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Mastering the Art and Science of Gardening

Posted: January 11, 2017

The newly updated Master Gardener Manual from Penn State Extension is no ordinary gardening book. It is a well-thought-through guide for home gardeners, students and professionals that takes a practical, methodical and easy-to-understand approach to the art and science of gardening. This big, nearly 800 pages, hefty 8.5-by-10-inch hardcover is a welcome addition to every gardening enthusiast's library.

What sets this manual apart from other gardening books?

First, the book's content: It is expansive. Organized into 22 chapters, each devoted to a single gardening-related topic, Master Gardener Manual is a comprehensive inventory of gardening and landscape-management topics. The guide leads you through the basics of plant classification, propagation, culture and problem-solving. Each chapter begins with a summary of clearly stated learning objectives, followed by a realistic and in-depth explanation of the subject. For example, the authors put you on notice in the first sentence of chapter 10 that "Growing vegetables is a lot of work." Don't be discouraged, though. In the balance of the chapter, they lay out steps and hints to help lessen that burden and help assure a successful harvest.

Second, the book's lavish illustrations. More than 600 full-color photos, finely detailed line drawings and informative charts bring each topic to life. Numerous close-up photos, including images of dozens of common pests and plant diseases, help you understand, identify and manage similar insects and problems in your own garden. Are you unsure how and when to prune your aging maple tree? The clear photo and detailed chart in Chapter 12 will help guide you.

Third, the book's comprehensiveness. Incorporating unbiased, research-based information, the authors of Master Gardener Manual cover gardening topics from botany to weeds, with a full glossary and chapter-specific bibliographies. The manual offers a wealth of horticultural information for all levels of gardeners. As Nancy Knauss, State Coordinator for the Penn State Master Gardener program and Project Coordinator for Master Gardener Manual, noted, "It includes the basics for beginning gardeners but, also, provides more extensive, detailed information for advanced gardeners and professionals."

Penn State Extension specialists, horticulture educators and Master Gardeners served as the manual's authors. They adapted material in the book from the original Penn State Extension Master Gardener Manual, similar publications from Virginia and Maryland, as well as various Penn State Extension publications.

In addition, Master Gardener Manual traces the rich history of the Master Gardener volunteer program, part of the Cooperative Extension organization in the United States land-grant system. One of the primary purposes of the manual is to train Master Gardeners, who support the outreach mission of Penn State Extension by educating the public on best practices in sustainable horticulture and environmental stewardship. Certified Master Gardeners reach out to individuals and groups on topics contained in the manual, such as plant selection and care, composting and soil health, controlling pests safely, pollinator gardening and pruning. They answer questions, speak to groups, work with 4-H gardening projects, maintain demonstration gardens, teach plant sciences and horticulture, and write gardening articles. You can find more information about the Penn State Master Gardener program at the group's website.

Whether your aspirations lead you to a professional greenhouse or to your own backyard, Master Gardener Manual will educate and entertain and be your go-to gardening reference for many years. Previously for sale only to Master Gardeners, now the manual is available to the public for $75, plus shipping. To place an order, call toll-free 1-877-345-0691. The publication reference number is AGRS-139.

Although the manual is designed to train Master Gardeners, it provides a strong introduction to plant culture and plant problem diagnostics that would be ideal for training greenhouse, nursery, garden center and landscape professionals. This manual covers all types of plant culture, from edible plants to ornamentals, as well as common garden and landscape challenges, including invasive weeds and nuisance animals.

Contact Information

Ruth Benner
  • Extension Educator
Phone: 814-825-0900
Patricia Flinn
  • Master Gardener