will enjoy themselves and become educated on her attempts to give back to and enhance the environment.
“I hope that they enjoy it and see that I have created a situation where I hope I haven’t made too much of a footprint on the environment,” said Hines. “Wherever I have taken away from the environment through my footprint, I have tried to enhance by leaving as much good, native plants for the environment.”
In the future, Hines is looking forward to continuing to enhance the environment and maintain her garden with the help of her friends and the support of her husband, John.
For details, including a map of the tour and directions visit www.urimastergardeners.org .